Air gunner brevet

The Royal Australian Air Force air gunner’s brevet belonging to Flying Officer Morris Dolf Freudenstein of No. 640 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

What is it?

Known as a brevet, this badge was worn by air gunners serving in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). An air gunner’s role was to use the aircraft’s machine-guns to fight off the enemy when under attack. Otherwise they assisted with observation and navigation, and often sent and received wireless signals.

Who received it?

Flying Officer Robert Dunstan, c. 1944.

Flight Lieutenant Roberts (Robert) Dunstan was an air gunner in the RAAF. Born in Bendigo, Victoria, on 5 November 1922, he lied about his age in order to join the army when he was just 17, and was posted to the 2/8th Field Company. In January 1941 he was wounded in the knee by a shell splinter outside Tobruk, Libya. Though at first it did not appear to be especially serious, the wound soon became infected and Robert’s leg was amputated.

After recovering in Egypt, Robert returned to Melbourne in July 1941, and was discharged from the army the following February. Feeling frustrated at having served for such a short time, Robert decided to join the RAAF as a rear gunner, and soon embarked for overseas service once more.

Robert served in Bomber Command, which was responsible for bombing targets in Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe. His first operation was over Dusseldorf on 11 June 1943. Robert later recalled how nervous he felt as his tally of completed operations grew, all the while wondering whether he would survive.

On Robert’s second-last operation his aircraft was hit by incendiaries from another Lancaster and then by an enemy night fighter, but he managed to crash-land safely back in England. His last operation was less fraught and took place the day before his 21st birthday. Robert returned to Australia in August 1944 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Learn more about Robert Dunstan.

When/where was it used?

The “AG” brevet was worn by air gunners on the left side of the chest, above any medal ribbons. Robert was a rear gunner, which meant that he sat in the rear turret, keeping watch for enemy aircraft and advising the pilot on evasive action.

Activities for research and classroom discussion

1. Being an air gunner was a dangerous job. What does this tell you about the types of people who became air gunners?

2. Research the different roles in a heavy bomber’s aircrew. If you had a choice, what job would you do and why?

3. Create your own “AG” brevet design.

Return to Memorial Box 4 object list