407064 Flight Lieutenant Kevin Nightingale
Kevin Nightingale was born at Northcote, Victoria on 20 December 1916, the eldest of two children of George Hamer Nightingale and Elsie Alice May Nightingale (nee Jacob). The family moved to Victor Harbor in 1920 and Kevin and his brother Howard were educated at the Victor Harbor Primary and High Schools. Prior to his enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve on 20 January 1940, Kevin was working as a clerk for the Hotel Crown, which was owned by the Jacob family. He was called up for fulltime duty on 11 April 1940 and was posted to No 1 Initial Training School (ITS) at Somers, Victoria. After basic air cadet training Kevin was mustered for pilot training and posted to No 1 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) at Parafield, SA on 25 July 1940. The next day, his brother Howard enlisted in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (AIF).
Kevin passed the intensive flying course and was mustered to undergo twin-engine aircraft training at No 1 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) at Point Cook. He undertook his first solo flight on 15 October 1940. One month later Kevin was awarded his flying badge. Further training followed including a pilot’s instructional course, thus dashing Kevin’s early chances of a posting overseas to a frontline squadron. On 21 January 1942 the port engine of the Anson he was piloting failed and Kevin was forced to make a forced landing; none of the four crewmen were injured. On 1 October 1942 Kevin was commissioned as a pilot officer and six months later in April 1943 was promoted to flying officer. By this time he was at No 1 Operational Training Unit, he thus knew he a combat squadron posting would eventuate. In late 1943 Kevin later received orders to report to No 100 Squadron, a frontline unit serving on Goodenough Island. Equipped with Beaufort bombers, the unit was flying reconnaissance patrols and anti-shipping and bombing missions against enemy targets in the Solomon Islands and mainland New Guinea, including the key enemy base at Rabaul. On 10 December 1943, he flew his first operational mission in atrocious weather. Over the ensuing months, Kevin flew many missions against enemy targets as well as reconnaissance flights and maritime patrols. The most heavily defended enemy target was the dispersal area in Rabaul and Kevin’s aircraft was one of those that successfully reached the target to bomb it on 7 January 1944.
On one mission in early February 1944, a 500-pound bomb failed to release in Kevin’s aircraft, becoming hung-up in the bomb bay. Efforts to release the bomb manually were unsuccessful. Two of Kevin’s crewmembers, Flt Sgt Tyrell and Flt Sgt Mahoney, using a lever, managed to force the entire bomb rack from its fitting and dropped it clear of the aircraft much to the relief of the crew.
The missions continued and by May 1944, the Squadron had moved to Nadzab on mainland New Guinea, and in June they moved to Tadji. Whilst the Japanese were being pushed back by the Allied armies, there were still some enemy were in close proximity and thus aircrew slept with their pistols under their pillows. By July 1944, Kevin’s operational tour had expired and experienced pilots were needed in the mainland training schools. On 1 October 1944 he was promoted to flight lieutenant and was posted to the Air Armament & Gas School at Nhill, Victoria.
Kevin and his family would not know it at the time, but brother Howard, a prisoner of the Japanese, had died at Yokohama on 3 October 1944 during a US daylight-bombing raid of the city. Kevin’s instructional duties at Nhill continued and it is during this time he would have come into contact with a number of gases that the defence forces were testing, including Mustard Gas, Chlorine Gas, Lewisite Gas and Phosgene Gas.
On 19 March 1945, Kevin married Loreen Patricia Doran at Sacred Heart Church in Kew, Victoria. With the surrender of Japan on 14 August 1945, training activities wound down and Kevin was demobilised on 6 November 1945. Returning to civilian life, Kevin worked in sales until his retirement in 1976. He and his wife had two children, Susan (born 1946) and Andrea (born 1951, died 1952). Kevin Nightingale died on 3 March 1992, age 75.
Service file of 407064 Kevin Nightingale purchased from the National Archives of Australia ( www.naa.gov.au ).
Casualty file of 407064 Flight Lieutenant Kevin Nightingale held by the National Archives of Australia (W1580).
Flying Log Book of 407064 Flight Lieutenant Kevin Nightingale, from the Susan Rogers (nee Nightingale) family collection.
RAAF Historical Section, Units of the Royal Australian Air Force – Volume 8, Training Units, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, ACT, 1995.
Kevin O’Reilly, In Just Five Years – the RAAF & Nhill in World War II 1941-1946, K. O’Reilly, Dingley Village, Victoria, 2009.
Colin King, Song of the Beauforts – 100 Squadron RAAF and Beaufort Bomber Operations, Air Power Development Centre (The Office of Air Force History), Canberra, 2008.
Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, July 2015.