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OBITUARY

Wing Commander Vance Drummond AFC. DFC. AUS/33624 RAAF

Born Tuesday 22nd February 1927 Hamilton, New Zealand. Killed Wednesday 17th May 1967 South Pacific Ocean

Son of Leonard Henry Vance Drummond, office manager, and his wife Dorothy Josephine May (née McKnight) both New Zealand born, one of 6 children.

Joined the RNZAF in May 1944 and trained as a navigator in October 1945 he left the service.

In March 1946 he joined the New Zealand Army and was sent to Japan working as an interpreter - returned to New Zealand in 1948 he left the army and applied to joined the RNZAF in the hope to be trained as a fighter pilot (his older brother, Fred served as a fighter pilot during WW2. Killed flying a Spitfire on a training exercise whilst with 111 Squadron in Scotland) He was rejected as being too old. He moved to Australia and was accepted by the RAAF on the 29th August 1949.

Graduated as a pilot coming top of his course in February 1951. Posted in August 1951 to serve in Kore with 77 Squadron. Flying the Meteor jet against communist forces flying the MiG-15's - recommended for the American Air Medal and commissioned on the 30th November 1951.

Right: Panmunjom, North Korea, September 1953. Flying Officer Vance Drummond (left) and Pilot Officer Bruce Thomson in the blue Chinese prison uniforms they wore during captivity.

On the 01st December 1951 he was shot down but ejected safely only to be captured by North Koreans - in 1952 he, together with four others escaped from Pinchon-ni prisoner-of-war camp, but all were recaptured and punished. Drummond was repatriated in September 1953.

Completed various courses and became the initial member of the RAAF Sabre trials flight, on the 09th September 1955 he married Margaret Hope Buckham.

Promoted to Squadron Leader in January 1962 and took charge of 75 Squadron 'Black Diamonds' aerobatic team, the official RAAF squad.

In 1965 posted to South Vietnam and attached to the United States Air Force then a Wing Commander. Flying a Cessna 0-1 'Bird Dog' a two-seat observation aircraft, nicknamed 'Snoopy'. Flying a total of 381 operations as a forward air controller.

Wing Commander Vance Drummond joined the Royal Australian Air Force on 29th August 1949 and trained as a pilot. He was awarded his wings in February 1951 and was subsequently commissioned on 30th November 1951, whilst on operational service with No 77 Squadron In Korea.

In November 1965 Wing Commander Drummond was attached to the United States Air Force in Vietnam for tactical air control duties. During the period November 1965 until July 1966 he served on the headouartere staff where he displayed an excellent knowledge of the tactical air control system and weapons.

His vast experience in tactical air support was put to practical use when Wing Commander Drummond was posted to the 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron, for forward air controller (FAC) duties on 8th July 1966. He flew more than 500 hours with this Squadron until the completion of his tour in November 1966 and in this capacity he displayed an uncanny ability for locating Viet Cong forces and installations. He took part in many hazardous operational missions and he proved himself to be a highly successful FAC.

"At 19:30 hours on 24th July 1966 he flew as the FAC on an urgent operational mission. He and his pilot were scrambled in an aircraft to cover an army company that was surrounded by Viet Cong and in danger of being annihilated. On arrival in this area encountered intense automatic weapons fire, with complete disregard to their own safety, they provided a vital life-line to the ground troops; Wing Commander Drummond played an indispensable role in directing flare ships and lighter aircraft into the area to support the besieged troops. Remaining in the area until dangerously low in fuel, they then made an emergency landing at Tan Son Rhut Air Base.

After a quick refuel they returned to the besieged company at 00:30 hours and remained in area directing support aircraft until 03:00 hours - during this period they continued to encounter light automatic fire and the weather conditions approached marginal conditions Wing Commander Drunrmond and his pilot again returned to the area at 06:00 hours and remained in contact with the troops until helicopter borne troops relieved the besieged company just after first light.


During the hours of darkness from the night of the 24th July 1966 until the morning of the 25th July 1966, the pilot of the 0-1 aircraft and Wing Commander Drummond, as PAC, showed outstanding courage and unselfish devotion to duty in directing operations that were instrumental in saving the lives of many members of the besieged company. This incident typifies the outstanding qualities displayed by this officer throughout his operational tour with the USAF, and he reflected great credit upon himself and the Royal Australian Air Force".


Returning home, on 20 February 1967 Drummond assumed command of No.3 Squadron at Williamtown. On 17 May that year he and three other pilots were engaged in training exercises off the New South Wales coast. At 4.20 p.m., about 50 miles (80 km) north-east of Newcastle, his Mirage went into a dive and plummeted into the sea. Neither his body nor the aircraft was recovered. Margaret took their only child, 9-year-old David, to Government House, Canberra, to receive Vance's DFC on the 5th April 1968.

With thanks to the Australian National Archives, RAAF News, the Australian Dictionary of Biography.


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