I have written a blog about why and how the two books came about.

Books all now accounted for. It’s been a mammoth task but a very enjoyable one. Thank you and all your fellow Knucks for your very kind and memorable comments. 

All the very best to all for  a safe and Merry Christmas and New Year.

Regards, Pete

Story Follows:

MY MIRAGE STORY by Peter Taylor

Last year (2022) I produced a book titled “INTRODUCING THE FRENCH LADY – A COMPENDIUM OF RAAF MIRAGES”. This book is a 316 page essay in pictures of the Mirage in RAAF service. This year (2023) I produced a book titled “THE RAAF MIRAGE FAMILY” a book of 508 pages in A4 Landscape, a pictorial essay of the people of the Mirage era.

WHY did I do these books? To better understand what led to my passion for the Mirage I need to take you on a journey from my most humble beginnings.


As a child of around 9 or 10, I was fascinated by helicopters, I had two or three but the one I remember most was a tin model with a rotor that turned as I pushed the model along on its rubber wheels. How on earth could this thing fly??


In 1964 my parents told me that this year was my last at school and that I needed to get a job the following year. Jobs were in abundance in that era, I had a choice of apprentice diesel mechanic training at Werris Creek, the main junction for the NSW railways in the north west of the state. The steamers were slowly going out of fashion as the diesel electrics were taking over. Werris Creek was a mere 11km from Quirindi where I went to school, even though we lived on a property some 30km from town. There was also the choice of becoming an apprentice motor mechanic as two dealers in town were offering apprenticeships. So, why the RAAF?


I almost didn’t make the grade for an apprenticeship in the RAAF due to my lack of knowledge of higher mathematics. In 1962 the NSW Director General for Education, Sir Harold Wyndham introduced a new scheme where secondary education went from five years to six years. After 3 years of correspondence learning through Blackfriars of Sydney, I attended Quirindi High School in March of 1962 after a school bus service was introduced out our way.


Little did I know at that time that my parent’s decision to keep me in the previous five year scheme that allowed me to sit the Intermediate Certificate at 3rd year would not include the higher mathematics of Logarithms and such as they were now moved into 4th year for the School Certificate. The RAAF had not caught up on this fact as all I needed to join as an apprentice was the Intermediate Certificate. (I actually topped the class in raw arithmetic in 64)


I had always been fascinated by how things worked and very early on could strip things down and put them back together again, well almost, mum’s alarm clock was left in bits following a journey of intrigue. We had a 1925 “Uted” Chevrolet as our transport for over three miles of black soil plain to catch the new school bus. The station mechanic, we lived 5 miles away at the other end of Windy Station, was an ex RAF engine fitter during WWII and I learnt so much from him that when the opportunity to join the RAAF came up, I was well versed in the mechanical knowledge of engines and cars in general. I pestered the bejeezes out of him in my search for knowledge.


So, why did I elect to join the RAAF? Helicopters!! I saw an advert for apprenticeship training in the RAAF and there was a pic of people with a helicopter in the background. I successfully completed all the requirements, except Maths. The interview board were impressed with everything else but thought that I couldn’t handle the rigours of apprenticeship training without that higher math background. However, during the interview process I was handed a piston and asked to describe all the parts thereof; well, the skirt, the ring lands, the gudgeon pin hole (which being a smartarse) went on to describe the fitting of the ‘Con Rod’ and big end on the crankshaft etc, at which time they pulled me up and asked what was the top of the piston called?  “The HEAD” I said. “Well actually, it’s called the crown” they replied to which I said, “well my mechanic mentor was a WWII RAF engine fitter and he called it a head, and besides where does a crown go? On a head” They put me through with my promise to really knuckle down at Wagga and get my maths up to speed.


Wagga in January 1965 was real eye opener for this naïve 16 (almost17) year old. I’d never heard of this aerial ping pong game and had no idea of the interstate rivalry and boy, what an education I had from the back of the toilet doors. But here I was in the Air Force and look at all the planes! (soon learned they were Aircraft!) and the engines in the Engine Hangar, wow, I was in heaven. I can’t wait to get my hands on them. I received many “Distinctions” for my practical tests but barley passed most of the theory with an occasional Credit. FAIL in maths, oops, School Interview Board with the distinct possibly of being kicked off course. Luckily, they decided to keep me on and to undergo math training during the first week of the midyear holidays. Friday all the other blokes went on mid year leave, me and two or three others were kept back under the watchful eye of the SQNLDR Education Officer who proceeded to teach us enough to pass the exam and on Monday we too, were on our way.


