Alfred George Pither

Alfred George Pither
Born(1908-10-16)16 October 1908
Shepparton, Victoria, Australia
Died2 July 1971(1971-07-02) (aged 62)
Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia
Service/branchRoyal Australian Air Force
Years of service1927–1966
RankAir Commodore
Service numberO323
Commands heldNo. 1 Aircraft Depot RAAF
Battles/warsSecond World War:
AwardsCommander of the Order of the British Empire

Air Commodore Alfred George Pither, CBE (16 October 1908 – 2 July 1971) was a Royal Australian Air Force officer. During the Second World War he established a chain of long-range radar stations throughout Australia and the South West Pacific. After the war, he helped in planning the Long Range Weapons Establishment, which he named "Woomera".

Early life

Flight training course in December 1930. Pither is seated, second from the left

Alfred George Pither was born in Shepparton, Victoria, on 16 October 1908, the oldest of the six children of James Luke Pither, a farmer, and his wife Rosanna Amelia née Fletcher.[1] He was educated at Pine Lodge Primary School and Shepparton High School, from which he obtained his leaving certificate. He served in the Australian Army Cadets from 1 July 1925 to 28 October 1926, reaching the rank of corporal. He entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon, on 16 February 1927.[2]

On graduation from Duntroon on 9 December 1930, Pither was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Australian Army, but the following day became a pilot officer in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) with the service number O323.[3] After completing No. 10 Flying Training Course, and parachute and signals training, he joined No. 1 Squadron RAAF.[3][4] He was promoted to flying officer on 1 July 1932. He was admitted to Caulfield Military Hospital on 19 December 1932 with appendicitis, but the operation was botched. A swab was left in his stomach, resulting in infection. He was readmitted, and a kidney had to be removed.[4]

Temporarily rendered unfit for flying duties, Pither pursued his interest in signals. He sailed for the UK on the RMS Mooltan in March 1936, and attended the Royal Air Force (RAF) Long Signals Course at RAF Cranwell. While there, he was promoted to flight lieutenant on 1 April 1936. On returning to Australia he was given command of the RAAF Signals Training School at RAAF Laverton. He reorganised it, and arranged for it to move to a new permanent home at nearby RAAF Point Cook. He was promoted to the temporary rank of squadron leader on 1 September 1939.[3][4]

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