Flying Officer Frederick Henry Ayres 421232
Fred was born in Summer Hill, Sydney 16/2/1917 & was the eldest of 11 children. He married Gladys Mary in 1938 & they had four children. Ken, Fred, Denise & Deborah. He worked as a storeman/packer with the Chartres Office Equipment company in Sydney before his enlistment to the RAAF on 31/1/1942 & proceeded to basic Gunnery & Wireless training at Bradfield Park & Evans Head in NSW with 458 Squadron, then on to Holme-on-Spalding Moor Great Britain. He then joined the operations at Alghero as Flt Sgt Wireless Operator/Airgunner.
Fred flew 33 sorties at Alghero, Foggia, Bone & Gibraltar in Wellington aircraft P,O,X,R,E,H,C,Z. His records are on several pages of the Squadron Operations Book. Mostly he crewed with Stan Slater pilot, Bill Perkins 2nd pilot ,Alf Barker Navigator, Alf Gore WAG & Jack Collins WAG.
On 14/15 Aug 1944 he was crewing one of the two aircraft returning from a bombing mission at Sestri Levante & had to ditch due to weather at Alghero. All crew managed to clear the ditched aircraft and paddled ashore in their Dinghys. For this event they became members of the "Goldfish Club".
Fred was not one to discuss his experiences with his young family, therefore not much is known about his activities except from his flight log book albeit a few amusing tales related by fellow 458er and hero Harry Ashworth whilst visiting him at home and at functions with Vic Flight committee members. Although Fred and Harry only crewed together once they were good mates. One tale goes, Fred was an exponent of Boxing as a young man and once when in uniform in Pontiprid Wales UK imbibing at a local as he was known to do, he was introduced to the local boxing champ where upon they set to in the bar much to Fred's regret and from then on Fred had a healthy respect for the Welsh.
At War end he returned to Australia by ship (not known) and was later awarded a commission to Flying Officer on Active List till discharge 26/1/45. He received the 458 Squadron awards,1939/45 Star, Aircrew Europe Star w/-Atlantic clasp, Africa Star, Italy Star, 1939-45 Defence Medal, War Medal & Australian Service Medal.
On return to civvy street he was invited to join the PMG Department as a Telephone technician by the brother of fellow 458er Alan Macmaster then a close neighbour .He retained that job until his retirement.
One post war short story goes, he was attending a dental procedure performed by 458 Pilot and dentist Peter Pettit. Fred persuaded a friend (ex RAAF) to have his dental problem seen to on the same day. Fred went to the chair first and faked screams of pain obviously audible in the waiting room, on completion of Fred's process he went out to see his mate had gone only to meet him back at the pub with admission that he was too scared of dentist pain. He took part in early 458 reunion activities and the family recall mentions of "Sam Barlow","Uncle"Don (Bitmead) and"Macca" (Alan Macmaster).
Fred joined the RSL Sub Branch at Petersham and became a director of the Branch and the Club Limited and went on to enjoy the hospitality as was his ilk until one day after a sojourn he suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage and passed away in RPAH Sydney 26/5/1984 aged 67 years . We have a plaque in his memory at the Rookwood War Cemetery. His wife Gladys survived him with continued unfortunate ill health until her passing in 2010.
Due to recent contact with 458 Squadron Vic Flight the family interest has grown, especially with the launch of the Web site . This interest is driven by Great Grandson Jeffrey and anyone reading this that has an anecodote, or can relate an experience with Fred is welcome to forward same to Jeffrey's email address.
Story thanks to Jeffrey Ayres. Photographs thanks to the Ayres Family