SGT Luke Goddard with Alan Willis at a celebration of Mr Willi's 100th birthday. Alan is wearing his original Air Force cap.
SGT Luke Goddard with Alan Willis at a celebration of Mr Willi's 100th birthday. Alan is wearing his original Air Force cap.

100 YEARS: Alan Willis's amazing century of greatness

It's not every day a member of our community gets to celebrate their 100th birthday, but it can be guaranteed when they do, their life is a story worth reading.

With a life well spent on the land and in the armed forces during WWII, Alan Willis can truly say he has lived his life and more than earned the right to celebrate his 100th last month.

Now residing in Jandowae, Mr Willis' life began a little to the southeast of his current home.

Mr Willis was born on December 9, 1919 at Warwick to parents Williams Charles Willis and Flora (nee Richardson).

He had three siblings, his elder brother Jack, sister Betty and younger brother Ken.

They lived on their property 'Strathgarve', near Dalveen.

Jack and Alan began school at Turners Creek, in a school room with bark walls and an unlined tin roof.

The family grazed sheep but changed to cattle which were a better price.

A big drop in the price of cattle saw 'Strathgarve' sold and his father was employed as property manager at Yelarbon.

Alan applied for Gatton Agricultural College during his scholarship year at Tara school. He was awarded a scholarship to attend Gatton in 1933 and 1934 and arrived back home just before his 15th birthday.

Alan's father had been applying for land ballots and won a block at Killawarra on the Moonie River.

He went into partnership with his former employer, so the property started in the name of Willis and Parker.

Originally infested by prickly pears, the block was cleared up by using cactoblastis. Alan assisted his father in building fences and watering points.

Alan went to Brisbane on August 6, 1942 and enlisted in the armed services where he was assigned to the technical side of the air force.

The group did ten days of drills at Evans Head and before Alan moved on to a training course at Canberra Technical College.

One unusual job Alan's group did while assigned there was to help unload a boatload of mustard gas.

His first posting was to the Operational Training Unit at Forest Hill, Wagga Wagga, where he services Beaufighters and Beaufort bombers.

Next move was to the Central Flying School at Tamworth where he serviced Gypsy Moths and others.

From September 30, 1943 to April 16, 1944, Alan did an instrument making course at Melbourne Tech in the Exhibition Building.

He was then posted to Oakey which was a repair base mainly working on Spitfires and Kitty Hawks.

In late March 1945, Alan sailed out of Sydney for England via the Panama Canal.

He was with RAAF heavy bomber squadron 460, stationed near the channel coast at Binbrook, he was working on Lancasters and Liberators for only a few weeks before raids over Germany ceased and the war in Europe ended.

The squadron was advised they would be transferred back to the Pacific region.

This did not happen as the atomic bomb were dropped which ended the war.

They were on supply work until April 1496 when Alan sailed for home via the Suez Canal which gave him, as he said, a round-the-world-trip.

When Alan arrived home, he went to work on a property near Barcaldine.

Soon, his father's health deteriorated so he and his brother Ken came back to work the home property (Jack was deceased).

In 1949, the original partnership was split with Alan, Ken and their sister Betty taking ownership of the Willis' half, which they named 'Kilbernie'. This arrangement continued until they sold in 1994.

When he wasn't working, Alan was an avid lawn bowler in his later years.

He had taken up playing bowls in 1971 at the age of 52.

After being single for over 60 years he met a widow, Nola Collins, and they married in 1983. They lived in nearby Tara until the farm was sold.

Alan had served a term as Tara Bowls Club president and on moving to Dalby was elected to serve a term as president of the Condamine District Bowls Association.

He also played with the Uniting Church Indoor Bowls Club and did not stop playing until 2017.

Sgt Luke Goddard represented 460SQN RAAF at Alan's 100th birthday celebration in Jandowae.


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