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Flight helmet of Leonard Waters RAAF indigenous fighter pilot.


Well-Known Member
Born in 1924 on the Euraba Aboriginal Mission, Leonard Waters was the fourth of Donald and Grace Waters’ 11 children. Len, as he was known, developed a fascination with aviation from a young age, listening with admiration to news of the exploits of Charles Kingsford-Smith and Amy Johnson.

Waters left school before his 14th birthday to support his family, and he worked as a shearer before volunteering for service in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1942. Desperate for manpower to support the air war in Europe and the Pacific, the RAAF’s rules regarding Indigenous Australian enlistment were far less restrictive than those for the Second Australian Imperial Force.

Waters was initially trained as an aircraft mechanic but dreamed of becoming a pilot like his childhood heroes. His application was accepted in 1943 and he undertook training across New South Wales before graduating as a pilot in 1944.

Later that year Waters was posted to No. 78 Squadron, which was stationed on the island of Noemfoor off Dutch New Guinea. He flew on more than 90 missions from here over the next year and later flew from air bases in Borneo. On one flight his aircraft was struck by a Japanese 37-millimetre cannon shell, which wedged itself in the cockpit without detonating. Waters flew for another two hours before landing safely with the shell still intact.

At the end of the war, Waters was discharged from the RAAF as a Warrant Officer. He returned to Queensland and never flew again. He hoped to start a regional airline but was unable to secure financial or government support, and soon returned to his pre-war life of shearing to provide for his wife and six children. He died in 1993, aged 69.


USAAF A-10A summer flying helmet : Warrant Officer L V Waters, 78 Squadron, RAAF
Maker Bates Shoe Company
Date made c 1944
The USAAF A-10A Summer flying helmet was introduced into service in mid-1944, and became the standard US summerwight helmet the following year. It was also used by many RAAF aircrew in the south west pacific, but most were quickly replaced after the war with British manufactured equipment.



Morotai, 1945-06-21. Flight Sergeant L.V. (Len) Waters, a pilot of No. 78 Squadron RAAF the only aboriginal pilot to servce in the RAAF, relaxing in the squadron's tent lines with bottles of "jungle juice", home brewed alcohol, left over from his 21st birthday party the previous evening.


The previous pilot had named the Kittyhawk black magic, Len kept the name