During World War II, the Royal Exhibition Building (then called the Exhibition Building) in Melbourne was occupied by the RAAF and the WAAAF - mostly non-crew aircraftmen and aircraftwomen, trainers, medical personnel and administrators. One of the RAAF personnel stationed at the Exhibition Building was R.D. (Dick) Thompson. Decades later, Dick remembered his time at the Exhibition Building in an interview held in Museums Victoria's collection (HT 9603). He has been identified as Richard Desmond Thompson (service no. 23965).

Born on 18 April 1922 to Eileen and Richard Thompson, Dick enlisted in Brisbane on 30 December 1940 at the age of 18. He was an electrical apprentice who had served in the Electricity Department of the Brisbane City Council. In his interview, Dick explains that he arrived at the Exhibition Building in '1941, somewhere about February - March', having arrived in Melbourne in January and stayed temporarily in Spencer Street. His service record indicates he arrived at the 1 S.T.T. RAAF Exhibition Buildings on 19 January 1941 and left on 7 June 1941. He was a trainee in No. 43 'W.T. Operator' (wireless telegraphy) with about 50 others. When asked where the training was held, he first mentions AWA (Amalgamated Wireless Australasia). He left 1 S.T.T. to go to the Signals School at Point Cook.

Dick recalls (not with great certainty) that he came back to 1 S.T.T. for another course in 1942 or 1943. Page 66 of his service record indicates that he did a course in No.9 VHF Inst. & Maintenance at 1 S.T.T., completed 21 July 1944.

Dick's service record indicates that his service included Bradfield Park, Batchelor, Pell, Darwin, Birdum, Brisbane, Morotai and Tarakan. Dick explains that he was posted to 3 WAG school at Maryborough and instructed wireless air gunners. He remained there for 15 months or so, then volunteered for active service again, which took him to the islands, New Guinea (Pinchhaven), then for one month to the Admiralty Islands. He then joined a mobile fighter control unit, went to Strathpine, Queensland, then went back to Borneo, so was in the Tarakan invasion (May-June 1945). Just prior to Christmas 1945 he returned to Australia, before being discharged from service in May 1946.

His brother was Evan killed in bombing raid to Germany in 1942.

Dick was discharged on 13 May 1946, when he was a Sergeant in the 3 Personnel Depot (Brisbane). He found work as a clerk at the Railway Transport Office, Brisbane and applied to resume his electrical apprenticeship at Brisbane City Council.

Family tree records and his service records indicate that Dick married Gemma Madge 'Gem' Weedman in 1946. They purchased an old house as a War Service Home, which burned down during renovations in 1953, destroying Dick's medals and campaign stars (he applied for their replacement later in life). He became an electrical technician and worked in the Physics Department at Queensland University. His address in 1988 was Kalinga, Brisbane. Dick passed away on 7 April 2004 and Gem passed away in 2008. Children survive them.


Ancestry family tree 'Descendants of Twins Thomas and James Thompson'.
National Archives of Australia service records, THOMPSON RICHARD DESMOND, barcode 4564069.

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