407193 Squadron Leader Edwin Laurence HAMMAT
Edwin Laurence Hammat was born at Port Pirie on 20 April 1920, the youngest of two children of Edwin Paul Hammat and Catherine Hammat (nee Stacey). After the death of the father in 1921, the family moved to Victor Harbor and Ned, as he was known, was educated at the Victor Harbor Primary and the newly established Catholic Coolock School in Seaview Road. His older brother Ronald, age 18, was killed in a shooting accident near Victor Harbor on 5 February 1934.
Ned’s secondary schooling was at Rostrevor College and upon leaving school he commenced pharmaceutical studies and worked for Ron Goldsack at the Corner Pharmacy, Victor Harbor. At the age of 20, he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 20 July 1940, training at No 2 Initial Training School (ITS), Bradfield Park (NSW). Ned was later mustered as an observer (navigator) for training at No 1 Air Observer’s School, Cootamundra (NSW). Upon completion, Ned then travelled to No 1 Bombing & Air Gunnery School (BAGS) at Evans Head (NSW).
On 28 December 1940, when his mother Catherine died, Ned longer had any direct family. His nominated next of kin was his uncle, Mr J Stacey, and this was later changed to Ron Goldsack, his previous employer.
On 13 February 1941, Ned was at No 1 Air Navigation School (ANS), Parkes (NSW) for astro-navigation training. After some leave, he departed overseas on 6 April 1941 and arrived in Egypt and was posted to the RAF Middle East Pool, Kasfareet. Detached temporarily to 70 Operational Training Unit, Ismailia, Ned’s next posting was to RAF Station, Eastleigh (Nairobi), Kenya. On 28 September, he joined 45 Squadron RAF, a Blenheim squadron.
The Squadron operated against Italian and German forces in Libya, Egypt and the Mediterranean. A number of Squadron aircraft were lost during this time; the three-man Blenheim was more suited as a night-fighter as it was outgunned because of their low-calibre weapons and the fuel tanks were not self-sealing, thus contributing to losses.
With the Japanese threat in the Asia-Pacific region, more Allied forces were being deployed from the Middle East to India to oppose the Jap advance. In early 1942, the Squadron was deployed to India and Burma. Ned sailed on the SS Orestes from Suez to Calcutta, whilst some crews flew aircraft to India.
Allied operations out of Burma against the Japanese invariably proved disastrous as a result of inadequate supplies and equipment, and problems with Indian nationalists who wanted independence. On 25 February 1942, the Japanese launched an aerial attack against the airfield at Mingaladon and a number of the Squadron’s aircraft were destroyed. The Allied forces were subsequently pulled back into India.
The Squadron’s new base was near Calcutta but a shortage of aircraft restricted flying activities. Many personnel were detached to other units. Early November 1942 saw the Squadron being re-equipped with a few Vultee A-31 Vengeances, a single engined dive-bomber with a two-man crew.
Various postings in India Command followed until 19 March 1944, when Ned embarked for the UK where squadrons were being strengthened for the oncoming invasion of France.
Ned, by now a squadron leader, arrived at 464 RAAF Squadron on 22 August 1944; a unit that was equipped with Mosquitos and specialised in precision and intruder raids. Ned participated in many raids over France, Holland and Germany and completed two operational tours, each tour being 200 hours.
Most of these missions were intruder missions, along with providing army support. From January 1945, all the Squadron’s missions were over Germany.
Returning to Australia in November 1945, Ned was demobilised on 31 January 1946. He later married Marie Doran on 8 November 1947 in Melbourne. Ned operated a pharmacy at Seaton Park. He died of a heart attack on 30 October 1972, age 52.
Service file of 407913 Edwin Laurence Hammat, from the National Archives of Australia (www.naa.gov.au ).
Newspaper articles from Trove Newspapers, National Library of Australia (http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/ ).
Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, August 2015.