||The last ex-Serviceman to
be Prime Minister of Australia
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
In April 1944 Whitlam went to Merauke,
from where operations were conducted against Tanimbar and Aroe Islands.
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 ALP.
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withdrawn from Vietnam, he acted quickly in abolishing National
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.
AWM text & image