Peter Firkins was 17 years old when he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in 1943. By January 1945, he was a trained air gunner in No. 460 Squadron, RAAF. Before his nineteenth birthday he had completed 29 operational flights. He took part in some of the most well known raids of 1945, including Dresden on 13 February and Berchtesgaden on 25 April. Firkins’ cousin, Dolly, commemorated each of his missions by sewing the name of the target onto a cushion.
During a raid on Bremen, Firkins’ Lancaster bomber was hit. The two starboard motors had been knocked out and 600 gallons of fuel lost. The crew managed to nurse the aircraft back to England, running out of fuel just as they reached an American base.
Firkins was a keen writer. After the war, while working as the General Secretary of the Liberal Party in Tasmania, he began writing a history of No. 460 Squadron. After completing the history in 1964, he continued to write, publishing a number of other military history books, including Australians in Nine Wars and Of Nautilus and Eagles.
While serving as an air gunner on Lancaster bombers during the Second World War, Firkins wore this flying equipment consisting of a leather flying helmet, flying goggles, and Type G oxygen mask. The helmet and mask would attach to the aircraft to provide oxygen and allow for communication.