Crombie, Charles Arbuthnot, born 16-03-1914 in Brisbane, Queensland, to David William Alexander Crombie, a grazing farmer, and his Indian-born British wife Phoebe Janet (born Arbuthnot), the daughter of Lieutenant General Sir Charles Arbuthnot. During his youth, Crombie was educated at the Sydney Church of England Grammar School in North Sydney. Completing his schooling, he was employed as a jackeroo on his family’s property near Warwick, Queensland. In 1934, Crombie enlisted in the Citizens Military Force and was allotted to the 11th Light Horse Regiment. His service with the unit was to last until 1938, by which time he had obtained the rank of sergeant.
With the ambition of becoming a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force, Crombie undertook instruction in civil flying. Completing his course, he enlisted in the Air Force on 24-10-1940, age26. He was initially posted to RAAF Station Richmond, before transferring to No. 2 Initial Training School at RAAF Bradfield Park in June, where he was advanced to leading aircraftman. The following month, Crombie was attached to No. 5 Empire Flight Training School. On finishing his stint with the unit, he was posted to No. 2 Embarkion Depot on 18 September. In a ceremony two days later, Crombie married Betty Deane-Butcher; the couple would later have a son.
On 03-10-1940—two weeks after his wedding—Crombie embarked a ship at Sydney, bound for Canada. He arrived three weeks later, where he completed an additional two months of advanced flight training. Crombie was commissioned as a pilot officer on 17-01-1941, and set sail for the United Kingdom nine days later. In May, he was attached to the Royal Air Force’s No. 25 Squadron, piloting Bristol Beaufighters. During the First World War, No. 25 Squadron operated as a fighter-reconnaissance unit and later as a bomber squadron. Pilots from the Squadron, Corporol James Henry Waller and 2nd Lieutenant Georgge Reynolds McCubbin, shot down the famous German fighter ace Max Immelmann in June 1916. While with the unit, he flew his first operational sortie on 13 June; he was promoted to flying officer the next month. Crombie continued to serve with the squadron until October, by which time he had flown a total of twelve operational sorties over the European theatre, including two raids; one over Germany, and the other to Brest, France.
Crombie was transferred to the Mediterranean and Middle East Theatreand posted to No. 89 Squadron RAF under command of Wing Commander George Hedley Stainforth , in October 1941, operating over Egypt and Malta. On the night of 27-09-1942, Wing Commander Stainforth, age 43, was killed in action whilst piloting the aircraft Beaufighter X7700 at Gharib, near the Gulf of Suez. He was buried with full military honours, at the British Cemetery Ismailia, Egypt. Also flying Beaufighters, Crombie piloted his first foray with the unit on 21 October, and by the end of the year had been accredited with the destruction of six Axis aircraft, with an additional two probables. Throughout 1942, the squadron continued to operate over North Africa and the Middle East, with Crombie adding three more aircraft to his tally.
In January 1943, Crombie was once again transferred, this time to No. 176 Squadron RAF stationed in India, operating in support of operations in the Burma Campaign; he arrived at his new post on 12 January and was promoted to flight lieutenant five days later. By the time he left the Middle East, Crombie had been accorded an official tally of nine Axis aircraft shot down, with two probables.
On 08-05-1945, to celebrate Victory in Europe Victory Day, 12 aircraft from No. 5 Operational Training Unit were detailed to do a flypast over Newcastle, New South Wales. Crombie headed the group, which comprised six Beaufighters followed by six Mosquitoes; the final aircraft in the group was piloted by Flight Lieutenant Charles William “Bud” Tingwell.
Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell was born on 03-01-1923 in Coogee, New South Wales, Australia as Charles William Tingwell. After the war he became a famous actor and producer, Tingwell died on 15-03-2009, age 86, of prostate cancer in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
The flypast concluded successfully, and the formation returned to base. However, as the group neared the aerodrome, the other pilots disobeyed Crombie’s orders and carried out a feint attack on the installation. He called the men into his office and reprimanded them as a result.
Death and burial ground of Crombie, Charles Arbuthnot.
On 26-08-1945, Crombie was flying a Beaufighter on a test flight. He completed the flight and returned to base. Coming in to land, a problem occurred in one of the engines and he fell short of the runway; Crombie, age 31, was killed in the resulting collision, just two weeksafter the conflict ended. He crash landed in a swamp and his pants were on fire. He had to fight off a whole lot of native people because they were trying to captyre him.. Survived by his wife and one-year-old son, his funeral was attended by all the personnel of No. 5 Operational Training Unit. He was subsequently buried in Sandgate War Cemetery. Fellow No. 5 Operational Training Unit instructor Bud Tingwell later described him as “one of the best pilots in the air force”.
Campbell McIntyre never met his great grandfather Charles Crombie, but he knows what his legacyt means for ever