‘The longest four hours I can remember’
Lindsay Walter was a young South Australian farmer, newly married, when he enlisted in the RAAF on 21 April 1942. A few weeks later he was in Melbourne, taking the bus each day with fellow trainees to Brunswick Technical School where he learned to be a flight mechanic and fitter. Like hundreds of other new recruits, Lindsay was billeted at Melbourne’s Exhibition Buildings. ‘My bed was on a balcony upstairs, overlooking the main hall and I could watch concerts from my bedside,’ he recalled.
One Saturday a group of friends invited Lindsay and some other RAAF trainees out for a night on the town. ‘We were all ready to leave about 8:00pm,’ said Lindsay.
‘We had to cross through the main hall to go out and this we were doing—when a voice said, “you and you, you’re wanted for guard duty”. We pleaded that we were invited out but that didn’t do anything at all. My mate Harry Wallschutzky, from Broken Hill, was put on duty just outside a side gate and I was to relieve him at 2:00am.’
A couple of hours before Lindsay was due to take over though, his friend saved a girl from an American soldier who had attacked her in the neighbouring gardens. ‘Harry heard the scream and raced down to her and the killer was trying to cut her throat on the barbed wire fence. When Harry arrived he ran off, but Harry could see it was a Yank soldier. He took the girl into the Exhibition Buildings and raised the alarm,’ said Lindsay.
‘Well you can guess how I felt, starting my shift from 2:00am till 6:00am after all this happening. I was instructed to have my rifle at the ready, in case he came back. That means cocked ready to fire. I think that was the longest four hours I can remember.’
US serviceman Edward Joseph Leonski was found guilty of murdering three women in Melbourne and was hanged at Pentridge Prison on 9 November 1942.
Lindsay Walter left the Exhibition Buildings in July 1942 and served with the RAAF at air bases across southern Australia until December 1945, when he settled down to family life at last.