Nephew travels to Port Pirie for tribute to fallen pilot

John Quinn travelled here on the “wings” of his motorcycle to reflect on the memory of his late uncle who soared high in World War II only to be killed in a plane crash.

Mr Quinn tenderly placed four medals at the base of a war cemetery headstone for George Frederick Quinn in Port Pirie on Thursday.

“He never got to wear his medals. With respect, I have put them on his headstone so he got to wear them,” he said.

Mr Quinn has had the medals for 40 years, but had no-one to pass them to as a direct descendant after his baby son died at five weeks old.

He said his uncle had been based at Lavington, Victoria, with the Royal Australian Air Force.

He and co-pilot John Joseph Hayes were flying a Wirraway from Port Pirie to the Northern Territory when the plane crashed at Island Lagoon near Pimba on May 27, 1944.

His uncle, who was 22, and Mr Hayes died in the disaster.

“I have come here out of respect for George and John,” Mr Quinn said.

While preparing for his visit, he contacted airport manager Steve Joyce whose site was once the Bombing and Gunnery School run by the RAAF in the war.

Mr Joyce said Mr Quinn’s gesture with the medals was “magnificent”.

Mr Quinn said his uncle had grown up in Adelaide and was an apprentice sword-sharpener in a carpentry shop.

“He applied to join the RAAF and was accepted at the age of 18. He flew Boomers, Kittyhawks and Wirraways,” he said. His uncle, who was a Warrant Officer, had listed his next-of-kin as Sarah May Quinn who was Mr Quinn’s grandmother.

His uncle’s brother Arthur William Quinn was Mr Quinn’s father who acquired the medals and passed them to Mr Quinn.

Mr Quinn, who is a grader driver with the council at Morgan in the Riverland, wanted to pay tribute to both men.

“They died together in the plane and they have always been together since the crash,” he said.

They died together in the plane and they have always been together since the crash.

John Quinn, nephew of wartime pilot

“I put red poppies on the Wall of Remembrance for both men at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

“They shared mateship in the short time they had together.”

Mr Quinn plans to display a plaque remembering the men at the Port Pirie sub-branch of the Returned Services League.

He said the medals did not have ribbons on them and he suggested he might return with them for another tribute. Rest In Peace, George and John.

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