Good Friday marked a month since the passing of Hedley Thomas (Snr) AM. He died on the Gold Coast on 14 March 2017 and served with distinction in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force.
Hedley first contacted me in mid-2014. He was straight to the point:
“I have some material for your talks. I’m an ex RAAF wing commander – not a nutter.”
And he certainly was no nutter. Rather, Australia is worse for his loss. As reported by Des Houghton in the Courier Mail, Hedley was alive to the threat posed by Islam long before many Australians had even heard of it:
“The former RAAF helicopter and military jet pilot, and avid long-distance solo sailor, began to warn incessantly about the looming risks to the West of Islamic extremism in the early 90s, a decade before the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
His antenna for strife was well tuned as a 28-year-old RAAF chopper pilot in the Vietnam War, as a leader of squadrons, and, later, as commander of a United Nations taskforce in the Middle East.
Thomas was a genuine Australian warrior and one of the most plain-speaking blokes I have ever met…
…He had been campaigning to alert people to Saudi and other Islamic hardliners for years. He understood the Saudi mentality better than most, having lived for six years in Riyadh as a pilot instructor with British Aerospace, a decade after he left the air force as a Wing Commander.
The oppression and anti-West sentiments he found in Saudi Arabia shocked and worried him. He was especially concerned by the persecution of women whose rights are brutally suppressed under Islamic law.”
Hedley Thomas was responsible for raising concerns about Saudi funding for Griffith University a decade ago. Those concerns remain with leaked Saudi documents revealing in 2015 that this funding continues across Australia in order to influence universities, media and Islamic groups.
It was Hedley who first drew my attention to the Navy’s infamous Mona Shindy. He sent me a link to her 2015 speech to the Royal United Services Institute of New South Wales stating:
“When I first came across it I thought it was a practical joke, as the article contains so many errors. However, Shindy actually exists and the article is genuine.”
Indeed Shindy does exist and remains in the Navy. And it was not surprising that her speech concerned Hedley. Shindy, in her capacity as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy, called for government funding for mosques, imams and pro-Islamic ‘education’ of the Australian community. She also offered excuses for the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, blamed terrorism on our continued ‘oppression’ of Muslims and demanded that the actions of the Islamic world cease being viewed through a ‘Western lens’. You can read my article about Shindy’s speech here.
Fortunately, the efforts of this website did result in the removal of Shindy’s Twitter account. That was an important victory and it would not have occurred without the initial actions of Hedley Thomas.
I remain extremely grateful for the support that Hedley Thomas provided this website and for the support provided by many other Vietnam veterans. His name is now on the 9 Squadron Association honour roll, sadly with an increasing number of others.
Australia treated these men with contempt on their return from operations. It took many years for this shameful chapter in our history to be addressed. Today’s veterans have not had to face the same problem. However, I personally am concerned that they may face one far worse: a nation that appears grateful for service on the surface, but that underneath has shown far greater contempt by opening the door to the enemy.
Hedley Thomas provides an example for today’s veterans: the war might be over but the fight to defend our values goes on. As Anzac Day approaches, it is fitting that he be remembered for his service to Australia. Both in Vietnam and at home.
Lest we forget
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.