Keith and Jean

Keith was a fine sportsman winning many races as a cyclist. In May 1922 he was particularly successful winning a fifteen mile road and recording fastest time . In later years he took up golf and was a keen member of the old Lindisfarne Club and then Claremont. His early schooling was at Princes St School followed by a period at Livingstone Private School on Battery Point, then Technical High School where he gained his Leaving Certificate.

Keith in 1922Keith  Lionel at Seven Mile Beach
After leaving school he followed his uncles' vocation and began a printing apprenticeship. He quickly discovered that this was not for him and at the beginning of 1926 he took up an apprenticeship as a motor car body builder with Nettlefolds and then with Arcadia Motor Body Works. He received 12s. and 6d. a week wage. His technical education was supervised and assisted through the Samuel McCaughey Bequest. As part of the apprenticeship he studied Motor Body Building at the Hobart Technical College for three years, 1926-28, obtaining eight credits and two passes. In July 1931 he qualified as a tradesman. From early 1936 to the beginning of 1939 he worked in the motor assembly plant of H C Heathorn & Co. in Bathurst St. Hobart. During this time he spent fifteen months in the military reserve as a trooper in the 6th Field Brigade of the Royal Australian Artillery. It is not clear why he decided to go to the West Coast in 1939 to work as a welder for the Mt. Lyell Mining Company.

Whilst in his twenties he met a young schoolteacher Jean Ogden Wright. At this time both were boarding at Melbourne Lodge, he working at Heathorn's and she at Teachers College. Jean was born at Glen Huon on Dec. 21 1911. At age 12 she was awarded second prize for apple packing in an export packing competition run by the Department of Agriculture. In 1924 she passed the Qualifying Certificate at Huonville State School and gained entry to Hobart High School. She gained her intermediate certificate with six passes and a credit in December 1927 and was appointed a probationary student by the Education Department from the beginning of the following year. The studentship paid £40 a year and allowed her to complete her leaving certificate in English Geography French and Economics in 1930. From Hobart High she moved to Hobart Teachers College, then located at the Phillip Smith Hall adjacent to the University on the Domain. During this time she boarded with Miss Weymouth in Forest Road and then at Melbourne Lodge on the corner of Warwick and Elizabeth Street. Her first teaching postions were in Devonport where her father was the headmaster at the East Devonport School. When the Education Department forced her father to move fronm East Devonport
Jean went to Glenorchy at the beginning of 1935 where Mr Geappen reported that ‘she does not strike me as having any strong natural ability but is endeavouring to make good. In term II she was moved to Sorell but her father’s deal with the Director saw her moved to Albuera St. However she did not stay there long before being moved back to Glenorchy and then to Bowen Road. In 1937 the headmaster of Westbury School requested a music teacher and Jean found herself back in the northwest at Westbury where she gained her Infant Teachers certificate at the end of 1938. At Westbury she stayed at a hotel run by the Mackie family. But romance soon brought her career to a halt.

After she was posted to the north-west their romance must have been largely confined to vacations. The sexual bond between them and strong enough to over-ride substantial differences. The death of his father and uncle in the War deprived Keith of a male role model and his youth was scarred by the Depression. All his forebears were descended from convicts and of very modest means. On the other hand Jean idolised her schoolteacher father and grew up in a highly educated household only lighted affected by the Depression. Her forebears were free Danish immigrants and goldminers stretching back to a minor branch of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy. Whereas he had little contact with his wider family she was deeply embedded in a wide family circle country based relatives. She was gregarious and sought social acceptance he was shy and avoided social contacts. With difficulty she accepted his personality but the tensions became apparent quite soon and continued to be a problem. Nevertheless the stresses were not enough for them to separate.

In the summer of 1938-9 she became pregnant and on 10 March 1939 they were married at Queenstown. After the marriage she had to resign from teaching. She returned to Hobart for her mother's birthday and Keith explained to her father that had married and expected a child in September. He returned to the West Coast and rented a house in Gormanston but with war approaching he was anxious to join the air force. As a reservist and the holder of a pilot's licence he was confident that he would be selected. Jean moved to Gormanston in June.

