Len Waters was the first Aboriginal Australian military aviator, and the only one to serve as a fighter pilot in the RAAF during World War II. Born in 1924 in northern NSW and raised in southeast rural QLD, Waters grew up dreaming of flying.
He was 18 years old and working as a shearer when he joined the RAAF in 1942. Although initially he trained as a mechanic, as soon as he could, he joined the flying training program. He learnt how to fly in a Wirraway plane just like this one and then moved on to flight training in a Tiger Moth plane.
Waters graduated as a Sergeant pilot in 1944 and was sent to PNG flying P-40 Kittyhawks in the Southwest Pacific theatre of WWII. He completed 95 combat missions and by the end of the war, had risen to the rank of warrant officer, the person in charge of a dozen fighter planes and organising the combat missions.
Following his discharge from the RAAF in 1946, he attempted to start a regional airline but was unable to secure financial backing and government approval. So, he went back to working as a shearer. He estimated that he has sheared around 1 million sheep.
Len Waters died in 1993 at the age of 69 and was buried in the St George Cemetery in QLD. His life is honoured by the naming of parks, streets, suburbs, overpasses, and a building at the RAAF base in Williamstown.
But perhaps Len Waters is best remembered for his perseverance and resilience in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Like this little training plane called a Wirraway, with the Aboriginal word for challenge, Waters faced every challenge with courage and determination.
But how many of us truly persevere when we encounter difficulties or delays in achieving our goals and hoped-for success? Next time you find yourself getting discouraged in life, keep moving forward. Perseverance pays off in the long run. The Bible encourages us with these words:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” Matthew 7:7-8 NIV
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