A descendant of early pioneers of New South Wales, James Rowland combined a thirst for adventure with a strong sense of duty. Aged just 22, he became a Lancaster pilot in the elite Pathfinder force, flying 34 missions over occupied Europe and being awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. In January 1945, he was the only survivor of a collision with a Canadian aircraft over Germany. After narrowly escaping being shot as a spy, he spent the rest of the war as a POW.
Returning to the RAAF in 1947, Rowland was a test pilot during the early years of the supersonic era, and played a leading role in the Mirage procurement. His leadership qualities and technical expertise saw him become head of RAAF engineering in 1972, and, in a controversial appointment, Chief of the Air Staff in 1975, the first and still the only engineer to head the RAAF.
In 1981, Rowland was appointed Governor of New South Wales, a position he held with distinction for eight years. A brilliant pilot and aeronautical engineer, who combined a strong commitment to duty with a great sense of fun, Rowland has a well-earned place among the great leaders of the RAAF.
Peter Yule is a research fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. He has written widely on Australian military and economic and medical history with his books including histories of the Collins Class submarine project, Australian National Airways and the Australian economy in the First World War and biographies of business leaders W L Baillieu and Sir Ian Potter. His latest book is the Long Shadow of the Long Hais: Australia’s Vietnam Veterans Since the War.