Radar Gunner

Review by John Baxter

When I first heard of this book, concerning Australian based Consolidated B-24 Liberators utilising radar ‘sensors’ to locate Japanese radar installations, I recalled a chapter in ‘Australia’s Liberators’ by Charles Darby and published by Red Roo Models Publications in 2010. Referring to that just piqued my interest in this new book even further and I wanted to find out more.

‘Radar Gunner’ is a collaboration of former RAAF Flight-Sergeant Dick Dakeyne, DFC, along with Craig Bellamy and Dr David M Welch and covers an interesting latter period of the Second World War with USAAF B-24s based in Darwin and environs at a stage when the war was seen to be approaching or in its closing stages.

Now, this laminated card cover new book contains 142 pages profusely illustrated with 37 colour photos and other images, 2 colour maps, 120 black and white photos, numerous newspaper clippings and many other images. Most of these I’ve never seen before, so they’re a refreshing complement to the text. All of this is reproduced on quality stock so that definition in pictures and text is exceptionally good.

Now the guts of it is anecdotal and covers Flight-Sergeant Dick Dakeyne, DFC and his exploits throughout the war from bases at Corunna Downs, WA and Fenton, NT in USAAF B-24 Liberators. The reference to the ‘secret’ Section 22, something most of us I suspect have never heard of, is mentioned albeit briefly but helps set the scene for Dakeyne’s story. This includes his self-attachment to the 380th Bombardment Group (actually just one of the squadrons, the 530th) based in the Northern Territory.

Now I have to warn you that there is nowhere near the technical detail of the radio/radar counter measures equipment, especially the Australian designed SN2 receivers carried in the Liberators, in this book as there is in ‘Australia’s Liberators’. Dakeyne covers its operation in quite simple text whereas the Red Roo book is far better for those wanting more specific details. Despite that, this is a tremendous book and story. It’s both interesting and pleasing to note that it is ‘Winner of the N.T. History Book Award’.

Would I recommend it? Yes, I would, but with the reservation that it lacks technical detail that might disappoint the reader highly interested in early electronic warfare and the RAAF usage. Despite that, it covers a wide variety of anecdotal information especially regarding the more unusual aerial activities of the USAAF and its exploits out of northern Australia. Another point of interest was the intent of the US Government in April 1946 to bestow an award on Flt-Sgt Dakeyne and six other Australians for their wartime roles. This was declined by the Commonwealth Government although a change of mind occurred in 2009 when then Prime Minister John Howard was awarded and received the same award – the US Medal of Freedom!

It is published by David M Welch, ISBN 9780987138965. I found it an interesting book, competitively priced for a hardback and certainly worthy of inclusion in my aviation library. It is available from Hyland’s Bookshop in Melbourne hylandsbookshop@gmail.com or 03 9654 7448 for about $30. Enquiries also to Avonmore Books, PO Box 217 Kent Town, South Australia, 5071 shop@avonmorebooks.com.au

Many thanks to Peter Ingman of Avonmore Books for alerting me to this title.