Framed hand coloured studio portrait of 78144 Sergeant Leonard Victor 'Len' Waters, 78 Squadron, ...

Accession Number AWM2016.399.2
Collection type Photograph
Object type Colour - Print hand-coloured black & white
Maker Empire Art Company Pty Ltd
Place made Australia
Date made c 1944-1945
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain


Framed hand coloured studio portrait of 78144 Sergeant Leonard Victor 'Len' Waters, 78 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force. Note that Sgt Waters' skin colour in this hand-coloured photograph was considerably lightened by an employee of the Empire Art Company, a mail order portraiture business in the Second World War, and a more realistic portrait of Waters can be seen at P01757.002. Sgt Waters wrote on the verso of this frame: "To My Mother, For first of all bringing me into this world, For teaching me right from wrong. For not minding so very much when I X the X during the day. For sitting up with XX when I XX coming through the way of night. For trying to stop me from leaving school when I did. For washing and cleaning all my dirty clothes when I started work. For sitting up and tending to XXX worrying herself sick while I was away. For forgiving me for all the nasty things I said and done XXX But most of all, For simply being my Mother, For I am still your most loving son, Len"

Len Waters joined the RAAF on 24 August 1942 and graduated from the Flight Mechanics Course in January 1943. He was later selected for aircrew training and graduated as Sergeant pilot. Posted to No. 78 Squadron on 14 November 1944, he flew a total of 95 operational sorties over New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) in 1944 and 1945 from bases on Noemfoor, Morotai and Tarakan. Len has the distinction of being the only known Australian Aboriginal fighter pilot in the RAAF during the Second World War. His regular aircraft whilst flying with No. 78 Squadron was a P-40N Kittyhawk fighter-bomber named 'Black Magic' (A29-575), with the Squadron code and individual identifying markings being 'HU - E'. This aircraft had been named by a previous pilot in the unit who had transferred out of 78 Squadron. On 1 January 1946, Waters was promoted to Warrant Officer and seventeen days later on 18 January 1946 he discharged from the RAAF. He never returned to flying aircraft after the war and died on 24 August 1993 (51 years to the day of his joining the RAAF) in Cunnamulla, Queensland.

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