Just before war was declared Keith and Jean were in Hobart on a short visit to her parents. Keith returned to Queenstown at the end of August and Jean followed shortly after. Ten days after World War II began their first child, Anthony (Tony) James, was born on September 13 at nearby Queenstown and shortly after they returned to Hobart to stay with his parents. Keith returned to work but all the family gathered at Albuera St. for Christmas and for Tony's christening at Claremont on 3 January. A week later the family moved back to Gormanston and at the end of February 1940 Keith’s brother, Lionel, joined him at the mine. Lionel's stay was short lived for after a month's work he broke both legs in an accident. For a month Jean had the baby, a husband and a cripple to care for.

James Wright's diary records that Keith received word to go to an RAAF Camp in November 1939 but he did not formally enlist until 4 April 1940. When Keith was called up in May Jean and Tony moved in with her parents at 7 Albuera Street.
Keith at Evans Head
On 25 May he left Hobart for Melbourne with a small group of fellow recruits and then by train to Ballarat to join No.1 Wireless and Air Gunnery School. Sixty men entered the Third Course of the Empire Air Scheme under Sq/L C O Fairbairn AFC. At the end of the course trainees and instructors gathered in the Prince's Room of Craig’s Royal Hotel to celebrate successfully completing this initial training. Keith was promoted to LAC and got a short home leave in September. As the War opened there was a considerable demand for air crew and most recruits wished to be pilots. Despite his experience Keith’s age was a considerable handicap in this race for the more glamorous role. In the first six months of the War pilot training schools were established in Canada and later in Rhodesia. The first Australians trained under the Empire Training Scheme arrived in England at the end of December 1940. Other aircrew were sent o Canada at the beginning of the Scheme but training facilities in Australia gradually expanded to meet the demand. After Christmas 1940 Keith’s group moved to the Evans Head Range in NSW for a one-month course in bombing and gunnery.

At the end of this course he was promoted to Sergeant and was now ready for operational duty. In February he got another six days at home to see his new daughter Jennifer Ann who was born in Hobart 6 Feb. 1941. Jean had left for Stowell Hospital at 10am and Jenny arrived at 3pm. Keith did not arrive until a few days later and left for Melbourne the day after Jean came home from hospital. It seemed an unhappy omen for their future. Keith’s Unit were now gathered at the Ascot Vale Depot in Melbourne to await transport to England. In March the Australian Government offered to send a thousand aircrew to the RAF. It was agreed that 600 would go to England and 400 to the Middle East.
On 2 April Hobartians were surprised to find the super liner Queen Elizabeth in port. She stayed a few days before leaving for Sydney where she joined her sister ship Queen Mary and another liner to embark a huge contingent of Australian troops for Egypt. Sgt. Harrison, Air Gunner was one of the RAAF contingent. In the company of many others, including George Dalco, a neighbour at Albuera St., they set off in a special train for Sydney, travelling first class. It seems that he spent at least part of his embarkation leave wondering whether he would ever set foot in Australia again in the company of Mollie Brown of 'Koondrook', 45 Caracalla St. Kirribilli. However Keith wrote two letters to Jean and threw them over the side before the transports and escorts left Sydney Harbour.

'All Sydney seems to have gone crazy on this glorious summer-like day with just a ripple on the harbour. There seems to be hundreds of motor launches and other craft going round our ship continuously with the hooting of sirens and screaming of women, shouting of men the din is terrific.Our luxurious state rooms with private bathrooms and all conveniences. One steward to six of us and they certainly look after us. The meals are wonderful and we can get anything you could possibly ask for. Our lounge is the original cocktail bar in all its glory and is beautifully furnished in chromium steel complete with grand piano etc.'

Both letters were delivered safely. In addition to the two Cunard liners the fleet consisted of the Canberra, Mauritania, City of France, City of Amsterdam, Boisdame and two others. The protection was provided by six cruisers and several destroyers. The fleet turned south towards Tasmania and then west across the Bight and at Cape Leeuwin they headed north east. Ten days out of Sydney and just south of the equator Keith set down his thoughts.

It’s as hot as hell as we steadily plough across the Indian Ocean. The trip has been uneventful so far in spite of German Radio reports we were torpedoed and there were no survivors. We are still strongly protected and every now and then we change formation and a cruiser will dash madly across the bows for all the world like a sheep dog. Its very hard to write as we are all in a lather of perspiration and not a breath of air and although very unpleasant there is something fascinating about the tropics and I stand on deck for hours on end watching the flying fish and in the evening working out our position from the stars which seem much bigger and brighter than I've ever seen before. I love this weather and wonder why more people do not seek out the warmer places to live in.

