Do you know your family’s war stories? Or the local stories from your community?

Too often we are losing our war veterans without recording their stories. To commemorate Anzac Day, this week in the blog I’m sharing a couple of local stories from WWII.

One of Nhill’s local heroes Max Davey (1925-2019) flew Kittyhawks in the Pacific. In 1943 when he turned 18, Max enlisted and under the Empire Air Training Scheme, went to Benalla to train as aircrew on Tiger Moths. He then went to Deniliquin where he trained in Wirraways and obtained his wings as a Sergeant Pilot. Max completing his training at Mildura flying Kittyhawks. His first posting was to the small island of Noemfoor and then to Morotai where he was in action against enemy shipping.

Max Davey in cockpit of kittyhawk. Anzac Day - local stories
Max Davey in the cockpit of his Kittyhawk named Sportsman Special

This Anzac Day local story is from Max’s own notes

‘We completed a water sweep of coastline at the northern tip of the Halmaheras to attack any Japanese watercraft. Finding none we decided to practice strafing using two wrecked boats as targets. On the first strafing run, there was a loud explosion from my engine with smoke and loss of revs. Moratai was notified by radio that I would have to ditch. I headed for a small island north of my course to Morotai.

I ditched the aircraft on a reef which was covered by at least eight feet of water. Natives came out in a canoe and took me to shore. I was given fruit and water – they were wonderful people. A rescue boat arrived and returned me to Morotai. The aircraft I had ditched was from the squadron pool as my own aircraft Sportsman Special was in the hands of the ground staff for a maintenance check. So another day ended in the greatest adventure a young man could only dream of.

More information:

In Just Five Years

Heroes of the Skies

Uncharted Territory

A few years ago, Max showed me maps of the island where he was based. It was a handwritten x on the left margin of the map. Max explained that their charts were often inaccurate and in fact he didn’t ever have a chart showing the island. He just flew to the edge of the map and then kept a lookout for his landing strip.

Australia’s only indigenous fighter pilot.

During the battle of Noemfoor Max flew with Len Waters, believed to be the only indigenous pilot during WWII.

Group of No. 78 Squadron pilots including Max Davey and Len Waters on Halmahera Island.
Max Davey (left) and Len Waters (3rd from left). Photo from the Australian War Memorial Collection.

Len Waters, Warrant Officer and Pilot

Len Waters flew 95 combat missions for the RAAF during World War II, mostly over enemy territory. Once, a large Japanese cannon shell struck his plane, wedging itself in the cockpit but not detonating. Waters flew for another two hours before landing safely with the shell still intact. Len Waters returned to Australia at the end of the war with the rank of Warrant Officer. He returned to Queensland where he hoped to start a regional airline but was unable to secure financial or government support. Although he was also a skilled mechanic, he was unable to work in the automotive field as he lacked the required documentation. He returned to his pre-war career as a shearer to provide for his wife and six children. Len Waters died in 1993, aged 69 at Cunnamulla in Queensland.

Len Waters' Kittyhawk called Black Magic
Len Waters’ Kittyhawk Black Magic was actually named by a previous pilot. Photo from the Australian War Memorial Collection.

Pause to remember your own Anzac Day local stories.

Today on Anzac Day as we pause and remember all the everyday Aussies who put their lives on the line for us, maybe consider asking around to find out your Anzac Day local stories.

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What’s your family story? We’d love to hear from you. You can contact Graeme or Jo at


In Just Five Years

Heroes of the Skies

Australian War Memorial Archives.