Frederick Gardner Davey, born in Bendigo on July 23rd 1917, is a true local hero with a remarkable story of service during World War II. Fred attended school in Bendigo and prior to enlisting he worked at the local Hume & Iser. In 1939, at the age of 22, Fred enlisted in the 17th Machine Gun Regiment and exhibited his commitment to duty, eventually earning the rank of Sergeant before his discharge from the Army two years later.


Undeterred in his pursuit of serving his country, Fred applied to join the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and commenced his service as a pilot on January 30th 1942. His dedication led him to the distinguished No. 44 Rhodesia Squadron on March 16th 1944, a unit named in honour of Rhodesia’s significant contribution to Britain’s war efforts. Notably, 25% of the squadron’s aircrew and ground staff hailed from Rhodesia. No. 44 Squadron became the first to fully convert to Lancasters and, tragically, suffered the third-highest overall casualties in RAAF Bomber Command during World War II.


Fred’s courage and indomitable spirit was evident during the Nuremberg Raid on the night of March 30th-31st 1944, the costliest raid of the war for the RAAF in terms of losses in a single night: a total of 779 aircraft flew out on the raid and 105 aircraft and 534 crew were lost, with a further 157 crew captured.


Despite the perilous nature of the work, Fred completed a total of 35 missions and earned the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 1944. Buckingham Palace hosted the investiture ceremony on May 18th 1945, where Fred was presented with the DFC, recognising his unwavering ‘fortitude, courage, and devotion to duty’ throughout numerous operations against the enemy.


Concluding his wartime service, Fred was discharged from the RAAF with the rank of Flying Officer on September 28th 1945, leaving behind a legacy of bravery and commitment to the defence of freedom during a challenging era in history and proving to the world that a local boy from Bendigo can fly high on the world stage.