Cunard's Queen Elizabeth Commemorates 450 Squadron's 75th Anniversary With Maiden Visit To Newcastle
Rekindling Cunard Line's strong wartime connection to Australia, the majestic Queen Elizabeth sailed into the mouth of the Hunter River in Newcastle early yesterday morning to honour the 1941 departure of Australian World War II troops.
The maiden visit to Newcastle commemorated the RAAF 450 Squadron departure from Australia to the Middle East with a moving ceremony on the aft deck of Queen Elizabeth.
The event marked the 75th anniversary of 450 Squadron's journey on the first ship to bear the Queen Elizabeth name.
Beginning with a three-gun salute at midday from nearby Fort Scratchley, proud veterans of 450 Squadron, 93-year-old Frank 'Bluey' Hall and 95-year-old Kevin 'Spud' Murphy, along with other family members, were honoured guests on board Queen Elizabeth to mark the anniversary.
The 450 Squadron was the first Australian unit to serve alongside British military during World War II. Based in Williamtown, a short drive from Newcastle, the squadron left Australia on the original Queen Elizabeth, converted into a troopship, on 11 April, 1941.
The ship was bound for Egypt carrying its precious cargo of hundreds of supporting ground crew men and pilots.
On arrival into the Middle East, 450 Squadron joined and merged with 260 Squadron prior to being relocated to Amman Transjordan, known today as Israel.
The newly combined operational squadron used Hurricane aircraft to attack Vichy French airfields and infrastructure during the invasion of Syria.
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Yesterday's ceremony was also attended by relatives of squadron members, Wing Commander Amanda Cornell Commanding Officer RAAF Base Williamtown, Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Carnival Australia Executive Chairman Ann Sherry and Queen Elizabeth Hotel Director Naomi McFerran, who received the keys to the city on behalf of Cunard in an earlier parade through Newcastle.
Carnival Australia Executive Chairman Ann Sherry said it was a privilege to welcome the 450 Squadron veterans and 450 Squadron families on board Queen Elizabeth.
"It is again a reminder that there is a deep connection between Cunard and Australia going back over many generations," Ms Sherry said. "It is a humbling experience to meet people who have given so much to their country."
Sandi Nipperess, the secretary of 450 Squadron Association thanked Wing Commander Amanda Cornell Commanding Officer RAAF Base Williamtown and Base Warrent Officer Lloyd Hamilton, along with the personnel representing units from RAAF Williamtown, for their continued support and contribution to the day's events.
"Today bought back many memories for your veterans," Ms Nipperess said. "Thanks to the amazing generosity of Cunard, Captain Clark and the crew of Queen Elizabeth, we have been given the opportunity to commemorate the formation of 450 Squadron in a manner never imagined.
"Our Veterans can return to their homes knowing that although 75 years has passed by since they left the shores of Australia to fight for their country, the memory of 450 Squadron and its four and half-year-long valiant war effort is still very much alive, never to be forgotten."
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