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Cyril Frederick Henry Burnell - 1942 (My Dad)

My father was Cyril Frederick Henry Burnell. During the Second World War, Dad served with the RAAF and held the rank of Leading Aircraftman. He enlisted on 7 April 1942 following the bombing of Darwin, which happened on 19th February 1942. He had tried to enlist one year earlier, but was inadvertantly injured in a car accident, which left him in Ryde Hospital at the time he was due for the Medical Examination. Later he applied for Flight Crew but was not accepted. He had seen an advertisement in the 'Daily Telegraph' where the RAAF were looking for 'Fabric Workers' and because he was qualified as an Upholsterer, he applied. He passed all the tests except for an X-Ray, (something was just not right) so he was again denied entry to the RAAF. One month later he had another X-Ray, it was clear and he was finally accepted.
His initial posting was to Bradfield Park (now Lindfield) for intensive training, then to Ultimo for Technical Training, then to Ascot Vale, Vic to Engineering School and then on to Rathmines Radio School. Rathmines was also a seaplane base so Dad was to become familiar with Catalinas. It wasn't until October 1943, when Dad was posted to Canberra ACT and he was assigned to Number 13 Squadron (Darwin Defence Unit).
It was during this period, Mum, Beryl and I caught a steam train down from Sydney (my first steam train ride) to Canberra and we spent two days with him. Mum was worried about dad's safety and didn't know whether she would see him again. 
Soon after, on 26 Jan 1944 dad arrived at Hughes Air Base, which is south of Darwin and joined Number 2 Squadron. One year later in Jan 1945 he was re-assigned to Number 4 Repair & Servicing Unit at Pell Air Base, NT. Two months later, he was posted back to Bradfield Park for further training, then on to Richmond Air Force Base, and then again sent to Ascot Vale in Victoria for more trainjing. During the middle of this particular course, hostilities with Japan had ceased on 15 August 1945. The War was over.
On 19 Nov 1945 he was drafted back to Sydney (Bradfield Park) and was finally discharged from the RAAF on 11 Dec 1945. 
In researching Dad's military history I discovered that he had previously been a member of the Naval Reserve (a compulsory system) for two and one half years. At the oubreak of the Second World War the Reserve was suspended.
Although we might like to think our Dad was a war-hero, he was just one of many determined men who wanted to do his share to help protect our great Country. It takes guts to put your hand up when war breaks out; so in my eyes, they are all heros, including our Dad. 
Just as a footnote;... In June 2016 my wife Stella and I spent 10 days in the Northern Territory visiting all the places where my Dad had been posted during WWII. We took in the War Museum and the RAAF Aviation Heritage centre in Darwin, but in particular, the Pell Airfield which still has a few remains of the WWII RAAF Maintenance Base. A nice feeling to walk in your fathers footsteps and experience just how difficult it must have been for all the enlisted personnel at the time.
 Facts: Courtesy National Archives of Australia, Canberra ACT (Series A9301)

All that remains is a concrete slab where LAC's slept

A propellor trench used to service and repair aircraft engines

Bit's and pieces left behind after the War ended in 1945

Crest of No 13 Squadron RAAF

Crest of No 2 Squadron RAAF

Dad enlisted on 7 Apr 1942


Name:                     BURNELL, Cyril Frederick Henry

Service:                   Royal Australian Air Force

Service #:                63749

D.O.B:                     27 Sep 1910

Place/Birth:               Hobart, TAS

Date Enlisted:           7 Apr 1942 Bradfield Park, NSW 

Next of Kin:               BURNELL, Victoria Winifred

Date/Discharge:         11 Dec 1945

Rank:                       Leading Aircraftman

Posting at Discharge:  2 Personnel Depot, Bradfield Park, NSW 

WW2 Honours:           None for Display

Prisoner of War:         No


A History of 2 Squadron RAAF (WW11)

2 Squadron was reformed at Laverton in Victoria on 10 January 1937. At the outbreak of the Second World War the unit searched for enemy vessels in Australian waters using Anson aircraft. After being re-equipped with Hudson aircraft, the squadron moved to Darwin in April 1941 to perform anti-submarine activities and general reconnaissance.

A detachment of four aircraft was sent to Koepang on 7 December 1941 and then to Penfoie on 11 December. The detachment provided cover to Australian troops moving within the islands and attacked Japanese shipping at Menado and Kema early the following year. A Japanese bombing raid on the Koepang base on 16 January damaged a number of planes. Further losses of aircraft, equipment, and men saw the detachment withdrawn to Darwin on 20 January 1942 and to Daly Waters on 18 February.

A total of 13 crew members were lost during 1942, the squadron’s most active period of operations. Between May and October, No 2 Squadron attacked Japanese positions and shipping at Ambon, Timor, Koepang, and other islands in the Banda Sea. In recognition of No 2 Squadron's heroic stand in this, Australia's Darkest Hour, the unit was awarded the US Presidential Unit Citation for “outstanding performance of duty in action” - The highest honour that can be bestowed on a combat unit by the United Sates Government.

In 1943, as the Allies gained control of the sky, 2 Squadron made daily attacks on Koepang, Lautem, Penfoei, and Dili. Training on Beaufort bombers commenced late in the year. Working in concert with other units, the squadron opened the new year with attacks on enemy shipping and villages in Timor used by the Japanese and native informers. A combined attack on a Japanese convoy on 6 April saw a cruiser and several other vessels seriously damaged. Between May and June 1944 the squadron was withdrawn from operations and re-equipped with Mitchell aircraft, commencing its first operations on targets in Lautem West on Timor Island on 27 June 1944.

The end of 1944 was spent targeting enemy barges and freighters, now relied upon to supply their outer garrisons. In early 1945 these tasks were continued in conjunction with 18 Squadron. 2 Squadron moved to Borneo shortly after the end of the war and played an important role in locating prisoner-of-war camps and dropping supplies to camps in the Celebes. The squadron assumed transport operations until it moved to Laverton in December, when it was reduced to a cadre basis and eventually disbanded on 15 May 1946.

 RAAF Museum





My father, Cyril Frederick Henry Burnell married my mother, Victoria Winifred Wray in 1936 and they had a daughter named Winifred, who was unfortunately still-born in 1937. This shattered them at the time but, ... 

Soon after Roy Burnell (that's me)  was born in 1938, just prior to World War II. My father served in No 13 Squadron, No 2 Squadron & No 4RSU Maintenance Squadron with the Royal Australian Air Force from 1942-45 .

For the first seven years of my life, I really only knew my mother and sister Beryl, who was born in 1941 while we lived at Chandos Street, Crows Nest NSW during the War.

Following the war, we moved to Willoughby, where I completed my schooling. I also had a brother Fred (born 1945) then another sister Jennifer (born 1948). 

By 1955 we moved to the beachside suburb of Dee Why. It was here in my teenage years, where I spent most of the summer months surfing, playing tennis or attending dances each week either at the Dee Why Swimming Club or at other venues around Sydney. I also played Rugby League football during the winter months, which was a sport that I really loved. I later became a Rugby League Referee.

Then in my late 20's, I became involved in Scuba diving and underwater photography, which was quite adventurous to say the least.

My career started in the Banking Industry where I worked for 8 years and then for another 28 years in the Insurance Industry. I also worked various part-time jobs such as driving a taxi, as a waiter serving food and wine in clubs and restaurants to make additional money.

In 1995 I began market research which I found quite interesting and it gave me an opportunity to meet many people. Because I have a deep interest in historical matters, I am now a volunteer worker at the Redcliffe Museum.

Life in retirement is really quite wonderful - It gives my wife Stella and I plenty of time to travel the world !