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Iredale, Robert Wilson (Bob) (1913–1994)

by John Moremon

This article was published online in 2020

Robert Wilson Iredale (1913–1994), air force officer and sales executive, was born on 31 March 1913 at Castlemaine, Victoria, eldest of three children of Victorian-born parents Herbert Henry Iredale, painter, and his wife Elizabeth, née McBeath. Raised in Melbourne, Bob attended Melbourne High School before working as a clerk. An enthusiastic sportsman, he played club-level tennis and was invited to represent Victoria. In the mid-1930s he moved to New Guinea, working for the Vacuum Oil Co. Pty Ltd at Lae and Rabaul. Returning in 1938, he was the company’s sales manager at Horsham, western Victoria, where he competed in tennis, was a member of the Horsham Football Club committee, and took an interest in horse racing. A keen motorist, he had a ‘miraculous’ (Horsham Times 1939, 4) escape from a car crash in 1939.

In May 1940 Iredale volunteered for the Empire Air Training Scheme, enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in September. He commenced pilot training at Narrandera, New South Wales, before sailing for Canada in January 1941. Awarded his wings and commissioned in May, he proceeded to Britain for advanced training. In September he was posted to No. 114 Squadron, Royal Air Force (RAF), flying Blenheim light bombers on night-time intruder missions, reconnoitring and attacking night fighter airfields. Renowned for his daring and tactical skill, he was promoted to acting flight lieutenant in January 1942 (substantive May 1943), and then acting squadron leader in command of a flight in March 1942 (substantive July 1944). He had married Doris ‘Pat’ Myers on 11 February 1942 at the parish church at Fakenham, Norfolk. In July that year his aircraft was caught in searchlights and targeted by anti-aircraft guns, but, showing ‘great courage and determination’ (NAA A9300), he pressed home his attack against an airfield, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Posted to the recently formed No. 464 Squadron, RAAF, as a flight commander in September 1942, three weeks later Iredale was posted as an instructor at No. 13 Operational Training Unit. Returning to the squadron in October 1943, in January 1944 he was promoted to acting wing commander (substantive in June) and appointed as commanding officer, flying Mosquito light bombers. He was mentioned in despatches (1944). On 18 February he participated in Operation Jericho, attacking a Gestapo prison at Amiens, France, with the aim of breaching the walls to enable Resistance members to escape. He later received that country’s Croix de Guerre avec Palme (1947). Energetic and immensely popular, he flew numerous intruder sorties, mainly against airfields, as well as bombing and strafing railways, roads, bridges, and supply dumps in support of the Allied landing at Normandy. Completing his second tour and leaving the squadron in June, he was awarded a Bar to the DFC for ‘fine fighting spirit and eagerness for action,’ having ‘raised the morale of his squadron to a very high level’ (NAA A9300).

From 1 February 1945 Iredale commanded No. 140 Wing, RAF, that same month raiding the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen. Arriving home with his family in November 1945, he was demobilised on 5 February 1946. He returned to the Vacuum Oil Company. Moving to England, he managed a hotel at Norwich, before rejoining Vacuum (later Mobil Oil Australia Ltd) in 1954 in Melbourne. The following year he was made assistant sales manager in Victoria. After becoming marketing manager for Australia, he retired in 1975. His wife had died in 1968, a year after their youngest son served as a national serviceman in Vietnam. By 1977 he had married Dorothy May Peacock at Mt Eliza, the couple retiring to Mornington. He sustained friendships with former comrades, particularly of No. 464 Squadron, and in 1993 he became a member of the Mosquito Aircraft Association of Australia. By this time, his health was declining due to cancer, and he was too ill to take part in events organised for the fiftieth anniversary of the Amiens raid in February 1994. He died on 17 June that year at Mornington, survived by his wife and the two sons of his first marriage, and was cremated.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Australian War Memorial. AWM65, 2767
  • Coulthard-Clark, Chris. ‘War Pilot Won Honours for Daring Raids.’ Australian, 7 July 1994, 14
  • Herington, John. Air Power Over Europe 1944–1945. Vol. 4 of Series 3 (Air) of Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1963
  • Herington, John. Air War Against Germany and Italy 1939–1943. Vol. 3 of Series 3 (Air) of Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1954
  • Horsham Times. ‘Car Overturns, Passengers Escape Injury.’ 8 December 1939, 4
  • Lax, Mark, and Leon Kane-Maguire. The Gestapo Hunters: 464 Squadron RAAF 1942–1945. Maryborough, Qld: Banner Books, 1999
  • National Archives of Australia. A9300, IREDALE R W

Additional Resources

Citation details

John Moremon, 'Iredale, Robert Wilson (Bob) (1913–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/iredale-robert-wilson-bob-29721/text36797, published online 2020, accessed online 13 May 2021.

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