29 May, 2022
George’s 99-year adventure
GEORGE Hopgood loves nothing more than being amongst the clouds and recently celebrated his 99th birthday, reminiscing his piloting days.
Born on 17 May 1923 in Deloraine, Tasmania, George grew up on his family apple orchard where he learned the ways of farming and secured a job as a truckie and transport driver.
At the age of 19, he married his first wife, a “good catholic girl” named Melva and welcomed their first son Jeffery to the world and gained a stepson, Neville. When World War II broke out, George left his family to defend the country and with his truckie experience behind him, he was able to sign up for the Australian Army as a transport driver in the 1st Battalion.
Working through some of the fiercest battles he had ever seen, George was posted at Papua New Guinea at the Port of Finchhaven and later at Morotai island and then the Dutch Indies.
The war grew stronger, but George fought harder, being ambushed by Japanese soldiers in the thickness of the South-east Asian rainforests. Faced with having to surrender to the enemy, George had a lucky escape when he was offered a ride as a navigator on a reconnaissance operation in a twin-engine Bristol Beaufighter fighterbomber named “Whispering Death”.
At this point, he didn’t know much about how to operate an aircraft, especially not during a war, but after a few hours of giving it a shot, he soon fell in love with flying and promised himself he would become a pilot once returning home.
George kept his promise, committing himself to life above the earth’s surface and began pilot training after the war at the Bankstown Airport, New South Wales in 1947.
He also remarried after the war, meeting his new wife Jean during the war when she was training to be a nurse. After landing a job in the aviation industry, he spent every moment he could in the cockpit of his aircraft until his retirement.
George settled in Cairns and the Tablelands in the later years of his life after spending the few years caravanning around with his wife Jean and found work at the Mareeba Airport in several roles.
Now at the age of 99, George still takes the time to visit the airport and loves to fly his model airplane at the MASCOT MQ Inc. club.
Residing at Carinya Home for the Aged in Atherton, he spends most his time with the facility’s men’s group and looks forward to his monthly BBQ catch ups. He is often hard at work on his artwork and ordering art supplies, writing letters, and chatting and reminiscing about flying to staff and visitors alike.