As a sergeant part of his duties involved controlling troops who lived in far less luxurious accommodation. In temperatures of 140 degrees F tempers shortened and the sergeants on duty were often threatened with a swim home. On 26 April the bigger ships anchored in the huge natural Harbour at Trincomalee on the north west coast of Sri Lanka for refuelling. Although no shore leave life was brightened for some by a visit from nurses travelling on the Queen Mary. But 'the angular hawk faced Florence Nightingales' were not an attraction for Keith. Eventually his heat rash got bad enough to force him to the first aid post. His view at this time was that 'war was no place for women'.

The Tasmanians had by now formed a family group. Jim Horner, Roy Colbert, Travers, Annells, Curtis, Ralph Southorn and Geoff Furmage who was their adjutant. With the help of a pint of gin squash they said good bye to Trinco. The brief stop over in the tropics preceded the crossing of the Arabian Sea at 24 knots. Barrage balloons were set and nearing Aden they wore life vests. They were in the war zone. Keith spent 24 hours on duty complete with steel helmet as the ship passed Aden on 30th April 1941. On the first two days of May they head north through the Red Sea and arrived at Port Suez. He gave his nineteen page letter to his steward who was returning to Hobart on the ship.

The military units and some of the air crew had now arrived at their destination but the RAAF contingent bound for Europe planned to continue through the Canal and across the Mediterranean and on to England. Instead the German offensive made this passage too dangerous and Keith found himself in a tent in the Egyptian Desert repeating the experience of his father twenty-six years earlier. His companion was another Tasmanian, Jack Kelly.

"How I loathe the monotonous sandy waste' he wrote. It was 120 F in the tent. There was 'plenty of raiding' but few casualties. " Every day more of our chaps stroll in from Greece sometimes with only what they stand up in'. Waiting around 'I have done the usual things one does in Egypt - riding camels, visiting the Pyramids and native bazaars'. 'Played up in the night[clubs?] where we met some RAAF chaps I knew and [who were ] hitting the high spots after a spell in the Western Desert. What a night and what a hangover! Just at present Kelly's having a party lying in the nude on his bed nibbling biscuits and sipping water we are on rations and have a vicious hungry feeling ………… out and kill one of the many wop prisoners of war around the place. Rumour [has] it that I'm still bound for Blighty. Allah be praised and may the time come quickly……….. Natives follow you about like a dog ever ready to serve the Effendi for 1 piastre, or [perhaps] slit your throat when not watching him. I haven't seen Bill Dalco [?] since I left the ship at CENSORED and have no idea where he is.. We have a number of Greek and Yugoslav airmen here ………… A wog mended my shoes hand s[ewn for ?] 8 piastre (2/-) and did rather a good job too, but the Gypo is the lowest [ ] I've ever seen.’

As the German forces advanced Keith’s contingent packed up and left the desert. By mid-June the voyage to England resumed but instead of proceeding across the Mediterranean they retraced their steps down the Red Sea and then turned south down the coast of Africa to Durban. The Empress of Australia was not nearly as comfortable as the Queen Elizabeth, crowded and dirty. At Durban there they were 'feted at every available opportunity' and 'stayed at the best of homes'. The hospitality was repeated at Cape Town but they stayed only a few days before boarding a P&O liner for the next leg. This time their course was again north-east towards the coast of South America and eventually a Canadian port for collection in a convoy for the last dash across the Atlantic. After four and a half months and 35,000 miles of travel Keith finally arrived in England on 1 August 1941.

Disembarking in Liverpool the contingent had time to ponder the odds of their safe arrival on the train to the RAF No.3 Reception Centre at Bournemouth '14 minutes flying time from the Hun airfields.' Here they were issued with ration books, helmets, gas masks, identification papers and collected mail. In 1941 almost three thousand RAAF aircrew arrived in England, half were pilots and a third were gunners. Before posting to 27 Operational Training Unit they all got some leave and fun. 'I went to London for a few days to see the sights and the pubs. I made a valiant effort but on my pay the pace was too hot and my last hours were spent in suburban pubs where the beer is much cheaper. This is a marvellous country and well worth the four and a half nerve-wracking months of travel. Although I don't ever want to even see another ship, much less ride on one and I wasn't even sick.'

