Happy 100th birthday to Mr Lyall Ellers, Resthaven Onkaparinga Community Services client, who celebrated his centenarian milestone on 7 September.
Mr Ellers was one of four children, growing up in Claremont, Western Australia, against the backdrop of the Great Depression.
‘Our father was a Great War veteran — he saw another war on the way and the idea greatly worried him,’ Mr Ellers says.
‘When the time came for war and I turned 18, I enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] with my older brother, John. Our eldest brother, Frederick, had already been serving in the RAAF for a year.’
‘Sadly, in 1942, Fred was killed in a RAF Bristol Blenheim crash in India just as we came out of training, ready to play our part.’
‘After completing our flying training in Western Australia, I was chosen to go into fighter aircraft, and was posted to Deniliquin, New South Wales, to fly Wirraways.’
‘At 188cm tall, I was one of the tallest fighter pilots!’
‘Over the next year, I completed multiple separate operational postings in the Southwest Pacific theatre.’
‘I flew Wirraways with 5 Squadron in Queensland, then changed to fly Boomerangs in Port Moresby, New Guinea, with 4 Squadron.’
‘I saw my first combat in New Guinea, providing air support in the Battle for Shaggy Ridge.’
‘Eventually, I was posted to again fly Boomerangs with 85 Squadron in Western Australia, and then Kittyhawks with 78 Squadron in the Dutch East Indies.’
‘My service in 78 Squadron continued through to 1945, by which time I was stationed in Borneo.’
Mr Ellers’ fighter-pilot days saw him survive risky low-level flying among the mountainous terrain and Japanese air defences of New Guinea, operational flying in the Dutch East Indies, and also an emergency landing in a Wirraway in Victoria.
After the war ended, Mr Ellers returned home to WA, discharged from the RAAF in 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant. Thankfully, his brother, John, also survived the war.
Working post-war in national insurance, a twist of fate led Mr Ellers to meeting his future wife, Patricia.
‘Not long after the war ended, John married a lovely lady named June, who originally hailed from Adelaide.’
‘It’s a funny story, but June’s sister, Patricia, visited them in WA one time, and she really caught my eye! We ended up dating and the rest is history — two sisters for two brothers!’
Mr and Mrs Ellers married on 1 March 1947, and went on to have four children — Grant, Christine, Alan and Maria.
In 1954, Mr Ellers and his family moved to South Australia to work with his brother, who owned a car dealership, and has since called Adelaide home.
They built a house in Seacliff, where Mr Ellers lives independently to this day with the assistance of Resthaven Onkaparinga Community Services.
The family shared many travels and hobbies together, with Mr and Mrs Ellers both particularly enjoying skiing.
‘I was the Vice President of the South Australian Ski Club, which owned lodges in Mt Bulla, Falls Creek and Thredbo. Every winter, Patricia and I would go on a ski trip together.’
In his later years, Mr Ellers dabbled in other hobbies such as golf, bowling, and cutting/polishing opal in his home garage. He joined the Brighton RSL and Bowling Club in 1962, where he continues to play bowls twice a week!
A proud veteran, Mr Ellers has regularly marched in Adelaide’s ANZAC Day March, and is a member of the Air Force Association – SA Division (AFA-SA).
In continuing his legacy, Mr Ellers’ son, Grant, completed more than 30 years as a RAAF Air Traffic Controller. Also, his daughter, Christine, and son, Alan, were recreational pilots, who trained at Aldinga.
Sadly, Mrs Ellers passed away in 2007. Mr Ellers now enjoys a peaceful lifestyle with his new partner of 14 years, Pamela, and visits from his four children, eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
On his 100th birthday, Mr Ellers celebrated at home with his family. He received a special visit from four AFA-SA representatives, and two RAAF Base Edinburgh aviators, who presented him with a copy of South Australian Eagles and a wonderful cake emblazoned with the RAAF Badge and 100 (pictured right)!
The following weekend, Mr Ellers enjoyed a birthday party at the Brighton RSL with 60 relatives and friends.
Congratulations your milestone birthday, Mr Ellers, and thank you for sharing your story.