USAAF A-10A summer flying helmet : Warrant Officer L V Waters, 78 Squadron, RAAF

Accession Number REL22232
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Helmet
Physical description Brass, Chamois, Cotton twill, Leather, Rubber
Maker Bates Shoe Company
Place made United States of America
Date made c 1944
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Khaki cotton twill flying helmet with black rubber ear pieces. Fitted into the rubbers are earphones with fabric covered leads connecting to a red plastic jack. The inner forehead section and headphone cups are lined with chamois leather. The helmet has three leather loops on the rear to retain goggles. Two of these loops are secured with press studs. There is a buckle and snap fastening chin strap with velour padding. Brass press stud fittings for an oxygen mask are also present.

History / Summary

This summerweight United States Army Air Force issue A-10A flying helmet was worn by 78144 Warrant Officer Leonard Victor 'Len' Waters during his service with 78 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force. Waters was born on the Euraba Mission, near Boomi in New South Wales, on 20 June 1924, and worked as a shearer after leaving school before his fourteenth birthday. He 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 (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 (there are another two known Australian Aboriginal bomber pilots, Squadron Leader D V Paul DFC and Flying Officer R Hill). His regular aircraft whilst flying with No.78 Squadron was a P-40N Kittyhawk fighter-bomber named 'Black Magic', with the Squadron code '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 in Cunnamulla, Queensland. In Australian War Memorial image number P01659.001, Len appears to be wearing this flying helmet in the cockpit of a P-40N Kittyhawk. The USAAF A-10A Summer flying helmet was introduced into service in mid-1944, and became the standard US summerwight helmet the following year. It was also used by many RAAF aircrew in the south west pacific, but most were quickly replaced after the war with British manufactured equipment.