Peter Stuart Isaacson AM, DFC, AFC, DFM
Peter left BGS to start working as a messenger boy for The Age at the age of 16. Three years later, in 1940 he joined the RAAF. After completing his training in Australia and Canada, he was posted to the UK. Peter completed 45 sorties with Bomber Command, when the likelihood of surviving an operational tour of 30 missions was never more than 50 percent and, at times, much less.
Peter was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal in November 1942 for “many successful night attacks on the enemy.”
He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 30 March 1943 for his actions during a raid on Berlin. His citation read: “One night in March 1943, this officer was detailed for an attack on Berlin. Following the attack and while still over the target area, his aircraft was hit by anti- aircraft fire and severely damaged. The mid-upper turret frame was twisted, the perspex and 2 engine cowlings blown off, the aileron controls damaged and the aircraft forced down to 4,000 feet. On the return journey the aircraft was driven off the route and held in a cone of searchlights for 15 minutes; during this time a further loss of height down to 900 feet occurred. In the face of this perilous situation Pilot Officer Issacson, showing coolness, resolution and skilful airmanship, succeeded in flying his aircraft back to base. This officer is an outstanding captain of aircraft who has a fine record of many successful operational sorties.”
In May 1943, Peter was chosen to captain Lancaster Q-for-Queenie on a landmark flight from England to Australia across the Pacific Ocean, and then from Melbourne to New Zealand and back, non-stop in both directions. The Lancaster was brought to Australia so that it could serve as a template for local production of the type, but this never took place and it was instead used for exhibition flights to encourage purchase of war bonds.
On 22 October 1943 Peter flew Q-for-Queenie under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, flouting a 1931 regulation that prohibited such activity. The Lancaster remains the largest aircraft to have been flown under the bridge.
Isaacson gave his crew no warning of what he was about to do and when asked later why he did it, replied “Because it was there”.
His wartime commission was terminated in February 1946 and he transferred to the RAAF Reserve. He served as an honorary aide-de-camp to Queen Elizabeth II from 1963 to 1965.
After working as aviation correspondent for The Argus in Melbourne, Peter set up his first newspaper, The Advertiser in 1947 and established Peter Isaacson Publications the same year.
Over the years, the Advertiser consolidated with other local papers to create the all-encompassing Southern Cross, a paid suburban paper spanning the southern suburbs of Melbourne. Peter also published Sunday Observer and various business and industry magazines.
In 1993, the Southern Cross was sold to APN News and Media. Peter gave up his day-to-day duties to become a director of APN. He continued publishing until 2003.
In June 1991 Peter was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia “for services to the print media and the community”.
Peter is a Life Governor of the Victorian Shrine of Remembrance, having previously served as a Trustee from 1956 to 2000, and Chairman from 1983 to 2000.
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