MILESTONE: Ted and Betty Richardson celebrate Ted's 90th birthday.
MILESTONE: Ted and Betty Richardson celebrate Ted's 90th birthday. Gary Worrall

Ted celebrates 90 years of high life

BORN and raised in Blackall, Ted Richardson spent years in the saddle as a stockman, before serving his country as a technician on Australia's most advanced military aircraft.

"I went to school in Blackall, I left at 13, like everybody did then, I didn't do scholarship, so I went out and got a job," Mr Richardson recalled on the eve of his 90th birthday.

Born in 1926, Mr Richardson finished school just as World War Two started, which saw plenty of young men from the district head to the big cities to sign up for military duties.

"That made it a lot easier to get a job, there were a lot of vacancies, and not as many men around to take them."

Mr Richardson's first attempt at joining the RAAF came just five years later, but with the tide of war beginning to turn in favour of the Allies, he was turned down.

"They said they had taken enough young blokes from out there, they didn't need to take another one, so I kept working."

Ted Richardson with his family, celebrating his 90th birthday.
Ted Richardson with his family, celebrating his 90th birthday. Nadine Richardson

A second attempt a few years later was successful, and Ted found himself off to the bright lights of the city to start training.

"I got in just before my 21st birthday, in early 1947, and stayed for the next 32 years. I trained as an airframe engineer, I had no mechanical experience at all, but they trained me, and it all sort of stuck.

"Plus, there were always manuals for everything, so if you didn't know something, you were able to look it up in the service manuals."

Like all air force personnel, Ted became accustomed to moving around, with his first posting to Amberley.

"That was in 1948, I was working on the RAAF VIP Flight aircraft, they had Mosquitos and Liberators from World War Two, as well as Avro Ansons."

While stationed at Amberley Mr Richardson and a mate went to a dance at Mt Crosby, where he met future wife Betty.

"Her father operated the steam engine at the Mt Crosby water treatment plant, so we got to see each other a bit."

The pair was married in 1949, and 67 years later are still very much in love.

With four children along the way, Mr Richardson said he could not have done what he did without his wife.

"She is just great, without Betty I would not have been able to do what I did."

A move to Townsville followed soon after, when Mr Richardson was posted to Avro Lincoln maritime patrol aircraft.

"I loved my time on maritime patrol, I worked on Lincolns and Neptunes, I spent a lot of time working on them."

With Australia involved in numerous conflicts at this time, including Korea, Malaya and then Vietnam, Mr Richardson said he was never deployed to a war zone.

"I did a lot of time overseas, but only as detachments, to support any aircraft that were sent for short terms, like joint exercises."

Mr Richardson visited Hawaii regularly, supporting patrol aircraft, and also New Zealand and Malaysia.

"We would be away for a few weeks, and then come home again."

A longer trip to the USA allowed time off for sightseeing, so Mr Richardson and some buddies rented a log cabin in Yellowstone National Park, and went hiking for bears.

"We didn't see any bears, but when we got back, there were two grizzlies going through our garbage."

With the RAAF transitioning from propeller aircraft to jets during his service, Mr Richardson said despite their complexity, jets were easier to work on.

A final posting to Amberley in the mid-1970s had Mr Richardson complete his time working on F-111s, eventually retiring as the RAAF's senior Warrant Officer Engineer.