OBITUARY: Walter Scott dodged death in warplane and went on to launch an airline

Walter Scott
Walter Scott

Walter Scott survived a string of missions as an airman under the notoriously-dangerous Bomber Command.

He went on to found an airline and later emigrated to Australia, where the business he founded continues to this day.

He was born on July 15, 1923, to William James – who was himself a World War One veteran – and his wife Ellen.

They ran a farm beside Ballyronan, east Co Tyrone, and he attended the local primary school and then Rainey Endowed School, Magherafelt.

He enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1941 on his 18th birthday.

He had aimed to be a pilot, but the military had a more pressing need for navigators.

He was given a post with 101 Squadron on September 10, 1943.

His funeral heard that upon arrival with the squadron, he and his comrades were told by their Commanding Officer that they were an average bunch – mere “Hitler fodder” – adding: “You’ll need to pull yourselves together if you’re going to survive a tour.”

His eulogy goes on to add that, out of seven crews which arrived at around the same time, his was the only one to survive the war.

The eulogy recounts one particular story which ended with him receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the aircraft had released its bombs during a raid, the crew had been taking photographs when “a large chunk of their wing disappeared in a fiery explosion”, caused by a bomb dropped from above by a friendly aircraft.

The crew decided not to bail out because Walter’s parachute could not be found, and the pilot instead put the craft into a steep descent to try and extinguish the blaze.

The plane remained intact (to Walter’s amazement) although the navigational equipment was destroyed.

The tale concludes: “Walter safely navigated the plane back home using the stars.”

It was not the only time he cheated death.

He remained in the military until January 1947, and was based in India and Australia.

On one particular flight, he had been ordered to follow a course taking him from Australia to the subcontinent, keeping close to the coast.

He chose to disobey the order. It was monsoon season, and he feared the craft would be caught in a storm.

Instead he charted a course straight over the ocean, and when the plane landed he expected to be disciplined; however, it then emerged that two other planes which did follow the coastal route had failed to return.

When he returned home to Ballyronan, he helped to found a sand business called H&W Scott Sand Merchants.

He was granted a private licence to fly in 1962, and three years later he launched a venture called Emerald Airways, of which he was the chairman.

According to an edition of the magazine Flight International – published in April 1966 – it was based in Belfast, had 20 employees, and a fleet of two planes (with another three on order) flying to the Republic and Scotland.

A later edition of the magazine stated that by the end of 1966, Hibernian Airlines had acquired control of the firm.

The following year, Walter decided to emigrate to Australia with wife Jean.

He started a roofing firm in eastern Australia, and then later a moved further north along the east coast to Townsville where he set up Scott Brickworks.

“Now you might ask, why leave a very successful business and venture into the unknown in another country,” his eulogy said.

“Maybe he was bored, or was it that he could foresee the troubles brewing in Northern Ireland and settled for the more laid back lifestyle in Australia.”

Walter remained there for the rest of his life.

He died on October 19, aged 92. His funeral was on October 28 at Woongarra Crematorium Chapel. He was cremated.

He is survived by widow Jean, six children, 16 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.