27 OTU was based at Lichfield in Staffordshire, about an hour from Birmingham, in 'very pretty country' with a 'lot of farming and the quaintest little country villages tucked away on narrow hedge-lined country lanes. The unit was largely Canadian and equipped with Wellington long range bombers. 'I feel very happy about the aircraft.' Training was busy but as winter approached Keith became upset and morose at receiving no letters from Jean.

'Time to get up on score old girl and smarten up a little, this is not exactly a health trip'.

Despite his fears she had not 'wiped him off' but the British mail system had returned six of her letters without explanation. This brought an apology from the Secretary of Air and a promise to air mail her letters and reform the system. She cabled the news to Keith in November for by then he had received no mail for four months.

In September he had a short leave and spent it in Scotland with a crew mate, Duncan Know, who was being sent back to Canada as an instructor. He now realised that the war would continue for a long time and his chances of surviving to get 'another look at Australia' were not good. Training was night and day and 'my hours have gone up with a rush'. The station was 'now almost full with Australians' and I 'feel more at home than previously'. On 9 November his training was nearly over and with the assistance of £15 sent by Jean he prepared to spend some leave in London.

In the early period of the War aircrew left training units for operational squadrons as soon as possible and consequently the casualties were extremely high. When Germany invaded Russia in June 1941 the RAF's concentration on defence was eased. Concentration was now placed on rapidly expanding the bomber force. Two Australian Wellington squadrons (Nos. 458 and 460) were formed in the latter half of that year. The rapid expansion produced alarming levels of accidents and training was reviewed. As a result of the review, and losses of aircraft, by late 1941 the 16 OTUs were crowded with partly trained crews on ever lengthening courses. Australian pilots, particularly those converting from fighters found the Wellington difficult to handle so although Keith’s crew in which P.O. Tom Maloney of Melbourne was the pilot, was were posted to an operational squadron at Tatenhill, Burton-on-Trent on 25 October. They lasted only a few days before being judged in need of further training. So they went back to Lichfield for two more weeks practice. It was cold and he urged Jean to send him a heavy pullover and balaclava and anything else to keep him warm. During this time he formed a relationship with Peggy (Margaret Hutchinson) Hollyman, a nurse at Birmingham Hospital.

By early December he got word that he was being posted to the Middle East to join an operational unit. The crew spent an enjoyable Christmas. Keith went to Nottingham for a weekend to stay with Joan Hatton and her mother. She and Lionel continued their correspondence and were talking of marriage. After Nottingham Keith joined the others in London before returning to RAF Harwell in Buckinghamshire for a flight to Gibraltar and then on to the Middle East.

In addition to Tommy Maloney and Keith the full crew was PO Johnny Patterson of Melbourne as co-pilot, Sgt Bill Atherton of Brisbane as navigator and two other RAF gunners Sgt S.G.Hall and A.Morris. Leaving early on 4 January 1942 the flight to Gibraltar was uneventful. By dawn they were off Lisbon and landed safely at lunch time. They stayed at Gibraltar for 5 days then were briefed to fly to Malta carrying auxiliary fuel tanks in case they had to fly on further.

John Patterson was at the controls when 40 minutes into their flight they reached 2000 feet. Just after 11pm on 9 Jan the Wellington Z 9101 took off from the Rock for Malta and fifteen minutes later the aircraft was attacked by a light flak ship found them and the first burst went through the nose killing John and damaging the controls.Tommy tried to lift John from the seat, After gliding towards the sea the aircraft flipped over and the port wing hit the sea and the fuel tanks exploded. Dad was in the centre of the Wellington and was thrown out. Without any buoyancy support he went a long way down but despite a broken leg and shoulders he made it to the surface but in a batch of burning fuel. The plance came down 1000 yards south of Europa Point and the forward section sank quickly killing the pilots, Atherton and Hall. Dad scrambled from the burning wreck and struggled to surface that was covered with burning fuel. Rescue launches from 202 Squadron on Gibraltar were able to pluck him from his rubber dinghy. Sgt. Morris was also killed.After a couple of hours an air sea rescue launch found him the bodies of John Patterson and Bill Atherton were later found.

Another Wellington piloted by the PO T M Clark also disappeared that night and later Keith received a letter from his father Sir Marcus Clark of the prominent Sydney family urging a meeting when he returned to Australia.

