There is a sense of indescribable pride one Riverina boy feels when he wears his great-granduncle’s medals.
Australian Air Force pilot Rawdon Middleton is a very familiar name in Parkes, with a suburb and a primary school named in honour of the officer.
He was awarded the country’s highest honour when he sacrificed his life for his crew during World War II.
Seventy-five years later, his Griffith-based decedents helped unveil a plaque at Forest Hill’s Air Force base, near Wagga, commemorating his dedication, sense of mate-ship and courage under fire.
The Flight Sergeant and Stirling bomber captain was the first RAAF member – and one of only four – to receive a Victoria Cross.
Not only was the 26-year-old determined to continue his 29th mission over Europe, despite faults in his aircraft on the fateful night of November 1942, he flew under fire and wounded, bombed the target and returned to Kent, so his crew could bail out safely.
With one remaining eye, Flt Sgt Middleton then rode the ruins of his plane into the ocean, to avoid crashing into the populated coastline.
Suzanne Pierpoint said the heroism of her granduncle had been treasured across generations, but it was her son Morgan, who cherished it most.
She said he was always proud to don Flt Sgt Middleton’s medals at commemorative services.
“It’s a big honour for my family,” Ms Pierpoint said. “We often talk about it … to go through what he went through, flying with part of his face missing, to get his crew back is incredible.”
Ms Pierpoint on Wednesday, joined Air Force leader Air Vice-Marshall Steven Robertson at RAAF Base Wagga for the special dedication.
Air Vice-Marshal Robertson said the home of the airman was the most fitting place for the dedicated plaque to be presented.
“The training (Ft Sgt Middleton) called on that night was the same training every airman and airwoman receives here at Wagga,” Air Vice-Marshal Robertson said.