Don Charlwood

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Donald Ernest Cameron (Don) Charlwood
Born (1915-09-06)6 September 1915
Melbourne, Victoria
Died 18 June 2012(2012-06-18) (aged 96)
Melbourne, Victoria
Service/branch RAAF
Years of service 1941–1945
Rank Flight Lieutenant
Service number 408794
Unit No. 103 Squadron RAF,
RAF Bomber Command
Battles/wars Second World War
Other work Writer,
Air Traffic Control

Donald Ernest Cameron (Don) Charlwood AM (6 September 1915 – 18 June 2012) was an Australian author.[1] He also worked as a farm hand, an air traffic controller, and most notably as an RAAF navigator in Bomber Command during the Second World War.

While best known for No Moon Tonight, his memoir of life as a crew member in Bomber Command, Charlwood wrote a number of other biographical, fiction and non-fiction works.

Early life[edit]

Born in Melbourne, Victoria, in 1915, Charlwood's family moved to Frankston when he was eight. Charlwood left Frankston High School in his Leaving Certificate year, to take a job with a local estate agency and produce market. When approaching 18 years of age he was required to train his replacement, and found himself in 1933 unemployed. He took a holiday at a relative's farm, Burnside near Nareen, found the life enjoyable, and was invited back to work there for the shearing and harvest of 1934.

At Burnside, Charlwood was already writing and occasionally supplementing his wages by selling articles and short stories. He remained there through the thirties, but in 1940, as war unfolded in Europe and France and the Low Countries fell, he signed up for the RAAF, and was placed on the reserve.

Military service[edit]

For the rest of 1940, Charlwood worked at The 21 Lessons – a course to ensure candidates were fitted for the theoretical work of initial training. In May 1941, after 11 months on the reserve, Charlwood was called up and posted to No 1. Initial Training School, Somers, Victoria. From Somers, he proceeded to Sydney and then to Vancouver in Canada. Their trip to Canada on the liner SS Monterey was the first across the Pacific by Australian service personnel on a ship registered in neutral America. On reaching Vancouver, Charlwood along with the rest of his group, was sent to Edmonton. In October 1942, they started their training as bomb-aimer/navigators on Course 35 of No. 2 Air Observer Training School, Empire Air Training Scheme. Six months, a number of courses and stations, and around 160 hours of flying time later, initial training was complete.

In May 1943, Charlwood and his course travelled to England, on the Polish liner MS Batory anchoring on the River Clyde on the evening of 12 May. Here the course was split, with Charlwood and half of them posted to No. 3 Advanced Flying Unit, Bobbington, between the Severn Valley and Birmingham. After completing Advanced Flying, aircrew were posted to Operational Training Units, their entry into combat operations. Charlwood was posted to No, 27 OTU, Lichfield – a unit that fed Bomber Command. He had almost 200 hours flying time.

At Tatenhill, a satellite airfield of Lichfield, Charlwood, with Pilot Geoff Maddern, crewed up to form a crew of five – the basis of all his future flying in Bomber Command. On 1 August 1942 they flew together as a crew for the first time, in a Wellington Bomber. On the night of 5 September 1942, they made their last training flight. Charlwood's total flying time was now just under 257 hours. Training completed, they were posted to fly with No. 103 Squadron RAF, Elsham Wolds. Soon after joining the squadron converted from Handley Page Halifaxes to Avro Lancasters. Charlwood completed a full tour of 30 operations and was then "screened" to training duties with 27 OTU. He was subsequently mustered for repatriation to Australia via the US where he was to train for duties in the Pacific theatre on Considated Liberator 4 engined bomblers.

Later life[edit]

Following his return to Australia he was invalided out of the RAAF in July 1945, and commenced work with the Department of Civil Aviation, initially as an Air Traffic Controller, and later in training and recruitment. It was while working at the DCA that he wrote No Moon Tonight relying heavily on diaries he kept during training and operational flying.

In 1992 Charlwood was made a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition of service to literature.[2] He died in June 2012.




Non Fiction[edit]

  • The Wreck of the Loch Ard
  • Wrecks & Reputations: The Loss of the Schomberg and Loch Ard, Angus and Robertson, 1977, ISBN 978-0-207-13065-6
  • Take-Off to Touchdown: The Story of Air Traffic Control, Angus and Robertson, 1968, ISBN 978-0-642-01620-1
  • The Long Farewell, Penguin Books, Melbourne, 1981


External links[edit]