‘I knew (his son) very well being in the same squadron and his last trip was the same job I had. They didn't return to base and I believe he was shot down somewhere off Malta. Really I know very little about it, action being fast and furious in those days of 1941.'

Badly burned, and temporarily blinded, Keith was very fortunate to be so near the major hospitals inside the Rock when rescued. Two Australian Army doctors Majors Breden and Young saved his life using techniques introduced by German doctors from the Graf Spee Jean received a telegram advising her of the bare details at 8 o'clock on the evening of 12 January, the day the family were celebrating the birth of Greta's first child. JEW wrote in hid diary -'very hard on Jean, but there is a chance for him now. Let us hope it will be a good one. George O'Neil took Jean out to tell Mrs Williams. Jean sent a cable to Keith.' A week later another telegram told her he was no longer seriously ill but it was not until 28 April that she got a letter from the RAAF giving her full details of his condition. Peggy Hollyman also learnt of the crash and as her brother Eddy, who was in the Navy and heading for Gibraltar, he was instructed to go and see ‘her boyfriend’ in hospital and take him some cigarettes.

His survival was reported in several Australian newspapers –

'Harrison had his nose and shoulders broken and head cut from ear to ear. He retained consciousness and went the plane had sunk about twenty feet he was sucked out a hole in the side. When he rose to the surface the sea was blazing with petrol and oil. Swimming through the flames he burnt the skin completely off his face and hands. He was blind for months and when he first saw his disfigured face he fainted'.

A month’s beard and no haircut did not improve his countenance. On 15 February he was able to walk and write to Jean describing his condition.

'I have a brand new face and am darn lucky to be alive. I came out of that crack up the same as I entered this world except in the first instance I never had my hand on a harp. .. I hope to receive some parcels for the only thing I have in the world is my fountain pen which suffered no damage.’

By 3 March his hands and face had healed enough for him to be sent back to England for further treatment. He arrived at Princess Mary Hospital, RAF Halton via Llandudno in Wales and by the end of March was able to go to London for a few days leave to prepare for further surgery. From the Regent Palace Hotel at Piccadilly Circus he lamented that his pals had gone either east or west. He was lonely and 'it was a job finding anybody one knows really well.' At Halton he underwent a skin grafting operation to repair his left eyelid on 13 April. A fortnight later he wrote home complaining of his four months in hospital and anxious to get back to operations. He was pressing for an air-test and the opportunity to fly in the new Lancasters. He was pleased that his hands and shoulder had mended and he had retained most of his hair. This, and another on his right eye were carried out by the famous Dr. McIndoe.

He finally left hospital in May 1942 and was given a three month posting as an instructor based at Uxbridge prior to returning to operations. In July he applied for promotion and then spent a month at the A V Roe Factory in Manchester where the Lancasters were being built. During his recuperation in the summer he seemed to enjoy considerable hospitality which must have raised his spirits. Some weekends he spent with an Australian, Percy Bennett who was the CSM of a Home Guard Unit in Lancashire near the border with Cheshire. Another Australian couple , the Burkes of Ilkley in Yorkshire, had him as a house guest as did Dr and Mrs Jones at their country home in Bucks. Here he played some golf and later played several rounds with Sam Hill, brother of the South Australian cricketer Clem, at Royal Wimbledon Golf Club.

'I have met more people from home during these three months than I have during the whole time in England.' By September he was promoted to Flight Sergeant and back in London and fretful that he had received no letters since February. 'Many moons have passed since I left home. I feel almost a stranger coupled with the fact that nearly all the chaps I came over with 'have go on' or prisoners of war. I would like to know just how many letters you have written since last November because I have received only one.'

Perhaps this contributed to him renewing the relationship with Peggy Hollyman.

The combination of the mail failures, the crash and Peggy had all but destroyed communication between Jean and Keith and the relationship would not be the same again for many years. (In September 1943 he got a parcel of 30 letters dating back to early 1941 - goodness knows why they were not delivered on time.) He was declared fit but instead of operational flying he was sent as an instructor to No.2 Air Gunnery School at Inverness in the north of Scotland. It was cold and he desperately sought for warm clothes. In mid October letters and a parcel of hankies, socks and cigarettes arrived at last.

