Aubrey John Raymond Oates was born in 1922 in Newcastle, to parents Henry and Annie. His sister Dorothy was 10 years his senior. He gained his nickname “Titus” during his childhood, and preferred to be called Titus rather than Aubrey. Leaving his job as an insurance officer to enlist in the RAAF in 1940 at the age of 18, he started as an air cadet, and became chief test pilot for de Havilland, makers of the Mosquito fighter bomber. His father died in 1941, sadly not seeing his son appointed as a Squadron Leader in 1944, the same year that he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He had accumulated over 6000 hours flying in more than 50 types of aircraft. He married Jacqueline Sonia Lewis in 1945, with whom I believe he had three children.
When the Mosquito building program ended in 1948, “Titus” found himself a job flying immigrants from Europe to Australia for a private charter company. He returned to live in Australia, and, with an unbelievable stroke of good luck, won the Lottery! This enabled him to enter business, and he became the licensee of the Good Intent Hotel at Campbelltown. During the 1949 coal miners' strike, he would go on a “beer barn-storming mission” flying his Comper Swift, to ensure the beer supply at the Good Intent was kept flowing! He would fly as far as Adelaide locating supplies for the hotel.
In 1952, “Titus”, after a great deal of persuasion and lobbying, was given an ex RAAF Mosquito by the government in order to compete in the England to New Zealand Air Race (London to Christchurch). The plane was equipped with special long range fuel tanks built into the bomb bay and new radio equipment, and with co-pilot Flight-Lieutenant Douglas Swain, “Titus” set about training and preparing for the race. In order to compete, they needed to fly to London, by October 8th, 1953. Flying from Perth to Carnarvon, then to the Cocos Islands, a course was set for Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) but the intrepid pair ran into a terrible electrical storm above the Indian Ocean, and had to crash land the plane off the coast of Burma (now Myanmar). Landing in swampy mud, they were rescued by natives paddling out to them in canoes. They were taken to Mergui, and from there picked up by an RAF Valetta and taken to Penang. After medical examination at Butterworth RAF station in Malaya, Oates and Swain recuperated before returning to Australia. Thus ended any hope of competing in the race. The Mosquito was un-retrievable. Oates declared after returning home, “I went straight to my own pub, the “Good Intent” at Campbelltown and gave myself an Australian beer”!
This rare shot by Max Mead (courtesy of Ron Cuskelly collection) shows the Mosquito at the Cocos Islands whilst en route to London.
In 1954 “Titus” sold the Good Intent hotel, in order to enter television production and film making. Only sketchy information is available after this, but the following nuggets of information were found on the net:
- “I worked as a recruiter and then, later-on, as a line pilot with Titus Oates for a time in the early 1970s, first in Australia, then in the UK and in the Sudan, where he was Chief Pilot for a cotton-spraying operation. “
- “He died of a cerebral haemorrhage in Zambia in about May 1979 and was behind the wheel of his car at the time.”
- “Worldly wise, world-traveled, intelligent, impeccably well-mannered, enjoyed a drink or two -- absolutely a delightful man and a wonderful companion! Would walk a mile on broken glass to help a friend!”
If anyone out there has more information about Titus Oates’ later years, we would love to hear from you!
Written by Claire Lynch
Local Studies Pamphlet Files