I loved the role of being an Engine Apprentice and after finally understanding Prelim Jet Theory, it all fell into place and I graduated with a credit pass, 7th out of 20. I was posted to Williamtown, 3 SQN. They had MIRAGES. WOW, my love affair with this bird began in July 1967 and unbeknown to me at the time would last a lifetime. It was Loooong way from my 1925 Chevy, that’s for sure. My wife and I now own a 1963 imported factory RHD Impala, so that love affair has also lasted all this time.


During my 20 years of service, I spent nine on Mirages and engines. It all started at 481 (M) Sqn in early July 67 where I was attached to the Engine Repair Shop (ERS) while waiting for the Mirage Familiarisation and ATAR courses. It was here that I finally got hands on experience with these mighty engines (well, they were for their time!!). After the courses in late July 67, I walked across the road and was introduced to FSGTS Darky Clark, Airframes and Homer Parker, Engines. Both would soon be promoted to WOE.  One would have a great influence on my life over the coming years.


My fingers tingled when I first laid hands on A3-52. This was the ultimate piece of engineering that I had ever experienced. Is it possible to fall in love with an inanimate object such as this, made up of various metals, Perspex, rubber, plastic and goodness knows what else?? Yes, I believe it is.


My career saw me in 3SQN from July 67 to Feb 68. I had developed an eye condition at Wagga that rendered me with a downgrade in medical status and therefore could not go to Butterworth with the SQN. Total disappointment.


Back to ERS where I really enjoyed learning all about the ATAR. All the processes of P1 and P2 servicing, remove the top half of the compressor, use beeswax for checking blade creep, remove the turbine for inspection, replace liners in the AB canal, blend small damage marks in the intake and blend out damage on the compressor inlet vanes. This was far better than those blokes who chose to fly, flying just never interested me. 


May 1969, I was posted into the newly formed 77SQN, this time before we had any aircraft. 3SQN had departed and we took over the bottom hanger, directly opposite ERS and I recall being in the side rooms facing ERS, unpacking GSE and test equipment when one day someone brought in a small B&W TV and we watched Armstrong walk on the moon. 77 never lived up to its name of Malfunction Junction while I was there. As far as I was concerned, we all did what had to be done and nearly everyone got along. There was an altercation in the middle of the hangar within earshot of everyone between a SQNLDR ENGO and FSGT Framie at one time, with the FSGT coming out on top to my mind, but I think his career halted after that. It was here in 77 that I learned to do ground runs. The power of that engine was the most exciting feeling I have ever had.


I was recently (2023) talking to a few Knucks about that subject. I had had two Machbuster rides and the best feeling of power was the low level slam acceleration from 300 to 600 knots. BUT!!! The power of an installed engine ground run was immense. Going to max dry, the roar behind you tells you this is good, but lift the handle into AB; the nose drops on the cradle, the main wheels start to climb up the high metal chocs and you can’t help yourself but smile. Going into full burner, the roar is deafening, even with a head set on, the nose dips even lower and the main wheels ride up even higher, the power is immense and I’m in charge of that. Oh Mirage, what a feeling!!


November 1970 saw a posting to Butterworth, back to good old 3 SQN and WOE Darky Clark, was good to see him again. We lived on Penang Island beside Tanjong Bungah Road, just opposite Seahome. We had 10-month-old twin girls and an Amah. It certainly was a change in culture that took some getting used to.


3SQN life was good, I had learned the fuel system pretty well at ERS and often diagnosed the problems of a US before a decision was made on how to fix it. Being an LAC, no one took any notice of my opinion and they often mis cued the fault and didn’t fix the problem on first go. However, I enjoyed the flight line, no PPE in those days, just a pair of shorts and TEE boots, oh and your earmuffs as well. I did a three-month stint in MCS which was quite an eye opener, as well as a six month stint in 478 ERS. Promoted to CPL in Jan 73, all of a sudden, I had a voice, not a big booming one but enough to be heard and taken notice of.


Then, the downfall! 2AD Propeller Flight at Richmond in May 73. I’m posted away from my beloved Mirage. However, all is not lost. After three and a half years at 2AD I find myself at Edinburgh in January 77 at the recently relocated ARDU. What a unit to be posted to AND they had three Mirages; A3-2, 76 and 111. I’m home again. Again, I am in the presence of that terrific WOE, Darky Clark. My three years here were some of the best years in my 20 years and the end of my nine years with the Mirage. ARDU had Macchi’s as well and my last five years at Pearce saw me with eight years with the Macchi, but it holds no special place in my heart.


