GREAT MAN: Kenneth Alan Wilkinson and his quirky Yorkshire sense of humour will be missed by all his friends and family.
GREAT MAN: Kenneth Alan Wilkinson and his quirky Yorkshire sense of humour will be missed by all his friends and family. Contributed

Second World War veteran had a quirky sense of humour

THE Wilkinson family and Toowoomba lost a 93-year-old with a quirky Yorkshire sense of humour on November 17, 2016.

Kenneth Alan Wilkinson was born on April 20,1923 in Burley-in-Wharfedale in Yorkshire England, the only son of Harold and Freda Wilkinson and brother to Audrey.

He was educated at Ilkley Grammar School, receiving his school certificate in 1939.

The Second World War broke out and Ken joined the Air Training Corps, doing duty on the Moors in Lancashire at Yeadon.

After an RAF exam, Ken went to Cardington in November, 1941 then received his kit at Lords in the ice and snow.

On February 28, 1942, he left London for Cambridge in the initial training unit, before being posted to Harrogate to continue Mosquito training after which he sailed on the Queen Mary from Gourock to Boston.

In Alberta he used the nappies on the clothes line of his Landlady as a bearing for the airstrip when flying.

In February 1943, Flt Lieutenant Wilkinson moved to Claresholm Alberta then to the Flying Instructors School in Trenton Ontario, flying Cornells, Harvards, Cessna Crane Twins, and instructing in Avro Ansons in Saskatchewan - all before he was 20-years-old.

In January, 1944, he sailed on the SS Normandie back to Liverpool.


Kenneth Alan Wilkinson served during the Second World War.
Kenneth Alan Wilkinson served during the Second World War. Contributed

From there he was stationed at Harrogate, Sywell, Lincolnshire, and Scotland training in Oxfords, Blind Flying Blenheims, Beauforts, night flying in ice and snow as well as Beaufighters and Mosquitoes.

A lifelong friendship was formed with his navigator Paddy (Harold) McNabb, who was a teacher from Belfast.

With victory in Europe, the war was over but Ken and Paddy joined the No12 Ferry Unit at Melton Mowbray, where they tested aircrafts.

On July 29, 1945, Ken and Paddy left for the 20th Squadron. They travelled to Poona, India via France, Malta, Cairo, Habanyia - Barhein, Nagpur to Poona.

From March 1946, they started ferrying Mosquitoes and Sunderlands to Singapore and Penang as well as Dakotas to Changi.

They were involved with Air Sea Rescue for planes, after which Ken was in charge of the Air Sea Rescue Officers shop in Raffles Square.

Ken was demobbed in October 1946, after which he did a business course, then worked with Wallace Arnold Tours.

The little union jack flag that flew with Ken and Paddy has continued for the past 70 years to travel each Christmas, with Ken and Paddy each keeping it for a year.

In 1948 at a ball in honour of Sir Winston Churchill, Ken met Rita Smurthwaite, whom he married in Burley- in-Wharfedale's St Mary's church on April 21, 1948.

They sailed soon after with Rita's family to New Zealand, but moved to Toowoomba in April 1952.

Soon after arriving in Toowoomba, Ken joined the Repertory Society and Toowoomba Choral Society so each year the family learnt and sang the words for the musicals.

Ken kept the programs of every show he performed during the next 50 years.

Most of the portraits in these show programs were done by Ken as photography was a big part of his life with a photographic record of anything and everything he was involved in.

Rita and Ken's four children were born in Toowoomba - Christine, Peter, Wendy and Jeremy.

Ken's brother -in-law, John Dunbar started The Property Scouts Real Estate in Toowoomba, and Ken joined him.

Later Ken worked with Swan and Snow in Scholefield St, then Peter Snow and then his own firm Abbey Real Estate in Margaret St.

Ken starting working for the ABC as a newsreader on the morning his youngest son Jeremy was born in November 1957.

For the next 20 years Ken read the news on 4QS/QW.

He and Rita always enjoyed fishing when on holidays and Ken would take his grandchildren fishing when he could, whether at the beach, in Dalby or near Mitchell.

The puppet monkey entertained all Ken's family and young friends at Christmas trees and family gatherings.

With his usual enthusiasm, Ken embraced the introduction of computers.

In recognition of Ken's community service, he received a Paul Harris Fellowship from Rotary and his 60-year Jewel from the Southern Cross Masonic Lodge.

Ken was a foundation member and second President of the Probus Club of Toowoomba West, and a JP for 61 years.

Ken and Rita celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2008, but sadly the family lost Rita in October, 2011.

The family is very grateful to Blue Care, and latterly the staff at Westhaven RSL for Ken's care.

On November 23, Toowoomba Padre Matthew Weatherley conducted Ken's funeral at St James' Anglican Church, where Ken had been long time parishioner and choir member.

Ken is survived by his four children - Christine (McLean), Peter, Wendy (Davies) and Jeremy Wilkinson, 11 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

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