GROUP CAPTAIN CHARLES "MOTH" EATON OBE (Mil.), AFC, MiD (1895 - 1979)
KNIGHT COMMANDER-CROSS OF THE ORANGE NASSAU WITH SWORDS
BRITISH/AUSTRALIAN PIONEER AVIATOR, DIPLOMAT AND SOLDIER

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Group Captain Charles "Moth" Eaton

 

Charles Eaton was born in London on the 23rd December 1895. After serving as a trench bomber in the British Army with the 47th London (TF) Division in France 1915-1917, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in April 1917. After receiving his RFC wings Charles Eaton was posted to Training and Defence of London Squadrons. In May 1918 he returned to the Western Front where he was posted to 206 Sqn RAF. While on reconnaissance of a German aerodrome at Tournai on the 29 June 1918, his DH 9 had engine trouble and crashed into the German front trench. Taken prisoner, he immediately escaped but was soon recaptured. Considered by the Germans as an "undesirable" he was sent to the infamous Festung Nein where he escaped again, was recaptured, put on courts-martial and sentenced to a month solitary confinement and to work in a salt mine.  He finally escaped from Stalag Holzminden during the last few chaotic days of the war. On the 11th January 1919 he married Beatrice Godfrey at Shepherd’s Bush, London. Eaton's participation in aviation history began as a pilot on the first international regular air service London-Paris No 2 (Com.) Sqn flying delegates to the Paris Peace Conference. In 1920 he was assigned to Ambala India with 28 Sqn. RAF where he and his flight conducted the first aerial survey of Himalayas in March/April 1920.

Charles Eaton, his wife Beatrice and young daughter Aileen, arrived in Australia in mid-1923. After two years in the Queensland Forestry Service on the Atherton Tablelands, in 1925 he applied for and was accepted for a short service commission as a flying instructor with the RAAF’s No 1 Air Training School in Point Cook, Victoria.

In 1929-1931, he entered Australian aviation legend when commanding the air searches for the two lost aircraft "Kookaburra" and the "Golden Quest" in Central Australia. His DH9A A1-1, the first aircraft registered in the RAAF, caught fire in the air and crashed at Tennant Creek, Northern Territory. He earned his sobriquet "Moth" after flying the first metal DH Gipsy Moth in the "Great Air Race" Sydney-Perth in 1929.

As an RAAF instructor (1925-1930) many well known pilots and eventual senior officers past through his strict training regime. During his RAAF service he commanded 21 (City of Melbourne) Squadron (1937-1938) and 12 (GP) Squadron (1939), was the first CO Darwin base 1940-1941, CO 72 and 79 Wing's South West Pacific Area (1943-1944) and finally AOC Southern Area in 1945. His post-war appointments were as Australian Consul to Portuguese Timor 1946-1947 where his contribution to the rehabilitation of the territory following WWII was officially recognised by the Portuguese government. In August 1947 he was appointed Chairman UN Security Council’s Consular Commission to Indonesia 1947, Consul-General in Batavia and later Charge de Affairs to the new Republic of Indonesia. Eaton made a significant contribution to Indonesia’s eventual independence and Australia-Indonesian relations. 

He retired in 1952 and in conjunction with his son Peter (ex RAAF 1944-45), farmed at Metung, Eastern Victoria, until the property was sold. After settling in Melbourne, at the age of 65 he decided to enter the tourist industry and founded the Frankston Tourist Agency. After a few years, the venture was so successful that Charles had to sell due work pressure. The last 18 years of his life was spent as a full-time home gardener, his special enjoyment being orchids. After celebrating 60 years of married life on the morning of the 11th November 1979 he had a cerebral stroke whilst watching Remembrance Day ceremonies dying early the following morning.

Charles “Moth” Eaton is permanently honoured by memorial displays in the Parliament House of the Northern Territory and at the International Airport Darwin, a National Trust of Australia memorial at the Tennant Creek Airport and the “Charles Eaton Saloon Bar” Goldfields Hotel Tennant Creek, the actual site of his aeroplane crash in April 1929. 

 

B-25C Mitchell bomber, Serial # 42-53441
N5-231 NEI-AF, flown on 50 missions by Charles Eaton

 

