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November 29, 2021

Today we honour Rawdon Hume “Ron” Middleton, VC.

SEVENTY nine years ago today a bomber took off from an air base in Suffolk, England. It was one of more than 200 aircraft on a mission to bomb heavy industry buildings in Italy. The primary pilot was Australian Ron Middleton, a small but wiry and tough man who was schooled in Dubbo and a former jackaroo at Parkes. Rawdon Hume “Ron” Middleton, VC was a bomber pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force and a posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

On 28 November 1942, Middleton was captain of Stirling BF372 detailed to bomb the Fiat aircraft works at Turin, Italy. It was his twenty-ninth combat sortie, one short of the thirty required for completion of a ‘tour’ and mandatory rotation off combat operations.

When over the target area Middleton had to make three low-level passes in order to positively identify the target; on the third, the aircraft was hit by heavy anti-aircraft fire which wounded both pilots and the wireless operator. His right eye was severely injured with the bone exposed; it is also reported that he had severe wounds to the body and legs. Middleton was in great pain, was barely able to see, was losing blood from wounds, and could breathe only with difficulty.

With his aeroplane severely damaged, Middleton rejected the options of flying to Africa or bailing out over German-occupied France and insisted on returning to England for the sake of the crew. The flight lasted more than four hours. On reaching the English coast, he flew over land so that his comrades could parachute safely. Five of them reached the ground and survived. He then turned back towards the English Channel to avoid crashing in a populated area. Two of the crew remained with their Captain, parachuted into the sea but unfortunately did not survive the night. Middleton was too weak to leave the Stirling which crashed into the sea on the morning of 29 November 1942, killing him. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross and promoted to Pilot Officer (with effect from 15 November).

Middleton’s body was washed ashore at Shakespeare Beach, Dover, on 1 February 1943 and buried in St John’s churchyard, Beck Row, Suffolk, with full military honours.

He was the first member of the RAAF in World War II to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

The last line of his Victoria Cross citation reads: “His devotion to duty in the face of overwhelming odds is unsurpassed in the annals of the Royal Air Force”.

RSL LifeCare named our residential aged care home at North Richmond, NSW in his honour. Ron Middleton VC Gardens.

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