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Ray "Floyd" Langker

Ray "Floyd" Langker

Wireless operator, 102 Fighter Control Unit, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)


“I was pleased that it was all over and that people who returned had survived it but very sad that so many others suffered.”


The lure of the clear blue sky was hypnotic for young people like Floyd Langker. Only 14 when the war started in 1939, Floyd followed the Battle of Britain and the stories of daring-do in the skies over Europe with palpable excitement. If he had to go and join the fight against Germany and Japan’s fascist empire-building, then it would be in the cockpit of a Spitfire, Hurricane or Kitty Hawk. 


He bided his time until he turned 18 and instead of being called up for national service, Floyd joined the Royal Australian Air Force.

He was born in Casino where his father had a monument practice making gravestones. With one goal in mind, Floyd travelled to Sydney where he enlisted at the recruitment station in Woolloomooloo.

“I thought I might be able to become a pilot but when they tested my eyes, they weren’t good enough. So I joined the ground staff and I enjoyed it and had a trip around Australia.”

Floyd was assigned to radio communications. He undertook a basic course in Shepparton, Victoria, then was sent to Adelaide for a six-week course studying Morse code, radar and radio operations.

Next stop was Newcastle, then Perth for six months, and finally Darwin and seven months on Champagny Island off northwest Australia at a long range navigation (‘LORAN”) station. The rocky deserted island had a crew of 24 servicemen and was equipped with big TV-style antennas which it was Floyd’s job to line up.

They were reliant on the mainland for their food and sometimes rations got so low they were reduced to dining on the local fish and dugong.  On one occasion they were so hungry that Floyd talked a couple of local Indigenous men into paddling him in their dugout across the water to the mainland for more food. As they paddled, the canoe began taking on water and Floyd started bailing and it was then that he noticed a shark following closely behind the canoe. "It was the biggest fin I'd ever seen."

This wasn't how Floyd received his war wound, however. He got it scuttling over the island's sharp volcanic rocks.

In Darwin, Floyd worked with in the 102nd Fighter Control Unit and remembers a big table where the observers would identify aircraft flying over. Another of Floyd’s duties was working with the bomber photography unit. The task involved developing photos from cameras installed in Liberator bombers flying over Borneo, then examining them for enemy troops and bases.

“It wasn't difficult work. I used to do one shift a day, either night or day 6 till 6.”

Floyd enjoyed the discipline in the Air Force, was quite friendly with other staff and was soon promoted to LAC, Leading Aircraftsman.

Floyd’s duties extended at times beyond radio communications and for three months he was tasked with catching fish for the Officers’ mess for which he built a big fish trap. It wasn’t exactly like serving on the frontline but he regularly encountered sharks and crocodiles in and around the fish trap.

At least he was able to keep some of the fish himself: “The food wasn't real good and I would buy tinned fruit from the shop and eat that, rather than eat in the RAAF mess.”

Another sideline business was Langker’s Lilly White Laundry. He charged sixpence an article and employed a bloke to stoke the laundry’s copper.

LAC Langker was still serving in Darwin when news of the Japanese Surrender came over the wireless.

“Unfortunately, I had to do guard duty that night while all the other people celebrated. We were quite joyful the war was over and it made guard duty that night a little easier. The next day I had a couple of beers but really I’ve never been a big drinker.”

There was still more to do and Floyd stayed in the service until March 1946. He formed a number of friendships but mostly everyone lost touch after the war as they returned to the various corners of the country they’d come from.

“I was pleased that it was all over and that people who returned had survived it but very sad that so many others suffered.”