Flight Lieutenant Edward Gough (Gough) Whitlam

Service number 423371
Birth Date 1916-07-11
Birth Place Australia: Victoria, Melbourne, Kew
Death Date 2014-10-21
Death Place Australia: New South Wales, Sydney, Elizabeth Bay
Final Rank Flight Lieutenant
  • Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Vietnam, 1962-1975

An ex-serviceman who became the 26th Prime Minister of Australia. When Whitlam was elected to parliament he was one of only two Labor members with Second World War active service.

Gough Whitlam applied to join the RAAF in December 1941. In the following May he was called up and underwent training as a navigator bomb-aimer; in 1943 he was posted to No. 13 Squadron RAAF. The squadron mostly operated out of the Northern Territory and from Dutch New Guinea, patrolling northern Australia, providing convoy escort, and attacking Japanese positions and shipping.

In April 1944 Whitlam went to Merauke, from where operations were conducted against Tanimbar and Aroe Islands. The next year he was flying from Truscott airfield in northern Western Australia as far as Soembawa. During 1945 his crew flew long routes, usually through Morotai. These operations extended to the Philippines.

The war was a busy period for Whitlam. Not only did he serve, he married, and also became committed to politics. After discharge he joined the Darlinghurst branch of the Labor Party, and was also admitted to the New South Wales bar. He was active in civic groups, including the Returned Servicemen's League. For three years running he was a national radio quiz champion. In 1952 he was elected to the federal seat of Werriwa and in 1960 became the deputy leader of the party.

Although the Labor Party opposed the deployment of Australian troops in Vietnam, Whitlam visited those serving there in 1966. Next year he became leader of the party, and was elected Prime Minister in 1972 - the first Labor one in 23 years. While troops had already been withdrawn from Vietnam, he acted quickly in abolishing National Service.

Whitlam was a passionate and progressive leader but became enmeshed in controversy. On 11 November 1975 the Governor-General dismissed his government. He lost the following elections in 1975 and 1977, and resigned. He was appointed Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris from 1983 to 1986. Whitlam was the last ex-serviceman to be a Prime Minister of Australia.


Date of birth 11 July 1916
Other 1942 Married Margaret Elaine Dovey.
Date of enlistment 20 June 1942 General Duties Branch, RAAF.
Other units 1943 13 Squadron RAAF.
Date of discharge 17 October 1945 Discharged with rank of Flight Lieutenant.
Other 05 December 1972 Start of Prime Ministerial term.
Other 11 November 1975 End of Prime Ministerial term.
Date of honour or award 06 June 1978 Companion of the Order of Australia.
Date of death 21 October 2014