Fast forward to around 2008 or 9 and I’m in Fighter World Williamtown where I again met up with not one, but two Mirages; A3-3 and Daphne A3-102. Walking around these aircraft I still had that tingling feeling in the fingers as I ran my hands over various parts of “The Lady” and when I went under the starboard wing and looked up into the wheel well at the hatch, I had removed many hundreds of times, this wave of emotion ran over me and I got the biggest lump in my throat I’d ever had. I knew then that I had to do something to recall those Mirage days. I started gathering photos, I bought Marty Susans book “The RAAF Mirage Story”, Mason and Mottram’s IIIO Colours and Markings and looked for anything else I could find. Life got in the way and a Grandson came along in 2010, I was appointed as a volunteer Trustee as Secretary/Treasurer of the Motor Museum of WA and the Mirage research came to a halt.


I had, over the years built a few model aircraft from plastic kits but my favourite was a 1:32 model of A3-85. My son also had built many kits of all types plus a couple of 1:48 Mirages. As the grandson got older, he too started taking an interest in kit building. He is also now at age 13 a very knowledgeable lad on all things WWII fighting ships. My father was on HMAS Australia during the war and the young fella must have some of his genes.


The two books I produced over the last two years are as a direct result of the grandson asking me when he was 11; “Granddad, you worked on Mirages didn’t you, can you tell me about them?”


“Better than that” I said, “I’ll do up a little book for you with pictures and the story of how we got the Mirage and the Squadrons it flew in”.


“Great” was the reply.


GREAT!!! Little did I know just where this was going to take me. By now I had accumulated a few hundred pics of the aircraft and people and other associated events so I created a sub folder for each tail number and started putting them into some sort of sequence in Microsoft Publisher. I like Publisher, I’d used it many times when I was Editor of my car club magazine and also for a couple of family history books.


As this book was just going to be one, maybe two copies I wasn’t concerned about the copyright that may be on some photos and didn’t even think to credit the pics to anyone. Afterall, this was for our private family use. The pages steadily grew in number but it wasn’t complete, just pics on a page with the tail number at the start. Then I remembered ADF Serials, those guys do a great job in retrieving the information from the aircraft history cards, so I then headed each tail number with the description of the aircraft history. That was much better. Now he would have the full history of each aircraft and pics of the different squadrons and colour markings it served in.


So, what about how the Mirage was made? I scoured the internet for anything on GAF and CAC and found quite a lot of photos that had been posted. Also, National Archives (NAA) had some pics that led me further afield. I found a copy of the RAAF News in December 1991 where it described how the Mirage came about during the selection process to replace the Sabre. Bewdy, that covered that.


Then through Wikipedia and other sources I got the details of the various squadrons, their history etc and when we got the Mirage and when I got to the 3 SQN page  there was something missing so I contacted Neil Smith. I had known Neil as a boggy pilot in 3SQN back in the 70’s and also as a supporter of Australia’s Land Speed Challenge, of which I was a crew member. I knew he was at “WINGS” magazine, so I sent the copy of what I had and asked if he could expand on it. He came back very quickly asking what this was all about so I sent him copies of some pages I had done so far. “You can’t keep this to yourself” he said, “this is fantastic Mirage history so you should publish it”.


MMM. I didn’t expect that. Now the copyright problem dawned on me. Speaking with Ron Haack, also at “Wings” we resolved that it couldn’t be published as it was. It was totally unsafe from a copyright perspective. Buggar, what to do? I contacted an online copyright lawyer and we went back and forth for quite some time. I just wasn’t prepared to chase up all those permissions and credit all the photos, there were just under 1000. Then I asked the lawyer, “what if I sold the book for cost, made no profit from it at all?” “yes, you can” he said.


And that folks, is how the book “INTRODUCING THE FRENCH LADY – A COMPENDIUM OF RAAF MIRAGES” came about.


I only made it available to anyone who spent time on the Mirage, it wasn’t widely published and some 500 copies are out there among you all. One of the recipients was Andrew Wilson, he had shown his dad who said he’d like one. “OK, if your dad had anything to do with Mirages, I’m sure he would like one” Andrew replied “Yes Pete, he was the last CO of 77SQN when the Mirage retired”


Ex Group Captain Roger Wilson, along with his son Andrew and another Knuck, Brian “Tart” Johnson met with me at the RAAFAWA club at Bullcreek on Wednesday 17 Aug 22. Roger would buy two books and would shout me lunch if I met him there with the books.


