09 March 2012

Leon-Kane Maguire - RIP

It began as one of my usual spur of the moment internet searches. Having not visited the RAAF's Air Power Development Centre online book shop for some time I sauntered over electronically for a quick browse. Sitting in the new publications list was a book cover that immediately attracted attention. Yes, the photo on the cover indicated it was a book very relevant to ABR, but it was the name of the author that ensured my interest was piqued to epic levels.

Leon Kane-Maguire. Besides Owen Zupp and Mark Lax LKM was the only author I've met and reviewed. Indeed I met him with Mark Lax when the pair were leaving Melbourne on their way home to Canberra. It was a fleeting visit in the street to exchange pleasantries and pick up a couple of copies of their latest joint project - the No. 466 Squadron RAAF history To See The Dawn Again. The second book about an RAAF squadron (the first was the well-known The Gestapo Hunters) written by the pair TSTDA followed solo projects by both authors - Alamein To The Alps for Lax and The Desert Scorpions for LKM - and is a worthy addition to their combined catalogue of work.

LKM left a lasting impression despite the very brief time we shared each other's company in late 2008. A couple of amusing comments and a genuine friendliness towards my wife and me, despite being on a bit of a mission to get home, provided a quick window into the character of the man. That, coupled with his obviously vast knowledge and ability to communicate effectively, flashed into my head as I left the APDC site and googled his name. Those memories were about to take on a particular poignancy.

The first result when you google "Leon Kane-Maguire" is sobering - Leon Kane Maguire 1942-2011. "No, not possible", I thought. "Surely I would have heard about his passing". Sadly, it proved all too true. One of Australia's most respected scientists (he was a leading light in chemistry and its application in industry and medicine in particular), researchers and teachers had died in early 2011.

Gone before his time most certainly, and with a few projects in mind no doubt, he has left a lasting legacy. His final completed work was the story of his father's life for his family. Indeed it was his father's loss during the war while flying with No. 464 Squadron that inspired him to research Australia's Article XV squadrons and become a master of extreme footnoting (very valuable). His final published work is the book found on the APDC site - Lost Without Trace. The story of Beaufighter pilot Squadron Leader Wilbur Wackett (the son of legendary aircraft 'all-rounder' Sir Lawrence Wackett) won the 2010 RAAF Heritage Award and was published in November of the following year - almost a year after the death of its author. That his latest book has been officially recognised so highly is testament to a man who appears to have excelled at everything he turned his hand to.

For us mere readers and collectors the memory of Leon Kane-Maguire, like the men he wrote about, will remain alive every time we dip into one of the books (or read it front to back or even just see it on the shelf) bearing his name. He set a standard of research that all who follow should aspire to and a catalogue of work that RAAF historians and aficionados alike will be grateful for in the decades to come.

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