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by Gillian Heming Shadbolt
& Les Bell
Rosenberg Publishing 2003
Order this book online
|New Guinea Engineer
The Memoirs of Les Bell M.B.E.
WWII RAAF Flying Officer Les Bell MBE recounts startling tales of settlement in Northern Queensland, the equatorial coconut and gold empires of German and Australian New Guinea, and the country's island archipelagos. In 1914 Les, aged 10, won his first Scout badge for collecting sugar bags for use in WW1 but he valued most his introduction to Morse Code.
As a radio amateur (ham) Les maintained contact with operators around the world. He won ham contest certificates, among others, from Stampede City, China, Japan and the Napier Women Operators Club in New Zealand. The American Radio Relay League Inc. honoured him with their highest A1 Operator Certificate. Les served in radar units in the Pacific war and won his MBE at the Battle of New Britain.
In the war Les had killed Japanese but, in the peace that followed, he and his canny wife Bertha booked a tour of Japan and stayed 18 weeks. In 1945 Les returned to Kavieng and cleared away daisycutter bombs among the detritus of war. Retiring to Whitsunday Passage Les found himself among settlers of the now burgeoning tourist sun-mecca of Airlie Beach. As the new Scout District Commissioner, he officiated in welcomes to the then Queensland Head Scout Governor Henry Abel Smith, and Lady May. Les died on 11 December 2000 just before his 96th birthday. The Coral Sea ham net he'd been controlling a month or so before, and its quota of international visitors, observed a minute's silence the morning after Les became a silent key.
Gillian Heming Shadbolt was born in Sydney in April, 1929. She grew up on plantations in New Guinea and returned to Australia as a refugee. She worked on newspapers, magazines and public relations in London, Sydney, and Wellington, then lectured in journalism and communication before retirement.
Review by Justin Taylan
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