Wartime pilot remembered

ROBY Manuel was not only a courageous and exemplary wartime pilot.

Grandsons Warren Manuel, left, and Mark McCleary unveil a plaque recognising Captain Roby Manuel DFC and Bar.

Grandsons Warren Manuel, left, and Mark McCleary unveil a plaque recognising Captain Roby Manuel DFC and Bar.

He was an innovative grain farmer, served his community as a shire councillor and was a local aviation pioneer in peacetime.

His exploits as a pilot in the pioneering Australian Flying Corps during World War One earned him accolades for his skills during battles with the enemy over European skies and he returned with thanks from a grateful nation.

Roby Lewis Manuel was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and later the Bar to the DFC for his wartime exploits and rose to the rank of captain.

His story is well known locally, but there is now an added reminder of his lifetime of service.

Fittingly, Kerang Aerodrome is the site of a new plaque that will preserve the memories of a real life legend, who, apart from his time away serving his country as a soldier and airman, and some time away from the district with extended family after his parents died, resided in the district from his birth in 1895 until his death in 1975.

A précis of the life of Captain Roby Manuel is outlined on a plaque now standing beside the entrance to the apron at the aerodrome, unveiled as part of the ANZAC centenary in association with Gannawarra Shire Council.

Gannawarra mayor, Cr Brian Gibson said that Captain Manuel had exhibited courage and dedication while flying in a wartime environment.

He was known to have shot down at least 12 German aircraft and was engaged in dogfights against German flying ace Baron von Richtofen, also known as the Red Baron.

Two grandsons who have followed with Captain Manuel's love of flying unveiled the plaque in front of family members, friends and local aviators.

Cr Gibson said that the ANZAC centenary project encouraged communities to recognise someone who had gone above and beyond in their service to our country.

"There is no argument that Roby Manuel was a war hero and pioneer aviator and worthy of this honour," he said.

Cr Gibson said that Captain Manuel was "an amazing man" who provided an aerobatic show while leading the victory flypast over London. He later provided his private aircraft for service during World War Two and encouraged local people to take up flying.

Fairley farmer Ernie Moore was a child when he first witnessed the aerial capabilities of the former wartime pilot in district skies.

One of his tricks was in tribute to his eight children.

"He could do eight loops consecutively without losing any height," he said.

On another occasion, a gust of wind tipped his plane and he was left hanging in his harness.

"He hopped into another (plane) and kept on going," Mr Moore said.

Flying family. Roby Manuel's daughter-in-law Marlene Manuel, grandson Warren Manuel and great grandson Ryder Bray in Warren's 1941 Tiger Moth.

Flying family. Roby Manuel's daughter-in-law Marlene Manuel, grandson Warren Manuel and great grandson Ryder Bray in Warren's 1941 Tiger Moth.

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