After the cold of Scotland it was a relief to move south. In the first few months of 1943 he apparently spent brief periods at a number of stations. A spell on the south coast before Christmas, then to Lincolnshire, followed by another at Eastbourne in Sussex early in 1943 with the US Army Air Force. At the end of March it was time for his next medical board and although he was hopeful he realised that his injuries and his age were against him. But in a letter of 5 June he writes of flying with another Aussie, Ray Stocks, and of joining in the shearing taking place near where their aircraft was parked. Later in the letter he says

'I have more than evened the score up till now and will kill a lot more before they get me.'

However his opportunity to do that were soon curtailed.

In August Jean received a brief telegram –

'Commissioned need fifty pounds urgently. Letters sent. Harrison'.

Keith became a Pilot Officer and the money was needed to but his new uniform. The promotion dated from 23 June but it was six weeks before Keith knew of it. Jean scraped up £32 and sent it off which helped but it was 'by no means the last of my financial difficulties'.

'Since last writing you I went from F/Sgt. To Warrant Officer and then on to commissioned rank. So have now been through all non-commissioned ranks. It has been a long time but of course I lost a year through being shot down and for a long time U/S for combat work. However that's all through now and I'm very fit at present. The job goes on at an increased tempo and I'm glad to say looks a bit more hopeful from our point of view. Maybe we will get back sooner than we expected.'

His dress uniform was tailored in Saville Row and his great coat came from Austin Reed in London. With his new uniform and a package of over 30 letters and a few parcels, leave in London in the late summer of 1943 was apparently a good time. But summer finished early and the cold returned instigating a call 'for my old dressing gown'. The local ones 'are utility and at a prohibitive price'. They exchanged photos by post and a few airgrams provided more immediate communication. A kilt for Tony and a dress for Jenny were sent off for Christmas. We don’t know whether he knew that at the beginning of September Peggy had given birth to a son that she called David Lionel. In 2005 David wrote -

“As an unmarried mother in Britain in those days a lot of shame was attached to such events and she first tried to get the baby adopted, though her parents would not allow this and took over as guardians. Throughout the rest of her life (she died in 1989) she never spoke about this to anyone, including her son. I understand, though I do not have them or have even seen them that there were some letters suggesting that Keith wanted to see her again but she apparently ignored them.”

When commissioned Keith was posted back to No.2 Air Gunnery School at Dalcross. Initially he was placed in charge of the Organisation Section in the Training Wing and later as Course Commander of an Experimental combined EAGS and AGS Course. The Goldfish Club happily accepted him as a member of the group made of those airman rescued from the sea. Despite continuous work Keith fitted in well in the officers mess.

'I am fit and well and almost a fair dinkum Englishman. … have made so many friends over here I shall be almost sorry to leave. By Christmas he was promoted to Flying Officer and was enjoying the perks. '

I have my radio in front of me at the moment describing the football game between RAF v Army and of course a nice fire going. My clothes are laid out by my very efficient bat-woman and there is no flying for the time being. All I need is a bottle of Scotch to complete the picture but unfortunately for that I have to wait until the end of the month.' (30 Jan. 1944)

The very efficient bat-woman was probably Lolita Downer and it seems that she was both servant and mistress. Squadron Leader C J Collins deemed that he was ' a great asset' to the Station. His flying was limited - he racked up only 9 hours in the last six months of his time at 2 AGS. Taking his total to 348 hours. In March his time in England came to an end and, almost three years after his arrival, he took the train to Brighton to complete the formalities for the trip home on the 25th of the month. By ship to New York, a short stop at Fort Hamilton, and then the train across the continent to San Francisco. Compared to first odyssey to get there the seven weeks return journey was a relief.

The purpose of Keith’s return to Australia was to be retrained in Hudson light bombers for action against Japan. He joined No.1 Operational Training Unit and having spent more than his share of training already he was not pleased with the appointment. The accident rate at this Unit was high and within three months the odds caught up with him. The aircraft in which he was flying landed and he suffered leg injuries. In September 1944 he was back in an Air Force Hospital recovering from surgery that resulted in the loss of his kneecap. With a noticeable limp his flying days came to a final stop. As the final year of the War started Keith flew a desk in the Personnel Department at Headquarters in Melbourne. There he saw the War end in Europe and then in the Pacific.

