Push for war memorial to pilot who tried to kill his baby son
Plans to honour one of Australia's most successful World War II fighter aces with a beachside memorial hang in the balance, as opponents question his history of domestic violence.
Holdfast Bay Council will on Wednesday night consider spending $2000 on a bronze plaque memorialising RAF Squadron Leader Robert Wilton Bungey.
Bungey, of Somerton Park, was one of Australia's most successful fighter pilots, chalking up more than 1000 flying hours.
However, in 1943, after returning home from the Battle of Britain, he shot his 13-month-old son, Richard, in the head before fatally turning the gun on himself.
Richard Bungey survived the horrific incident at Brighton Beach - and the plaque honouring his father was his vision.
Mr Bungey and RSL advocate for the project Bill Denny would not comment before the council vote.
Holdfast Bay councillor Rosemary Clancy - a friend of Bungey's late brother David, who went on help care for young Richard after the shooting - opposed the plan.
She said the council must carry out consultation with domestic violence groups before committing funds to the project.
There was no mention of the shooting incident in the council agenda.
Council staff had recommended support for the memorial, but only after consultation with the family and the RSL.
"I … cannot support council providing a memorial,'' Cr Clancy said ahead of the meeting. "I believe we cannot support domestic violence in any form."
If approved, the plaque would be erected near the family home, on the Esplanade coast path to the south of Phillipps Street, Somerton Park.
Bungey was one of the few Australian pilots to fight in the Battle of Britain because service with the British RAF was required.
He rose to command the RAF 452 Squadron of Spitfires, which became Fighter Command's most successful squadron under his leadership.
In 1943, severely affected by post-traumatic stress disorder and suffering from the loss of his wife, Sybil, to meningitis, he took his son to Brighton Beach and never returned.
His wartime heroics were largely ignored, overshadowed by his violent end, until Mr Bungey began researching his father's life for a biography.
In describing his father, Mr Bungey's 2019 book Spitfire Leader stated: "Nobody realised the depths of Bob Bungey's grief and stress until too late. He snapped."
*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636. The Suicide Call Back service is on 1300 659 467.
Originally published as Push for memorial to war hero with dark past