Saturday, May 13, 2006

Here it is, the long-awaited story with a romantic twist on how the Lancaster bomber helped save Britain during World War Two. This column appeared yesterday in the Redland Times, which serves the community on Moreton Bay at the gateway to Australia’s growth region, south-east Queensland.
LEONARD and Marie Spooner are thankful they have kept their television as they gradually clear their Birkdale retirement home.
The TV was not on the for-sale list under the heading, "Going overseas".
The screen has been the focus for keen eyes, hungry for technical details of the Beaconsfield mine rescue.
Leonard worked for many years with a mining-tool company.
"They adapted a raise-boring machine to drill the vertical shaft; the cutters may have come from my former company," he says.
"I started as a toolmaker and rose through the ranks to manager of operations."
Leonard has more than business in his life’s story. A World War Two pilot with the Royal Air Force, he received a Distinguished Flying Cross after 33 bombing missions over Germany.
He says the RAF lost 52 per cent of its bomber pilots during the war.
A bright voice guided Leonard home as he battled fatigue after maybe 14 hours flying a Lancaster.
He was in love with a pretty aircraft controller who talked on radio telephone from a Lincolnshire tower.
Marie also has a distinguished service record, having been in the first group of women radio telephone operators.
"Someone decided a woman’s voice was more welcoming for the pilots who were weary after such long flights," she said.
The couple married in 1944. After their RAF discharge they found England had little to offer.
"We couldn’t even get a house or apartment," Marie said.
The couple moved in 1948 to Ontario, Canada. They came to Australia in 1981 and lived on the Sunshine Coast for a decade before returning to Canada.
In 1997 they were back in Queensland. The Redlands has been home since 2002. Leonard and Marie, both 85, are heading again to Canada, this time Vancouver.
Marie has been suffering from our summer heat. They couple also want to be closer to family in the United Kingdom.
"It’s three days travel from England to here but Canada is virtually overnight," Marie said.
"We love it here; Australia is a lovely country. We have been all around, up the east, across the north and down the west. We have many happy memories."
The Spooners are sad to leave Wellington Manor Retirement Village and "all its happy people".

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