Jean hid not know of Keith’s return until he sent had a telegram from Melbourne in May 1944. Her brother Stan had seen a story in the Sydney Morning Herald that a group of RAAF officers had arrived in Sydney from America and was surprised to see his brother-in-law's name amongst those arriving. On the afternoon of May 18 the family gathered at the Hobart railway station; JEW - 'Train half an hour late. All excited to see Keith. Kiddies shy - but not more so than K towards them. He looked well despite all same rough handling by fate and surgeons. He and Jean went to see his mother and his step father (one of the best by the way).' Jean had had plenty of warning that Keith expected to be treated as a stranger when he returned. But her excitement at having him home distracted her from preparing the children for this major disruption in their lives.

Jean and Keith took off for the Huon for a few days on their own before he flew back to Melbourne on June 5. Although he was back for more than two weeks it was not long enough to establish any link with the children and Jean was not inclined to share his limited time with them. James Wright was more perceptive -'

Keith has seen much of the world and has taken notice as he has wandered around'.

Keith returned to Sale and was assigned to a Mitchell bomber crew and expected to be sent north 'to the islands'. These plans did not eventuate for he was back in Hobart for a few days in July. Jean resumed full time teaching in September but it appears that Keith’s last visit home revealed tensions in the marriage that at first threatened to bring it to an end. He was in a very difficult situation, one that Jean found unable to understand. After a traumatic three years at war he returned to find a wife and two children deeply embedded in an extended family and acutely aware that he was an outsider. His position was made more difficult for having had no father of his own during his formative years and a dominant mother. Unfortunately his step-father offered the perfect model of a father figure but they never seemed to form any form of bond.

Keith may have been able to put some demons to rest when he spent a day with John Patterson’s parents in Melbourne in July 1944

Immediately after Christmas Jean flew off to Melbourne to recover her marriage, Tony went to stay with the Williams and Jenny went with JEW to Harefield. So was established a pattern for school holidays which persisted for many years; at the end of term Tony would happily go to Glenorchy and Jenny would 'be parked' with various relatives of Jean, most of which were strangers. Jean would regularly go to Melbourne for her holidays. After three weeks away Jean returned 'having had a very enjoyable time' but not having established 'anything definite' with Keith. Jean received three offers from Melbourne schools in April and accepted the offer from Camberwell Grammar at £250 a year. At the end of Term I she and JEW flew to Melbourne to find accommodation. JEW was in good spirits, Germany had surrendered and he went to two football matches to see his team North Melbourne.

On June 2 Jean and the children moved to Melbourne and settled in to a flat converted from a garage in a block of apartments at 941 Punt Rd South Yarra. But Jean's ploy seemed to have failed when JEW recorded in July that she was 'deeply disappointed with Keith', her father judged him 'a peculiar bird' and for the first time offered her some matrimonial advice. Despite this the diary records that he paid several visits to the flat although that was not the story that Jean subsequently wove into family folklore.

On 13 September 1945 Keith was posted back to Tasmania as Air Force Rehabilitation Officer based at Brighton Camp. So three months after Jean had left Tasmania to be near him their locations were reversed. To exaggerate the irony when she returned to Hobart to be with her father in hospital Keith was called back to Melbourne for a conference. As the year drew to an end Stan returned from Borneo and Keith began to plan to go into business in Hobart when his expected discharge was granted. For the last time he wrote to his wartime lover, Lolita Downer, Women's Army Private then in Germany, and put to an end any thoughts of a permanent peace time relationship. He was regular visitor to Albuera Street and often brought a bottle of brandy to ease his father-in-law's pain. As others returned to civilian life Jean lost her position at Camberwell Grammar but apparently intended to get another post in Melbourne for she moved into a slightly better flat.

In November Jean decided to accept the offer from Friends School in Hobart of £200 a year and free tuition for the children, although she was still uncertain as to whether her marriage would survive. Keith came to Melbourne for a family Christmas and a re-enactment of the celebrations of Christmas 1938 appeared to have restored the romance. On arriving back in Hobart he unsuccessfully looked for a flat and gave passing thought to taking up the Air Force invitation to join the Occupation Force in Japan to build up some money and wait for the housing situation to improve. Jean, Jenny and Tony flew back to Hobart on January 26 and squashed into Albuera Street with grandparents, aunt, uncle and two cousins.

