Does anyone know if this great man is still alive? He'd be over 80 now. Robin Gollan was a friend of my father's in the 1950s (William Roy, former RAAF and Telecom technical officer). I'd love to talk to him if I could.
Here is a bit of his story:
Bob Gollan was a schoolteacher. Then World War II engulfed Australia and in September 1942 Flight Lieutenant Robin Allenby Gollan became an RAAF navigator in Beaufort reconnaissance bombers. In early 1944, while based near Sydney, Gollan and Ivan Barber, his closest friend, were due a weekend's leave before again being sent north. And because Barber, a West Australian, had no family close by, Gollan, with a young wife and baby son, invited him home in Sydney.
But Gollan's leave was cancelled at the last minute and he was ordered on a weekend operation. Barber offered to take his place. The RAAF agreed. Gollan went home to his wife and baby. Barber went off on flying operations. Over the weekend two of the Beauforts collided, killing both four-man crews. Flying Officer Cedric Ivan Barber, 29, was among the dead.
Bob Gollan, then 26, never forget it should have been him. He said yesterday: "Ivan and I were a bit older than most of the kids in No. 1 squadron, so we'd become close friends. We'd already collected our week's grog at the time - two bottles of beer each - when the order came down for me to replace someone.
"I remember us looking at each other, and him saying, 'Look, you've got your family to see. I'll go in your place.' And he did. Obviously I remember him - vividly. We lost a lot of mates, but if he'd not taken my place I'd have been the one who died that weekend."
The date was February 2, 1944.
After the war Gollan lectured at Sydney Teachers College until, in 1953, he began a distinguished career of almost 30 years at the new Australian National University in Canberra. Among his appointments was as Manning Clark professor of history until 1982, the year he retired as emeritus professor. It was the year I met him. Bob Gollan loved the Australian bush - "the bush" was the only recreation ever listed in his Who's Who entry - and he and Anne bought an isolated, unspoiled lump of bush and beach near Bermagui, on the South Coast, "where camping out was the closest thing I knew to paradise."
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