Malta. c. July 1943. Group portrait of fitters and mechanics of No. 3 Squadron RAAF.
Left to right (bottom row): Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Lloyd (Grizz) Bear of Melbourne, Vic; LAC Washe of Wingham, NSW; LAC Coolaman of Fremantle, WA; LAC Gilseman of Lithgow, NSW
(top row from left): LAC Gillett of Kandos, NSW ; Corporal Cork of Tumut, NSW.
Grizz joined the Air Force in Melbourne in June 1941. By March 1942, he was standing in Melbourne Showground with a group of replacements for 3 Squadron. In what turned out to be a very extended journey, they first travelled to Adelaide and boarded “Eastern Prince” - until they found that the engines needed repair. They then transferred to “HMT Dilwara” (a British ship with an Indian crew) and finally sailed on the 3rd of April 1942. One of the amazing sights travelling across the Indian Ocean was flying-fish being stranded on the deck. They arrived at Colombo (modern-day Sri Lanka) on April 23, then on to Bombay where they had another surprise; their ship berthed and they went into an Army camp! On May 7 they left on the “Verela”, loaded with Ghurkhas, Sikhs and Moslems and finally disembarked at Port Tewfik (Egypt) on 20th May. The party then travelled up through the desert to 3 Squadron, who were then operating from Gambut (near Tobruk) in Libya.
Lloyd arrived just in time for the big retreat all the way back to Amariya (LG91) in the Nile Delta, Egypt. The final pivotal El Alamein Battle began on the 23rd of October 1942 and Rommel was in retreat from 4 November. The Squadron moved back west into the desert; passing Tobruk, Benghazi (operating from Castel Benito airfield), then Marble Arch (where five 3SQN boys were killed by a mine) and along the North African coast to the holy city of Kairouan in Tunisia.
The Germans in Africa capitulated in May 1943 and Grizz went back with the Squadron to Zuara on the coast of Western Libya. Grizz then embarked as part of the servicing party for Malta (3rd-19th July, 1943) and went over to Sicily in a “Landing-Ship (Tank)”. Grizz was at Agnone, Sicily, where the airbase was heavily bombed by the Germans. The Sicilian campaign finished on 16 August, 1943. Later in September, when the Italians surrendered, Grizz was carried by DC3s over to Grottaglie (in southern Italy). The Squadron then operated up through Bari and Foggia airfields. Grizz got across to Naples, where amongst other tourist sights he went over to Isle of Capri and saw Gracie Fields’ villa.
3 Squadron then camped through the winter at Cutella, flying against the tough German ‘Gustav’ line at Monte Cassino. On 11 March 1944, Grizz visited Squadron Leader Nicky Barr in hospital at Vasto, after Nicky had escaped from behind the German lines. (The last time Grizz had seen him was nearly two years beforehand, just prior to Nicky being shot down over Libya.)
The War Memorial has a photo of Grizz winning the high-jump in a Squadron sports day in May 1944:
Italy. c. 1944. The high jump event at the sports day held by No. 3 (Kittyhawk) Squadron RAAF.
Leading Aircraftman Lloyd (Grizz) Bear of Vic, is seen here making the jump which gained him victory. [AWM MEC1551]
The Squadron later advanced past Rome to Creta and Jesi airfields, against the ‘Gothic Line’. They then went across the Apennines to the Adriatic coast, and up to Fano, where Padre Fred McKay acquired 'Koala Casa', where Grizz enjoyed the cups of tea, cakes and buns.
"Koala Casa", Italy. c. 1944. Members of the RAAF gather around the fire in "Koala Casa", and talk of home and when
they will see it again. "Koala Casa" is the Australian recreation centre of 239 Wing RAF in northern Italy. [AWM MEA2217]
Up past Rimini to Cervia and then on past Venice; Grizz stayed with the Squadron until they reached their last Northern Italian airfield, near Udine, after V.E. Day - 8th May 1945. He went to Lake Como and Venice on leave and then on August 21st transferred back to Naples, where he boarded a Lancaster bomber and, after a 6˝ hour flight, landed at Peterbourgh, north of London. Grizz heard rumours that they were supposed to go to the Far East, but the atomic bombs dropped and the war ended. On 28th October 1945, Grizz sailed from Southampton on the “Aquitania” for Australia.
Grizz passed away peacefully at the McDonald Wing Nursing Home in Maffra, Victoria, and was buried on April 10th 2012 at the Maffra Lawn Cemetery.
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