As the children settled down at school Jean's father's days were numbered, 'as I feared the sword is on the move' he wrote on March 29 on entering the Royal Hobart Hospital to await an operation and the insertion of radium needles. As he lay in great pain in hospital he learnt that he had been elected a life member of the Teachers Union and reached his 70th birthday and 41st wedding anniversary. Despite his pain he still wrote up his diary and the entry for April 22 records a visit to the ward by Lady Mountbatten and Lady Ramsay, he gave the latter a rose from his bedside vase which was warmly welcomed. Three days later he looked out onto Liverpool Street to watch Keith lead the RAAF section of the Anzac Day parade. After the parade Jean and Jenny and Tony saw him for the last time.

Six months later he was demobilised. He was employed for a time in the Department of Post War Reconstruction and then left to begin a taxi service in the northern suburbs. A new Dodge sedan painted cream with a red roof enabled him to follow the business of his father and grandfather. Red Top Taxis operated from a taxi rank in Moonah an the telephone at home. Despite his oft spoken desires during the War to live in the country in a warm climate, the first family home came through ex-service homes scheme, a new house in St. Albans Square Moonah.
St Albans Sq
His parents briefly shared the house at St Albans Square before renting a house called
Kya Kya at the bottom of Anfield Street in Glenorchy. Some years later they bought a house at number 3 in the same street and spent the rest of their lives there. Keith was able to moved from the Housing Commission house in Moonah in 1949 to a stylish home in Huon Road at the junction with Wellesley Street. His mother’s brother George shared the house. Keith sold the taxi business and the Dodge and bought his uncle’s black Pontiac to begin business driving tourists around the State. (His father had started one of the first such services in Tasmania in 1913.) In June 1953 Keith rejoined the Air Force Reserve but continued driving his hire car.

Tiring of the continuous long distance driving he bought a combined shop and newsagent on the corner of Red Chapel Avenue and Sandy Bay Rd. in 1952 and operated this business until 1954. In 1952 George O’Neil went back to the hotel business by taking over the Royal Exchange Hotel in Campbell Street; Keith’s next business venture was as licensee of the nearby Brisbane Hotel. Two years was long enough to convince him that he had not inherited many publican genes and he returned to hire car driving. George O’Neil also retired and again shared the new Harrison house in Crelin Street Battery Point. By 1960 the marriage had reached crisis point and Keith and Jean tried one last time to save it by buying a caravan in Melbourne and driving to Trinity Beach near Cairns. While coped well with the separation my sister felt abandoned. I had the sanctuary of my second home in nearby Albuera St. but Jenny was sent to board with an elderly spinster in Newtown. The year of beach combing saved the relationship but Jean had to adjust to a new and far less close relationship with her children.

Keith and Jean returned to Hobart and were lured back to the hotel business in an ill-fated spell as manager of the new Silver Sands Motel at Bicheno. At long last Keith was living in the country and when the motel deal fell apart they bought a house near the beach at Orford with just enough land to keep him busy. Jean returned to teaching and Keith was granted a TPI pension in June 1961. He kept busy with golf and racing his pigeons she took and interest in politics and bridge.

Jean resented the isolation from ‘town’ and family but Keith seemed to enjoy the life. However his health was declining and when he had spells in hospital she found it very difficult coping with the pigeons etc. By late 1985 he realised that they would need to move back to the city and they sold their house at Shelley Beach Orford in May 1986 and moved to 3 Lara St Howrah. There Keith pursued his hobby of pigeon racing with great success but arthritis stopped his golf. After striving for so long to 'get back to town' Jean found the transition difficult and did none of the things she pined for when at Orford.

Notwithstanding their strong physical bonds Jean and Keith were a very unlikely pair. The sexual bond between them was strong enough to over-ride substantial differences. The death of his father and uncle in the War deprived Keith of a male role model and his youth was scarred by the Depression. All his forebears were descended from convicts and of very modest means. On the other hand Jean idolised her schoolteacher father and grew up in a highly educated household only lightly affected by the Depression. Her forebears were free Danish immigrants and goldminers stretching back to a minor branch of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy. Where he had little contact with his wider family she was deeply embedded in a wide family circle of country based relatives. She was gregarious and sought social acceptance, he was shy and avoided social contacts. With difficulty she accepted his personality but the tensions became apparent quite soon and continued to be a problem. Nevertheless the stresses were not enough for them to separate. She was devastated when Keith died suddenly in his sleep in May 1989. Perhaps only with his death did she realise how deeply they were bound. Widowhood and failing health and brought much sadness in her last years. She died in June 1996 aged 84.