Air Force's huge flying tribute to lion-hearted flight lieutenant
Michael Atkinson’s plane was attacked while flying over Europe. On one mission, he made it back with an engine missing — he was only 18 at the time.
The distinguished life and career of the retired flight lieutenant will be honoured when giant Air Force C-17A Globemaster flies over his funeral on the Gold Coast.
Flight Lieutenant Atkinson died at his Tallebudgera nursing home on September 23 at the age of 94.
His Defence Force career began in 1942 when he joined the Australian Army and then quickly moved into to the Air Force where he served as a wireless air gunner.
The role included sending and receiving wireless signals during flights and helping the observer with triangulation and navigation, but when under attack he would man a machine gun to fight off enemy aircraft.
During World War II, Flight Lieutenant Atkinson flew in Halifax bombers in missions over occupied Europe.
His son-in-law, Air Force Warrant Officer Gary Bones, said he read the then-18-year-old’s log book which outlined the dangers the young crew from Britain, Scotland, Ireland and Australia faced.
“He writes about being attacked by fighters, returning to England with one engine shot out,” he said.
“It would have been horrendous for them, I would have thought,” he added.
The flight lieutenant returned to Australia in 1946 where he remained in the Air Force and was deployed to the Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan.
“Following from that, he got onto bombers again was involved in the Malaysia confrontation, operating out of Singapore,” Warrant Officer Bones said.
The commissioned officer then became an air traffic controller until he retired from the Air Force in 1975 and moved to the Gold Coast.
He was married to wife Yvonne, who died a year ago, and the couple had two children, Garry and Karen.
The couple met at Brisbane’s now demolished Cloudland Dance Hall soon after the end of World War II.
Warrant Officer Bones said the retired Air Force veteran remained busy giving his time to the community.
“He volunteered for a number of organisations,” he said.
“He did marriage counselling and worked for St Vincent de Paul.”
As tribute to the retired veteran a C-17A Globemaster will fly over the service at 90 metres above the ground.
Warrant Officer Gary Bones who described Flight Lieutenant Atkinson as a patriot, and said his father-in-law would have been “ecstatic” about the gesture.
“As a man he was forthright, strong, honest,” he said.
“Not big in stature, but the heart of a lion.”