I first met Pat in 2007 when we both worked for a private company in the defence sector. We live on opposite sides of the country so there weren’t too many opportunities for our paths to cross. But he is such an engaging and interesting man that before long I discovered Pat’s hobby and interest in collecting military memorabilia. I’m not sure that hobby is the right word as Pat has one of the largest private collections in Australia. More like a passion!
Coming from a defence background himself with 23 years’ service in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) he associated with many ex WWI and WWII servicemen. Pat says it was a WWI 13th Australian Light Horse Trooper who handed him some buttons and badges from the WWI Western Front back in March 1972 that was the trigger to the start of his collecting.
How did he come to stay with military collecting? Pat’s father (RAF) and godfather (RAAF) served with No 15 Squadron RAF Bomber Command in the same crew during WWII. Also, his grandfathers served and survived the Western Front with the British Army in WWI. So a strong family history background of service to their respective countries, much like my own family’s background.
My father also served 20 years in the RAAF. Now that I think of it I probably told Pat about living in Malaya, as it was then called, during the Malayan emergency when I was a young child. This was whilst dad was serving there between 1958 & 1960, and that I started school at Butterworth, the RAAF school.
No doubt the conversation sparked a bond with Pat that eventually led me to ask him to bring some of his WWI memorabilia over to Sydney during a work visit so he could take part in my WWI centenary project. That was in 2012 and the idea was still very much in its infancy, in fact Pat’s image is my first portrait in the series.
Pat has been a member of the Military Historical Society of Australia since 1972, and is now a life member and Fellow of the Society. He has also been a member of the Orders and Medals Research Society since 1985. His defence industry role meant that he worked with many current and ex-military personnel and so his collection just kept on growing. Items from his collection have often been exhibited and displayed at various events.
Many people ask for Pat’s help in finding out more about a relative’s war service and I am one of them. It was Pat who deciphered for me the mysterious WWI service words “Royal Scot. Regt. / R.A.S.C. M.T.” written on my Scottish grandfather’s WWII service record. It stands for Royal Scottish Regiment, Royal Army Service Corp, Motor Transport and gives some small clue as to what young Private John Mitchell was doing during his service in France.