Advice has been received of the passing of CMDR Ben Matthews at the age of 94.
Commander Bryan (Ben) Matthews was born in Snowtown SA on 7 April 1928. He was undergoing an auto mechanic apprenticeship when he joined the RAN in February 1949. After basic training at Flinders ND, he was posted to Nowra as a Naval Air Mechanic, and transferred to aircrew training the following year. He joined No. 6 Pilots Course at Pt Cook, graduating in December 1951 after which he was promoted to Acting Sub Lieutenant and sailed to the UK for operational training.
On return to Australia he trained as a Firefly pilot, subsequently serving in Korea. Back at Nowra Lieutenant Matthews flew Firefly and Sea Fury aircraft, underwent a Vampire jet conversion, spent time flying the DC3 and did a Sycamore helicopter conversion, before becoming an instructor at RAAF East Sale. After instructing on 724 Squadron as Senior Pilot (Sea Venoms), he was posted as Senior Naval Officer at RAAF Pearce where he was promoted Lieutenant Commander. There followed postings to NOICWA (Ops Officer) and HMAS Quickmatch before he was once again in Nowra as Senior Pilot 723.
From April 1962 he attended RAF Central Flying School in the UK training as a helicopter instructor, and converted to the Wessex and the Scout, returning to Australia in November of that year as Commanding Officer 725 Squadron.
Postings to HMAS Vampire, Supply, and Harman, Staff College (UK) preceded his appointment as Air Group Commander (CAG), HMAS Melbourne in November 1969. Commander Matthews was Deputy Director Naval Aviation Policy from January 1971 and retired form the Navy in 1974.
At CCAE (now Canberra University), he studied modern languages, and joined the Department of Transport as SAR Coordinator.
In 1994, Ben moved to Caloundra where he remained until his death, busying himself in the Sunshine Coast community, including establishing a potters’ studio. In the succeeding years, Ben travelled widely, including to Japan (he had studied Japanese at ANU), and extensively in Australia. He suffered personal tragedies with the deaths of his first wife June and second wife Merron, both from cancer. After meeting and subsequently marrying Therese, he enjoyed a productive retirement in Caloundra while travelling extensively together (at least annually), in Europe, Asia, North America, and even to Antarctica.
He is survived by Therese, daughter Nerida, and two sons, Bryan and Mark.