Life On The Job



Indigenous Famous Person's Story

Leonard Victor Waters - 20 June 1924 - 24 August 1993 - PILOT

Leonard Waters is the only known Aboriginal fighter pilot to serve in World War Two.

Len Waters
Len Waters in his Kittyhawk

 

Summary of Len's Life:

Born:
20 June 1924 at Euraba Aboriginal Mission near the northern central NSW border

Died: 24 August 1993, Cunnamulla, Queensland

Father: Donald Waters, fencing and shearing contractor and, shearer's cook.

Mother: Grace Waters (nee Bennett)

Language: Gamilaraay; English




(Source: Leonard Waters Aboriginal Fighter Pilot)

Len Waters

Education

Len attended Toomelah Public School and Nindigully where he studied until three months short of completing Year 8. Len grew up in an era when it was not compulsory for Aboriginal children to go to school beyond Grade 4 because the Government of the day believed that Aboriginal people would not aspire to an occupation that required higher education.

Employment

Len was a shearer like his dad.

Experiences

"Len was an 18-year-old shearer from Nindigully, Queensland, when he joined the RAAF on August 24, 1942 as a flight mechanic, (despite the formal barriers to non European enlistment in other services the Royal Australian Air Force was willing to take people of non-European descent).

When the RAAF called for aircrew trainees he applied and was accepted for pilot training. He undertook his initial training at No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School (1EFTS), Narrandera, NSW, before graduating as a Sergeant pilot from No. 5 Service Flying Training School (5SFTS), Uranquinty, NSW. His training continued at No. 2 Operational Training Unit (2OTU), Mildura, Vic, from where he was posted to No. 78 Squadron on 14 November 1944.

As a member of 78 Squadron based at Noemfoor in the Netherlands New Guinea, Morotai and Tarakan, he conducted 95 ground attack and fighter sweeps over Japanese held positions and islands in New Guinea and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) during late 1944 and 1945.

By the end of the war he had completed 95 missions in his Kittyhawk fighter which was called "Black Magic". The name "Black Magic" was not his idea, it was the previous mount of John Blackmore. It was perhaps fate that decided Leonard getting this aircraft!"

(Source: AIATSIS)

 

Black Magic
Black Magic - Len Waters' Kittyhawk Fighter
The P40 N-15 Kittyhawk aircraft, 'Black Magic', (HU-E), so named by 411271 Flight Lieutenant Denis Russell Baker, DFC, 78 Squadron, RAAF, who initially flew this aircraft. Whilst flying 'Black Magic', Baker, was credited with shooting down the last Japanese aircraft over New Guinea.

'Black Magic' was later flown by 78144 Sergeant (Sgt) (later Warrant Officer) Leonard Victor (Len) Waters, 78 Squadron. Sgt Waters was the only known Aboriginal pilot of the Second World War. He joined the RAAF on 24 August 1942 and was trained as a flight mechanic. When the RAAF called for aircrew trainees he applied and was accepted for pilot training. He undertook his initial training at 1 Elementary Flying Training School (1EFTS), Narrandera, NSW, before graduating as a Sgt pilot from 5 Service Flying Training School (5SFTS), Uranquinty, NSW. His training continued at 2 Operational Training Unit (2OTU), Mildura, Vic, from where he was posted to 78 Squadron on 14 November 1944.

He flew 95 operational sorties with 78 Squadron, operating from Noemfoor, Morotai and Tarakan. Sgt Waters was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 1 January 1945 and to Warrant Officer on 1 January 1946. He was discharged from the RAAF on 18 January 1946.

Leonard Waters died on 25 August 1993.


(Source: Australian War Memorial)





"As it was in the later stages of the war, when most of the Japanese aircraft were either destroyed, air to air combat in this 'backwater' of the Pacific War were very rare, Leonard did not shoot down any enemy aircraft.

He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on January 1 1945, and Warrant Officer on January 1, 1946, and was discharged on January 18, 1946. After the war Leonard tried to start his own air service in Western Queensland, but lack of financial backing forced his idea to fold. He went back to shearing for a while and was a prominent member of the Aboriginal community in Queensland.

Leonard tragically died in an accident on August 25, 1993. His family donated to the Australian War Memorial several artefacts of Leonards unique war service, such as his flying helmet, several photographs,
his medals
and flying log."
(Source: AIATSIS)

Len Waters Pilot's Wings



"Black Magic" was eventually written off in November 1946 and struck off charge November 1948. Its original United States Army Air Force serial number was 42-104830, it was delivered in July 1943. (source: "Spitfire, Mustang and Kittyhawk in Australian Service", by Stewart Wilson. Aerospace Publications, 1993).

As part of the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War Two in 1995, Australia Post released a special print of stamps and aerogrammes depicting some well known, and not so well known servicemen and women. The painting of "Black Magic" as featured on the aerogramme is on display in South Australia.
(Source: AIATSIS)

Stamp showing Len Waters

Aerogram
(Courtesy of Australia Post)

Len Waters Memorials

Park in Boggabilla, N.S.W. is named after him

Street in Canberra suburb of Ngunnawal and street in Wacol, Brisbane

Street in Ngunnawal Canberra named after Len Waters

Links

Australia’s First and Only Aboriginal Fighter Pilot
Extract from “My Father the Flyer – Was it Black Magic?” Written by Kim Orchard (nee Waters)

Len Waters
Wikipedia - Len Waters

Wikipedia
WW2 - Australian Government - Black Magic

WW2
RAAF Kittyhawk Squadron

RAAF Kittyhawk
Leonard V. Waters - his story by Ben Henderson

Len Waters' story
Register of War Memorials in NSW

Memorial Park
Pilots Memorial

Memorial in Qld
AIATSIS

Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Australian War Memorial

AWM
Australian Defence Force: Indigenous Overview

Australian Defence Force: Indigenous Overview
Australian War Memorial: Indigenous Australian Servicemen

Indigenous Australian servicemen
ABC - Untold Stories: World War 2: Leonard Waters

Untold Stories

 

Last photos of Len
(Source: Leonard Waters Aboriginal Fighter Pilot)

Len Waters
(Source: Ozatwar: Len Waters)

 

Did You Know?

The Gamilaraay language Dictionary (created by the Australian National University) was based on tapes of Len's grandfather, Charles Dennison.

Gamilaraay Language Dictionary

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