Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sepia Saturday: Neil's tent

Neil Phelan

Sepia Saturday's theme photo this week gives us a number of choices but last week I ignored the tent in the theme photo so I decided that this week I would take notice.

In April 1942 Neil Phelan enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and worked as an aircraft mechanic in 100 Squadron. After training in Victoria and Townsville in northern Queensland he served Milne Bay in New Guinea and Goodenough in New Britain and Sale in Victoria.

I think this photo may have been taken at Bohle River near Townsville in northern Queensland (judging by the vegetation) because their tents at Milne Bay were pitched among coconut palms. Neil has his gas mask and rifle at the ready. I've heard a lot of his stories over the years and even now, at the age of 91, he visits his local schools occasionally to talk to the children about being in the air force and fighting off the Japanese invasion, and they always have lots of questions for him.

The red arrow marks the position of Milne Bay.


  1. I was surprised to see he was in the Air Force as his photo looks more like a soldier.

  2. That's quite a tent! No sewn-in floor though. When I first started camping with my family back in the 40s most tents didn't have sewn-in floors. A large canvas was laid out on the ground & the tent, pitched over it which was fine insofar as not having to walk around in there on dirt. But bugs could still sashay right onto the tarp, slip under the bottom of the tent & climb onto your sleeping bag! Not my favorite part of camping back then. Sewn-in floors & window screening solved a lot of that problem.

  3. He's 91 and still giving talks at schools? Good for him -- we need more people like him to keep history alive for our children!

  4. That looks like a sturdy tent indeed. Neil must be pretty sturdy himself if he can cope with schoolchildren’s questions.

  5. An interesting photo. Certainly not a luxury tent. But what;s that on his chest. Surely not a gas mask ?

  6. I was wondering what is on his chest too.


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