The story of William (Bill) Robert Neil Shueard and his service in the Pacific Theatre of War with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) during WWII was constructed from his descriptive letters and photos that he sent home from overseas, official war records, newspaper excerpts, family photos and family member’s recollections.
Bill grew up on the Shueard family vineyard, vegetable and fruit block at Cobdogla in the Riverland area of South Australia. He enlisted in the AIF in late 1940, before being accepted into the RAAF in October 1941. He undertook RAAF training courses at Victor Harbor SA, Ballarat Vic. (Wireless Air Gunnery School), Port Pirie SA (practical Wireless Air Gunnery), and in February 1943 commenced his RAAF career as a Flight Sergeant with 36 Squadron RAAF DC3 transport aircraft. After flying between Australia and New Guinea for five months he was seconded to the RAAF Marine Section on Thursday Island in Torres Strait where he served on HMAS Boonooroo, a 50-foot (15-metre) powered launch, operating the radio and machine guns during Air Sea Rescue operations. During his nine months of service in the RAAF Marine Section on the islands of Cape York he had two one-week flying stints as an Air Gunner with 7 Squadron RAAF Beaufort bombers on anti-submarine patrols across Torres Strait to New Guinea.
Bill re-commenced his flying career in June 1944 with 34 Squadron RAAF DC3 transport aircraft across Australia and New Guinea, before being based on Morotai Island in February 1945 where 34 Squadron RAAF transported Australian troops into battle areas in the Pacific Theatre of War. On April 1st 1945 Bill attained the rank of Flying Officer.
After Japan surrendered on September 2nd 1945, Bill’s squadron became heavily involved in repatriation of Australian POWs from Japanese prison camps throughout South-East Asia. It was during this period that his letters home were most graphic in describing his experiences. Bill crewed a courier flight to Japan in late 1945 before he was demobilised in Melbourne on 14th January 1946.
After the war Bill and his young family spent the next two-and-a-half years working the family vineyards and fruit property in SA, camping along the River Murray, and planning for the construction of a new home. Tragically, he was killed in a heavy-vehicle accident on 19th July 1949, at Sealake, Victoria, leaving behind a grieving family. His memory, however, lives on with his descendants who can be justly proud of him —Bill’s letters, and the respect in which he was held by those who knew him, personify an honourable and deep-thinking man.