During our conversation on the contents, I went to the Ephemera chapter and said to Roger that I had quite a few pics of the people in SQN photos etc and maybe I could knock up a little book about the people of the Mirage era.  He looked at me and said “Go for it, we’ll soak up anything you can give us”.


And so, on the 17 Aug 22, “THE RAAF MIRAGE FAMILY” was born. Roger has become a strong supporter and friend to me in this venture and I thank him and everyone who has got on board, from the highest ranks of ex RAAF pilots to the hundreds of troops who have answered my questions, provided the photos and generally supported what I was doing.

As of today, 8 DEC  23, I have just 5 books to post when the recipient lets me know they are home. In all some 620 books are out there among you. I hoped you would appreciate the work that went into producing the book and you have told me in no uncertain terms that you all are simply enjoying reliving the memories. My job is done!!



Comments from Geoff Pickburn MBE, WG CDR Ret

Hi Peter (Taylor),

Congratulations on a fabulous publication so thoroughly researched and so painstakingly compiled. I have been completely blown away by the detail, such that I feel part of the Mirage family myself, seeing so many familiar faces and locations.  I was on duty during a number of Mirage incidents, such as the engine fire at BUT and Geoff Kubank's ejection at WLM. Another name struck a chord, that of Choppy Gannell: he was a friend of Sgt George (GPT) McAuliffe - Instrument Fitter BUT 1968.  He often spoke about Choppy.   George,  (QT or Clock Winder, I guess?), was commissioned by transferring to ATC.  There he stayed for a few years before being accepted into the Engineering Branch at Victeoria Barracks.  He reached the rank of SQN LDR before retiring.  He and Lyn were lifelong friends of ours, well into our retirements, until their passing a few years ago.

I found it impossible to put the book down, wondering who or what I was going to recognise in the next pages.  I am impressed to the extent that I will release some moths from the wallet and transfer $50 to your bank account to go towards publication costs and to acknowledge a masterpiece which only the word "awesome" is appropriate.

In life there are those who can and do, then there are those who wish they could, but can't;  there are those whose focus is only on themselves, and finally, there are those whose talents lie in appreciating the work of achievers,  having a thorough understanding of the breadth and depth of the involvement required to create the final product.  You have left a huge footprint for posterity, which has earned its place in the chronicles of the Royal Australian Air Force.

I would not be surprised if you find yourself inundated with similar comments like mine, and follow-up anecdotes without number!  Here is mne:

On page 471 is a photograph of the Air Traffic Control Flight, not being picky, but I can date it to 1975, as Pedro Wilkinson (ex tradie) was involved in the post-Tracy reactivation of DAR. into 1975.  On promotion to SQNLDR, I was posted to WLM in January 1976.  All members, save Eddie Ayres were still there.   Eddie, by the way, was an ex WWII pilot. That ATC lot guided my faltering footsteps as a senior officer, for which I remain forever grateful. The photo sharpens those memories.

Of significance in the photo, were two ATCOs , Bruce Lawless and Col Maddock.  Back in 1963, ATC consisted of ex WWII aircrew, PLTOFF trainees who washed out of their aircrew training,  NCO tradies (primarily RADTECHS) who graduated as SGT, and from 1965, direct entry civilians, (including me in 19650, a pilot officer straight off civvy street but at least I was Army trained, last of the old Nasho draft 1959.

In 1963  as an experiment, two LACs from Maint Sqn ESL were selected for ATC training (C Flight CFS).  These were Bruce Lawless and Col Maddock. 
They graduated close to the top of their course, and as SGTs, proceded to cave out carers  at the very sharp end of ATC, BUT and WLM.  In 1968, as were all SGTs in ATC, they were commissioned in the rank of FLG OF, recognising their experiencein the field, and gaining seniority over direct entry and failed aircrew intake PLT OFFs.  Throughout their careers, Bruce and Col were in my top ten, not only professionally but with their families, the heartbeat of our social structure.  ATC was a very tight-knit branch with a strong cameraderie which persists to this day.  Col passed away a few years ago, and at his eulogy I was humbled to learn more of a man who was the complete package - exemplary in so many ways.  He was cool in any crisis, laid back, generous with his time and mentoring of trainees.  No less was Bruce.  Some experiment Hey! (out of space, cheers, Geoff)