CHARLES EATON PHOTOGRAPHIC COLLECTION

p920561.jpg (126381 bytes) No 21 Squadron, Laverton, May 1937. Search for Sir Herbert Gepp. Hawker Demons at Alice Springs. (l/r): Sqn Ldr Charles Eaton, LAC Hellwig, Cpl Clarke, Plt Off Wiley, Mrs Riley, Dr Riley.
p920562.jpg (118933 bytes) No 21 Squadron, Laverton, May 1937. Search for Sir Herbert Gepp. Food and water dropping apparatus on a Hawker Demon at Alice Springs.
p920657.jpg (140112 bytes) Darwin Air Raids, Feb 1942. Wrecked Lockheed Hudson.
p920665.jpg (120404 bytes) Feb 1940. Crash of Lockheed at Darwin.
p920631.jpg (89677 bytes) RAAF, Darwin, May 1941. Visit by Dutch Glen Martins. Glen Martin M598 and one other.
p920632.jpg (105872 bytes) RAAF, Darwin, May 1941. Visit by Dutch Glen Martins. Glen Martin.
p920633.jpg (109759 bytes) RAAF, Darwin, May 1941. Visit by Dutch Glen Martins. Glen Martin.
p920637.jpg (108331 bytes) RAAF, Darwin, Aug 1941. Visit by USAAC B-17 squadron. B-17 4058
p920635.jpg (71539 bytes) RAAF, Darwin, Aug 1941. Visit by USAAC B-17 squadron.
p920636.jpg (44376 bytes) RAAF, Darwin, Aug 1941. Visit by USAAC B-17 squadron.
p920634.jpg (102442 bytes) RAAF, Darwin, Aug 1941. Visit by USAAC B-17 squadron.
p920578.jpg (148805 bytes) RAAF, Darwin, 1940-41. Hangar under construction. Note Station CO's married quarter to the right.
p920581.jpg (140605 bytes) RAAF, Darwin, 1940-41. New hangar.
p920582.jpg (169738 bytes) RAAF, Darwin, 1940-41. Hangar under construction. 
p920566.jpg (151684 bytes) No 12 Squadron, Darwin, Oct 1939. Temporary camp at the civil airfield at Parap. Photo looking roughly northwards.

The main runway in the middle-distance running left-right, is now a main road called Ross Smith Avenue (two lanes in each direction with a wide median strip).

The road running from the bottom of the photo up to the runway is called Parap Road. Houses on the left (west) of the road were DCA (Dept of Civil Aviation) houses.

The building (hangar) with the curved roof was the main hangar and still exists. The large building to the right (east) past the water tank stands was the main passenger terminal and later became the Ross Smith Hostel for PMG staff and public servants.

p920583.jpg (167892 bytes) RAAF, Darwin, 1941. Station parade.
p920644.jpg (90185 bytes) No 13 Squadron, Darwin, c1941. Lockheed Hudson bogged at Bathurst Island.
p920645.jpg (100244 bytes) No 13 Squadron, Darwin, c1941. Lockheed Hudson bogged at Bathurst Island.
p920742.jpg (73554 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI-AF, Batchelor, 1944. B-25 Mitchells N5-188, N5-218, N5-230 and N5-226.
p920743.jpg (87081 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI-AF, Batchelor, 1944. B-25 Mitchells N5-188, N5-218, N5-230 and N5-226. 
p920744.jpg (89601 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI-AF, Batchelor, 1944. B-25 Mitchells N5-230 and N5-226. Note the painted out American markings.
p920745.jpg (109347 bytes) No 2 Squadron, 1944. B-25 Mitchell. 
p920745a.jpg (102653 bytes) No 2 Squadron, 1944. B-25 Mitchell. 
p920746.jpg (105194 bytes) No 2 Squadron, 1944. B-25 Mitchell. 
p920747.jpg (159995 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI-AF, Batchelor, 1944. Four B-25 Mitchells.
p920603.jpg (97978 bytes) RAAF, Darwin, Oct 1941. Gp Capt Eaton Charles, CO RAAF Station Darwin.
p920666.jpg (96552 bytes) No 72 Wing, Merauke, May 1943. Officers with Kittyhawk.
p920674.jpg (90100 bytes) No 72 Wing, Merauke, Jul 1943. Building the airstrip.
p920705.jpg (141834 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI-AF, Batchelor, May 1944. Capt Ajses and Gp Capt Charles Eaton, OC No 79 Wing. 
p920707.jpg (132439 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI-AF, Batchelor, May 1944. Capt Ajses and GpCapt Charles Eaton, OC No 79 Wing. 
p920812.jpg (109029 bytes) No 72 Wing, Merauke, Jun-Jul 1943. Kittyhawks.
p920815.jpg (103739 bytes) No 7 Squadron. Bristol Beaufort KT-Y at Merauke. 
p920808.jpg (155410 bytes) No 2 Service Flying Training School, Wagga, Nov 1941. Station and airfield. 
p920797.jpg (161789 bytes) No 18 Squadron, NEI. Disbandment parade with Mitchell N5-246. 
p920783.jpg (87370 bytes) No 31 Squadron, Coomalie, Mar 1944. Beaufighter at Potshot
p920782.jpg (112823 bytes) No 76 Operational Base Unit, Potshot, Mar 1944. Kittyhawk. 
p920781.jpg (124976 bytes) No 76 Operational Base Unit, Potshot, Mar 1944. Base. 
p920767.jpg (88153 bytes) RAAF, South-West Pacific, Apr 1944. Oblique attack photo of Japanese oil tanker off Tenau, Timor. Attacked by Beaufighters (probably No 31 Squadron, Coomalie). 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I'd like to thank Mitchell Williamson for his assistance with this home page.

 

 

 

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