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EACH year when Anzac Day comes around to stir the national conscience the roll call of former service men and women inevitably becomes thinner and thinner.
For age eventually does weary them.
This year with the world again at war with an unseen enemy and once familiar faces will be missing from the participants in the virtual commemoration in Lithgow.
Last week Lithgow lost William Mansell, who in recent times was a resident of Cooinda Aged People's Home.
At just 18 in 1944, William enlisted from Lithgow in the RAAF and initially trained as an air gunner and wireless operator, he was then discharged at the end of hostilities with a sergeant rank.
In 1950 he re-enlisted in the RAAF and undertook pilot training at Point Cook in Victoria and Amberley in Queensland, earning his wings the following year.
In 1952 his squadron was sent to Singapore where coalition forces were based during operations against Communist forces during the Malayan campaign.
During a nine month tour of duty as a bomber pilot he flew around 80 missions, both day and night.
A family member said that, like so many other service personnel, he had been haunted in post war life by the inevitable collateral loss of civilians in the insurgency.
He lost four mates from his Point Cook training group during active service in that era in Korea.
Back in Australia he was based for a time at Richmond, flying Neptune maritime reconnaissance aircraft, prior to quitting the Air Force in 1955.
In civilian life Tom continued to fly as a commercial airline pilot and was tasked with the delivery flights from the Netherlands to Australia with the then new Focker Friendship aircraft for East West Airlines.
He also flew with Qantas and in the mid 70s moved with his wife Nola to Borneo to captain aircraft for the then Malaysian Airline Service.
Tom later returned to his birth place of Lithgow where he was reunited with his inseparable mate from his RAAF days, Jack Crane, a long serving member of the Lithgow RSL sub branch.
Together they were among those familiar faces in silent tribute at Anzac Day in Lithgow.
Jack died a few weeks ago.
Tom died last week at the age of 94.
He is survived by two daughters, three grandchildren and one great grandchild.
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