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Edward Leslie (Ted) Anderson (1921–1996)

by Anna C. Williams

This article was published online in 2023

Edward Leslie James Anderson (1921–1996), air force officer, was born on 24 February 1921 at Toowoomba, Queensland, elder son of locally born parents Thomas James Anderson, linotype operator, and his wife Gladys Evelyn, née Linwood. By 1925, the family had moved to Toowong, Brisbane. Educated at Brisbane Boys’ Grammar School, Ted worked as a bank clerk with the Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd, and obtained a qualification in accountancy.

On 21 June 1940 Anderson enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as aircrew. He was five feet nine and a half inches (177 cm) tall and had a slim build, dark eyes and hair, and a dark complexion. Qualifying as a pilot in Australia and Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme, he arrived in Britain in March 1941 for operational training and service with the Royal Air Force (RAF). He flew Blenheim light bombers briefly with No. 18 Squadron, RAF, based in Britain (1941), and then with No. 11 Squadron, RAF, from bases in the Middle East (July–September 1941), North Africa (September 1941–February 1942), Ceylon (Sri Lanka) (February 1942–January 1943), and India (January–August 1943). Commissioned in May 1942, he was promoted to flying officer in November and to temporary flight lieutenant in May 1944.

Anderson had a knack—better articulated as an expertly honed skill—for returning to base and landing his aircraft safely in what some may have considered impossible circumstances. During operations over North Africa, he once flew two hundred and fifty miles (402 km) on one engine to return to base. Another time, with both engines having failed, he landed successfully with wheels down in the desert. In an attack by his squadron on a Japanese naval force north-east of Ceylon on 9 April 1942, he and his crew returned safely to base despite their aircraft being ‘riddled with bullets’ (NAA A9300) and the starboard tyre punctured. He was deemed ‘a fine pilot’ with ‘a record of quiet persistence and achievement’ whose ‘courage and efficiency have been an inspiration to his fellow pilots’; he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (1943), the actions it recognised having taken place before he was commissioned (NAA A9300).

In 1944 Anderson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The citation proclaimed him ‘an outstanding operational pilot’ with ‘fine fighting spirit’ who ‘has always pressed home his attacks with exceptional determination’ (NAA A9300). In October 1943 he had been posted to No. 315 Maintenance Unit, India, with which he spent six months testing aircraft, before joining No. 45 Squadron, RAF. Returning to Australia in August 1944, he undertook a conversion course at No. 7 Operational Training Unit, Tocumwal. He was then posted to No. 12 Squadron RAAF and served in the Pacific. ‘Reputed to be one of the finest navigators by visual means,’ he was ‘said to be able to pin point himself on chimney pots’ (NAA A9300). By the end of his war service, he had more than 1,370 flying hours to his credit, 409 of which were operational.

Demobilised on 18 September 1945, Anderson returned to Toowong. On 19 November he married Rita Mary Stokes, a nurse, at Wesley Church, Perth, Western Australia. He resumed employment in the banking industry, working first in Kalgoorlie and then in Perth, before moving to Wahroonga, New South Wales, and then to Melbourne. Survived by his wife and their son and two daughters, he died on 20 March 1996 at Kew; he was cremated.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Australian War Memorial. AWM65, 67
  • National Archives of Australia. A9300, ANDERSON E L J
  • National Archives of Australia. A9695, 1080

Additional Resources

Citation details

Anna C. Williams, 'Anderson, Edward Leslie (Ted) (1921–1996)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2023, accessed online 19 May 2024.

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