Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Arnold Alexander Lockyer (1915–1945)

by David Huggonson

This article was published:

Arnold Alexander Lockyer (1915-1945), airman, was born on 4 May 1915 at Wootha (Woother) Station, near Port Hedland, Western Australia, second son of native-born parents Samuel Lockyer, stationhand, and his wife Sylvia Burns. Arnold was of Aboriginal and European descent. Educated until the age of 13 at Roebourne and Whim Creek state schools, he was strongly built and proved a good athlete. For recreation, he boxed, ran, swam, and rode horses. On 16 March 1936 he married Sussanna Philomena Clarke with Catholic rites at Port Hedland. He worked as a stationhand, wood-cutter, general labourer and driver in the North-West before moving to Perth and starting a business as a contract-carrier. Bob Ive, a former employer, had found him trustworthy and capable. Fascinated by internal-combustion engines, Lockyer made all mechanical repairs to the trucks he drove.

Early in World War II it was deemed to be 'neither necessary nor desirable' to enlist Aborigines in the Australian Imperial Force. In contrast, the Royal Australian Air Force accepted qualified non-Europeans to meet the manpower needs of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Finding himself without a job, Lockyer enlisted in the R.A.A.F. on 5 May 1942. He was 5 ft 9½ ins (177 cm) tall, weighed 10 st. 12 lb. (69 kg) and had a medium complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. Having qualified for mechanical ground-staff, in April 1943 he was posted to No.17 Repair and Servicing Unit, Cunderin, Western Australia. He longed to be accepted for aircrew, and in July-November 1944 undertook an air-gunnery course at Sale, Victoria, and operational training at Tocumwal, New South Wales. On completion, he was promoted sergeant.

From December 1944 to January 1945 Lockyer was attached to the Heavy Bomber Refresher Training Unit at Nadzab, New Guinea. After a number of short postings in Australia, he joined No.24 Squadron at Fenton, Northern Territory, on 6 April 1945 as a flight engineer. He was promoted flight sergeant on 23 May. The squadron moved to Morotai, Netherlands East Indies, in June, and to Balikpapan, Borneo, in July. Lockyer was a member of the crew of Liberator A72-92 (belonging to No.21 Squadron) on an operation over the Celebes on 27 July. The bomber was shot down and crashed near Tomohon village. Lockyer managed to parachute to the ground, but was taken prisoner and clubbed to death by the Japanese on 21 August 1945. He was later buried in Ambon (Amboina) war cemetery, Indonesia. His wife and three sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Hall, The Black Diggers (Syd, 1989)
  • M. V. Nelmes, Tocumwal to Tarakan (Canb, 1994)
  • note by Mr B. Ive, Perth, 19 Oct 1939 (copy on ADB file).

Additional Resources

Citation details

David Huggonson, 'Lockyer, Arnold Alexander (1915–1945)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 15 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


4 May, 1915
Port Hedland, Western Australia, Australia


21 August, 1945 (aged 30)

Cultural Heritage

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