Dad (Far Left) and Jim (2nd from right)
Earlier this year aviation lost a true gentleman and an aviator with an incredible history.
James Hilary Flemming was the first Australian to fly through Mach 2 in an F-104 Starfighter, a fighter pilot in the Korean War with 77 Squadron where he was awarded the US Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal, founded the Australian air force’s first aerobatic team and went on to become Director of the Australian War Memorial on leaving the RAAF. All of this and I have but scratched the surface.
More than this, ‘Jim’ was a tangible link to my father. He instructed my father at 3 Squadron, passing on the ways of battle in Korea prior to my father’s departure for the peninsula. When my father returned from active service they flew together as both flight instructors and fighter pilots before my father left the air force in 1956.
My parents stayed in touch with Jim and his wife Pat over the years and I met him a number of times growing up. When I sat down to begin penning my father’s story, Jim was an amazing resource. He provided me with records, facts, figures, dates and names but most of all his first hand anecdotes were captivating. We met on occasions and emailed at regular intervals.
My most treasured memory occurred in recent years. We visited Jim and Pat and our children sat in their lounge room captivated by stories of the grandfather they never knew. There were tales of intrepid Tiger Moth flying and impromptu air shows. There were practical jokes and flying escapades that had me on the edge of my seat, penning every word and struggling to keep up. Most importantly, he brought my Dad to life for my children and for that I am eternally grateful.
What Jim achieved in his life was remarkable and I feel honoured to have known him and privileged to have recorded his recollections. I will miss our chats, my children will treasure his memory and our nation is better for his service. Part of me can see Dad and Jim whistling among the cumulus in their Mustangs once again.
Rest in peace Air Vice Marshall James Hilary Flemming...you may be gone but you will never be forgotten in our home.
Image Credits: (On Mustang Wing: korean-war.commemoration.gov.au, F-104 cockpit and Meteorites: http://www.916-starfighter.de/tallyho.htm)