3 Squadron LIFETIMES
Armourers and Engine Fitters working on a Kittyhawk at Cutella, April 1944.
We were Flight Commanders on the Squadron in 1944 and 1945 and Mick was the "Fitter 2E" on our Kittyhawks and Mustangs during our tours. He was on the Squadron for a much longer time than either of us and was an old hand when we arrived as sprog pilots.
As we all know, it has forever been the custom of old hands, especially Australians, to test out new chums and to knock them into shape regardless of rank or mustering. As the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, wrote, "The rank is but the guinea stamp. A man's a man for all that." And because, for the most part, ground staff were on the Squadron far longer than the pilots, they had plenty of opportunity to polish their pilot-training skills. No one enjoyed taking a rise out of new pilots more than Blue did.
But how lucky we, and all the other pilots he "worked on", were!
For example, before those cold first-light take-offs and after a cup of that awful coffee (that the immaculate Stan Sullivan used to give us), a bumpy trip in the ops lorry and the short walk from the ops wagon to the aircraft, there was much to think about and not much to laugh about. That state of mind would be quickly dispelled by the usual abrasive or challenging greeting from Mick, followed by instructions not to come back until he had his breakfast and not to, "get bloody holed the way you were yesterday" - or something of that sort. That challenge naturally evoked a suitable response leaving no room for gloomy thoughts about the cold morning or the awful coffee. He would see that we were strapped in, hop on the wing tip, guide us to the strip, hop off, grin and give us a thumbs up. He seemed, instinctively, to know just what was required to send us off with a smile instead of a frown.
After a time, and gradually, it seemed that he was becoming a fraction less disrespectful, and, in the fullness of time, that he was beginning to think that we might actually make the grade. Before we had finished our tours, we had developed great respect and affection for the engineering skill and diligence of this lanky, redheaded, independent Australian; blessed with the character, humour, quick wit and warmth of his Irish and Scottish forebears. We became his friends and he ours. The rewards of that friendship included the right to be verbally abused more roundly and more often than before and the occasional invitation to visit him in his tent to imbibe vino from a 50-litre bottle with the aid of a siphon tube.
Blue Glennan and men like him were the core of 3 Squadron, just as they have been, and are still, the core of 3 Squadron Association. They, under the leadership of that prince of men, Ken McRae, our Engineering Officer without equal, bound us all together. The pilots came and went within the space of a tour, sometimes two tours, but the typical ground-staffers, in their various musterings, spent years on the Squadron developing wartime skills and devotion to duty which were second to none.
Mick was born on 8 July 1922 in Lakemba, NSW. His father died when he was thirteen, so he left school and worked in a chemist shop and as an apprentice at P J Taylors before joining the RMF in 1940. He was stationed at Moulamein prior to being posted to Adelaide for embarkation to the Middle East. As Eileen wrote in her letter giving us this information:
"We were pen friends during the war years. I certainly never expected to meet Mick .... The war was over and I thought he would just go home. Imagine my surprise, on coming home from work at lunchtime, to find Mick there. We were like old pals because of the letters. Four weeks later, we were married." (The wedding took place in the UK.) "Mick was a wonderful, caring husband and our two daughters, Jackie and Sandra adored him. Sandra passed away in 1987 aged 26 - a terrible blow to both of us."
Many members of 3 Squadron Association have met Mick's son-in-law (Jackie's husband), Fred Bugitti, at reunions. He is the father of Mick's two grandchildren, Daniel and Cherie, and marched with us last Anzac Day. The fact that Fred comes to our Reunions is evidence of the strong family bonds which Eileen wrote about and Mick's loyalty to his mates.
After the war, Mick put to good use the mechanical-engineering skills which he developed on the Squadron. He became an NRMA road-service representative; known to thousands of motorists whom, no doubt, he sent on their way with smiles on their faces as they mused over some of the cheeky humour emanating from under the bonnet as the NRMA man fixed their engine. One of those motorists was Barry Finch himself. After the war, Barry owned a Citroen motor car which needed de-coking from time to time in order to meet the high performance to which Barry had become accustomed as one of Mick's pilots. So, naturally, Barry arranged for Mick to "volunteer" to de-coke the Citroen engine. Mick proved to be not only a skilful mechanical engineer but also an effective teacher. Barry, always a good pupil, watched the master at work and, thereafter, did the decoking job himself.
Much more could be written about Michael Joseph Glennan, but what we have written conveys something of the high esteem in which we held him. He was a first-class RAAF fitter 2E, a good mate, a wonderful, caring husband, an adored father. He died on 27 March 2000 at Berry Hospital, not far from his home at Fisherman's Paradise on the South Coast of New South Wales.
3 Squadron LIFETIMES