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SS Largs Bay

(Brian Watson via Stan Mayes http://www.benjidog.co.uk/)

On the 2 June 1941 SS Largs Bay sailed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge en route for England via Wellington, the Panama Canal, Caracao and then up to Halifax to join convoy HX139 to Liverpool and onto Glasgow. Aboard were Bradford-born Reginald Bottomley, his wife Kathleen and their three-year-old daughter Rosemary Elaine, known to all as Elaine.

When war was declared on 3 September 1939 they were docked in Bombay on their way to Australia. Reginald had been transferred on promotion, by wool importers Laycocks of Bradford to their Melbourne office.

Reg and his family found their boat requisitioned as a troop ship and their furniture offloaded. As Elaine had not had inoculations for India, Reg’s firm instructed them to stay at the Taj Mahal Hotel, until onward passage could be found. This took a little time.

The one way ticket for Kathleen Bottomley and landing card for her daughter Elaine

On his arrival Reg was appointed a ‘B’ Grade Appraiser by the Central Wool Committee of Australia, a body set up to manage wool production and supply to the Imperial Government.

During 1940 Reginald applied to transfer to the Royal Air Force, but was persuaded by the Chief Appraiser that he was contributing to the war effort and should stay on. Eventually he insisted on being released and voluntarily gave up his salary of £750 to enlist in the RAF.

He was commissioned in November 1941 and by June 1943 had been appointed Adjutant at RAF Wigsley. This base was under 5 Group Bomber Command as a satellite for RAF Swinderby and an important training station. It was home to 1654 HCU who began operating a mix of Lancasters and Manchesters, and then only Lancsaters until because of the demands of war they were replaced by war weary short Stirlings.

Middle row 3rd from the right

Stirling Mk.I III of No.1654 HCU based at Wigsley

During his time at Wigsley Reginald’s correspondence traces the day–to-day activities of administering an operational station. He looked after the welfare of the air crew and the WAAFs ensuring they had reading materials and large wall maps, that the floors were polished and that the cloth used for their uniforms were correctly dyed. He dealt with funerals, transfers and accommodation, all within an environment of shortages and through type-written formal letters and the wartime postal system.

It is an interesting behind-the-scenes view of how standards were maintained, and normal air base administration retained in the face of exceptional circumstances by dedicated people such as Reg Bottomley, whose services were recognised with a mention in dispatches in June 1944.

Reg was posted to India in 1945 to administer a parachute training school at RAF Chaklala South East Asia Air Forces attaining the rank of Squadron Leader. He returned to England and to the textile industry in Bradford, retiring as a director of Listers in 1974.

Reg died in 1994 aged 83. Kathleen died aged 97 in 2006 and Elaine now lives in the Cotswolds, close to where her parents lived after retirement. Elaine has two children and three granddaughters.

The cover from the families air ticket for the flight from Melbourne to Sydney in 1941 (via Robin Fletcher) illustrated with a painting of Lockheed L-10B VH-UZO 'Ansertes' of Ansett Airways Ltd.

The aircraft was built in the Lockheed, Burbank factory. She arrived in Australia in 1937 as deck cargo on SS Mirrabooka for use by ANSETT. She had quite a startling mechanical history with many ' forced landings' and minor accidents. She served with the USAAF for 3 years and over the years has had a number of owners. Lying dormant for 14 years she was restored to flying condition in 1991. In 2001 she was donated to Australian Naval Aviation Museum Foundation 2002 and then to the RAAF Base Amberley Aviation Heritage Centre

also refer to http://www.adastron.com/lockheed/electra-10/vh-uzo.htm