Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:49): It gives me great pleasure to rise and speak about a friend of mine, a friend of the Riverland, a living legend—Howard Hendrick.
Howard Hendrick is a 97-year-old Riverland man who has experienced great diversity throughout his life. Howard has a rich history, along with many from the Riverland or from the electorate of Chaffey. On Sunday, I had the great privilege of attending the launch of Howard Hendrick's book Full Circle at the Loxton RSL.
His daughter, Margaret Davis, approached Howard some time ago and said that she thought his life was of such interest that she wanted to write a book. Howard was reluctant, but he then started to answer a few questions—and, boy, did he answer the questions. It really did excite Margaret to develop and write the book called Full Circle. Margaret acknowledged that after speaking with her father, she probably could have written six volumes of the book because of the adventures of Howard, not only as a young fellow, the son of a veteran, but also as he himself was about to enter World War II.
Howard was born in Renmark in 1923—as I said, he is 97 years old—and grew up in a First World War settlement with no electricity or running water. He helped his father, Tom Hendrick, a World War I Army sergeant, to manage the fruit block. Tom Hendrick and his English war bride had taken a soldier settlement block in the Riverland. Howard attended school at Renmark Primary and then Renmark High. He joined the Royal Australian Air Force at the age of 17, and it does beggar belief how he got in there, and was trained as a fighter pilot before being posted to England to replace lost Australian pilots.
Recognising the need for bombers in the European war zone, he was retained as a bomber to fly Lancasters and Halifaxes. It was rare for his crew to complete a raid intact, with 50 per cent of Bomber Command personnel losing their lives over the course of World War II. Mr Hendrick completed 30 raids over Europe with the same crew. To complete 30 bombing raids over Europe with the same crew is an absolute feat. That means that, yes, they got shot at but they did not die and they did not go down, which was a great outcome. Howard was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the French Legion of Honour in 2017 for his help in liberating the French from the Germans.
He became a commercial pilot for British Airways flying scheduled routes between London, Johannesburg and Sydney, but after four years he returned to his roots in the Riverland and took up a soldier settlement block in Loxton. Some would say that makes him a living legend. It certainly does. These days, Howard it is busy looking after his 1,000 native plants on his property just out of Loxton near Pyap. He became a regular guest speaker at the Loxton High School, sharing his experiences at school functions and Remembrance Day services.
Howard had recollections recorded on ABC radio as part of the South Australian State Library's Oral History Collection. He received Loxton's Citizen of the Year award in 2016, and was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his contribution to Loxton High School and for visiting service veterans in hospital. He returned to flying after retiring from his fruit block, and he now flies once a month with an instructor. That is such a great outcome for a 97 year old. He is still out there pulling the levers, getting up and splitting the air.
Howard's book Full Circle is something that everyone should read if they get the opportunity. The Riverland should be very proud of this absolute gentleman, and at 97 he is as sharp as a tack. His memory is extraordinary. He has the ability to continue in conversation and, as I said, he remembers a name, he remembers a story and he continues to inspire the young people he visits, particularly at Loxton High.
We owe a great deal of gratitude to this remarkable Australian for not only what he has shared with the Riverland region but also what he did to represent his country and what he still does today.