Tuesday, 12 October 2021 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY Page 7586/7587
The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (16:05): Today, I would like to talk about a project that has been handled by a student of the John Pirie Secondary School, entitled Those Magnificent Men. The project is by Emily Johncock. I would like to talk about another project that students of the John Pirie Secondary School have been undertaking on persons who came from Port Pirie, either born in Port Pirie or who had a very loving association with this great city. These people have gone on to be engaged in some form of milestone activities worldwide.
By November 1917, at the age of just 21, Charles Eaton was already a three-year veteran of trench warfare, an experience which no doubt steeled him for the terrifying task which he had volunteered to do. I reinforce that: volunteered. Air warfare was still in its experimental infancy and the idea of flying such a fanciful invention over a dark, cold London night must have drawn a lump in the young man’s throat. Yet he was charged with doing much more than just flying. His job was to defend the great City of London from the German zeppelin airships and the horrible new twist of industrialised warfare that they represented—the aerial bombing of civilian populations.
Eaton acquitted himself magnificently in this baptism of fire and was soon flying bombing raids of his own. On 21 June the following year, his Airco DH.9 single-engine bomber was shot down over Germany. He was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Holzminden. Unhappy with his new dwelling, as you would be in a prisoner of war camp, Eaton soon escaped but was recaptured very soon afterwards. He was then court-martialled and locked in solitary confinement.
Amazingly, Eaton again escaped, somehow crossing back over the fortified lines and rejoining his squadron in time for a few more commissions in the dying stages of the First World War. Bear in mind, this is the First World War. So highly regarded was Eaton’s wartime flying record, he was given the task of flying the very top-level British diplomats to the historic Versailles peace conference.
Eaton moved to Darwin via India in 1923 and before long became an instructor in the infant RAAF. Here he was most noted for his ability not only to find lost planes and airmen in the vast Australian outback but then to also navigate his way back to the wreckages on horseback. He performed this feat on three occasions, earning himself the Air Force Cross for his ‘zeal and devotion to duty’.
When the Second World War broke out, men with any combat experience were in very short supply. Eaton was posted to Port Pirie, where he was dedicated to run the Bombing and Gunnery School at the Port Pirie airstrip. I have mentioned this in previous grievance speeches. He would call Port Pirie home for the next 12 to 18 months; however, being in administrative duties was not for him. He needed to be part of the action. It was because of this that he insisted on a transfer to Darwin where he would be more in the thick of things. It was here that he assumed command of a small but very dedicated squadron of Wirraways with which they immediately set about terrorising Japanese forces throughout the Dutch East Indies.
Following the war, Eaton became a diplomat. In 1945, when Indonesia declared independence from the Dutch, the United Nations appointed Eaton as a consul-general to oversee the birth of this new republic, and he became Australia’s first ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia.
Today, the road to Darwin International Airport and the land upon which it sits bear Eaton’s name. A lake is also named in his honour there. He was also awarded an OBE among other titles. His favourite memorial, however, was the Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton saloon bar in the Tennant Creek Goldfields Hotel.
This assignment was undertaken by Emily Johncock, a student at the John Pirie Secondary School, who has done all the research required to bring this project to fruition. There were several other projects undertaken by students of John Pirie Secondary School; however, I have spoken to this house about four of these assignments, which were undertaken under the guidance of Aaron Ward, a teacher at the John Pirie Secondary School.
These projects will be awarded to each of the students at a school assembly by me when the opportune time arises considering COVID restrictions. Again, I reinforce the dedication and commitment of not only the people coming from Port Pirie over many years and centuries but also the students of this particular school. Roger Nottage has done a fantastic job there with the students. The students are very proud of their community and also their school.