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Falkinder, Charles William (Bill) (1921–1993)

by Chris Clark

This article was published online in 2017

Charles William Falkinder, by W. Pedersen, 1965

Charles William Falkinder, by W. Pedersen, 1965

National Archives of Australia, A1200:L51215

Charles William Jackson Falkinder (1921–1993), air force officer and politician, was born on 29 August 1921 in Hobart, eldest of five children of English-born John (Jack) Stanley Falkinder, insurance company manager, and his Tasmanian-born wife Harriet Bush, née Jackson. A student at Hobart High School from 1933, Bill excelled at cricket, Australian Rules football and tennis. When his father died in 1935, he left school without matriculating to help financially with the raising of his younger siblings. In 1936 he became a clerk with Medhurst & Sons Pty Ltd, a Hobart business selling electrical goods, and was in this employment when World War II broke out in 1939.

Enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)  on 25 May 1940, Falkinder undertook aircrew training—initially as a pilot, but later as a navigator—graduating as a sergeant air observer in March 1941. On 9 April he was among the first Empire Air Training Scheme trainees who embarked for overseas service with the Royal Air Force. Arriving in England on 1 August, he flew over Europe with two Wellington bomber squadrons (No. 405 and No. 419) of the Royal Canadian Air Force and by August 1942 had completed more than thirty operational sorties. He was commissioned on 30 June, and shortly afterwards survived a crash that killed four of the six-man crew. On 30 December he was promoted to flying officer.

After eleven months instructing with No. 11 Operational Training Unit, in July 1943 Falkinder transferred to No. 109 squadron, part of the Pathfinder Force that flew ahead of bomber formations to mark target areas for attack. During this period he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his high skill, fortitude, and devotion to duty. He completed another two tours in Mosquito aircraft with No. 109 Squadron, flying more than eighty missions over the next eighteen months. He was awarded a Bar to his DFC for the skill and efficiency he displayed against a wide variety of targets. Acting flight lieutenant from December 1943, Falkinder was promoted to that rank on 30 June 1944.

On 7 November 1944, at the Milford parish church, Hampshire, he married Dulcie Patricia Dey, an intelligence officer in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Returning to Australia with his wife in February 1945, he received the Distinguished Service Order in April for his consistent proficiency, courage, and determination, making him one of the most highly decorated RAAF navigators of the European theatre. He was demobilised in November but remained in the RAAF Reserve. Falkinder became commandant (1950–67) of the Air Training Corps in Tasmania with acting rank of wing commander.

At the 1946 Federal elections Falkinder won the Tasmanian seat of Franklin for the Liberal Party of Australia, narrowly defeating the sitting member, C. W. Frost. Although he was the ‘baby’ of the eighteenth parliament, he was not—as he later claimed—the youngest person ever elected. After the Liberal Party won office under (Sir) Robert Menzies in 1949, he was one of three parliamentary under-secretaries appointed in February 1950, becoming assistant to the minister for commerce and trade, (Sir) John McEwen. Falkinder was initially very much in favour with Menzies, who named him for the inaugural Australian Prime Minister’s Invitation cricket XI in October 1951, but his repeated dissent from government policy caused Menzies to remove him as under-secretary in May 1952. He ‘had a sturdy independence that did not endear him to Menzies’ (Whitington 1977, 143) and he remained on the backbench for the rest of his parliamentary career.

Falkinder decided not to contest the 1966 elections, and in 1967 was appointed CBE. He became a public relations consultant with the British Tobacco (Australia) Company Ltd (later renamed Amatil Ltd) and resided at Mosman, Sydney, until returning to Tasmania in 1980. Survived by his wife, daughter, and son, he died on 11 July 1993 in the Repatriation General Hospital, Hobart, and was cremated. His portrait, painted by Ivor Hele in 1957, is in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Research edited by Brian Wimborne

Select Bibliography

  • Falkinder, Charles William Jackson. Interview by Peter MacFie, 21 March-10 April 1984. Transcript. Parliament’s oral history project. National Library of Australia
  • Mercury (Hobart). ‘Surprise Win in Franklin,’ 15 October 1946, 4
  • Mercury (Hobart). ‘Mr. Falkinder Leaves Post as Secretary,’ 19 May 1952, 1
  • Mercury (Hobart).  ‘Tasmania’s Third Award,’ 11 April 1954, 6
  • Mercury (Hobart). ‘Tasmanian Wartime Air Ace Dies,’ 13 July 1993, 7
  • National Archives of Australia. A12372, R/6517/H
  • Whitington, Don. Strive to be Fair. Canberra: ANU Press, 1977
  • Woods, Laurie. Halfway to Hell: Aussie Sky Heroes in Bomber Command. Moorooka, Qld: Boolarong Press, 2011.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Chris Clark, 'Falkinder, Charles William (Bill) (1921–1993)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/falkinder-charles-william-bill-17819/text29403, published online 2017, accessed online 23 August 2019.

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