Harry Goodwin remembers the day almost 70 years ago when Gough Whitlam stepped from the twin-engine bomber with the bullet hole in its engine.
Harry Goodwin remembers the day almost 70 years ago when Gough Whitlam stepped from the twin-engine bomber with the bullet hole in its engine. Contributed

M'boro man recalls meeting Gough Whitlam during wartime

HARRY Goodwin clearly remembers the day almost 70 years ago when Gough Whitlam stepped from the twin-engine bomber with the bullet hole in its engine.

"He was easy to spot. He was by far the tallest man in our squadron," said Harry, an 89-year-old Maryborough Labor stalwart and a former city councillor.

As the nation prepares to honour its former Prime Minister with a state memorial service, memories of the towering ALP leader are being re-lived around the nation and Harry has his own story to tell.

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Harry was an LAC mechanic with the RAAF 13th Squadron at Gove in early 1945 when Australia was battling air raids and trying to drive Japanese forces back from New Guinea and the islands.

"When that Lockheed Venturer came back to land at Gove with the bullet hole in the engine we all gathered around to inspect it, Harry said.

"Gough Whitlam was the navigator and I clearly remember him stepping from the plane. He wasn't easy to miss."

Harry met Gough Whitlam at ALP functions more than two decades later when the former navigator became ALP leader and, in 1972, prime minister for the three years that ended in the turbulent days of the dismissal.

"I reminded him of that day the first time I met him again," Harry said.

"He had a good memory. He always remembered my name when we met in a crowd."

Harry Goodwin served as a Maryborough ALP councillor for 20 years from 1962.

He is now Queensland's longest serving Scout leader.