George Meldrum was born just hours before the end of World War I on November 11, 1918. It was the end of what was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Twenty years later, Meldrum was fighting in World War II.
When WWII began, Meldrum was working in a militia camp, serving in the Australian army since October 13, 1939.
He transferred to the air force so he could become a pilot. He was commissioned into the air force on December 29, 1942. He received his wings in Canada.
His wife is the former Greater Taree County Councillor, Dot Meldrum.
She recalled some of his more interesting stories from the service, like when his plane was low on fuel and he knew he wouldn’t make it back to the base. The Canadian-American border was below him and the American side seemed safer for an emergency landing, so he landed in the US.
The problem was that the US had not entered the war yet, and Meldrum was held by authorities as an illegal entrant to the States. He had to sign papers where he promised to never enter the USA again before they would let him leave.
Meldrum then was stationed in England with the British 274 squadron. He was then posted in the Middle East.
He once returned to base from a mission and learned that he had been on duty during the retreat of El Alamein. He had to hitchhike with others to find their squadron. Along the way, he lost his papers, ID and log book.
In July of 1942, the engine in his fighter plane exploded, and he had to land west of Aminya. In October of that year, he was accidentally bombed by his number two plane.
In November, he survived having engine trouble during a landing.
In January 1943, he was hit by fire from a friendly warplane and had to crash land.
He mostly flew Hurricanes, but also flew Spitfires, Warraways, and Fairey Fulmers.
He served in the Number 26 Anti-Aircraft Co-op Unit, the Berka Det, and the 74 Squadron.
Meldrum had almost 800 hours of combat flight time and he landed on 24 Middle East Aerodromes.
Near the end of his service, the injuries he had accrued in his past accidents began to catch up with him.
He was sent back to Australia for a “toughening up” course to prepare him to serve with Killer Caldwell’s Squadron in New Guinea.
Because of his injuries, he was unable to complete the course. He then several years in various hospitals and underwent eight operations on his spine. He was one of the first patients to receive the operation that is now known as the laminectomy.
After the war, Meldrum married Dot.
The two have three children; Robert (Bob), a squadron leader at Amberley Air Base in Queensland; Peter, a teacher at Forster High School; and Don, a tech worker.
Meldrum is a life member of the Wingham Rifle Club and the Taree Pistol Club.
He won his first district trophy in the senior division of rifle shooting when he was 17 years old.
Prior to the war, he worked in the hardware department of Connell’s in Taree. After the war, he started a partnership with Vic Godwin, opening stores in Wingham and Forster, Manning River Times reported.
Later, he ran a sport and paint store with his wife.
Meldrum now resides at the Bushland Place Nursing Home.