Local pilot lived life to fullest

On 11 January 1944, The Newcastle Sun reported the award of a Distinguished Flying Cross to a Hamilton man, Flight-Lieut. Aubrey (‘Titus’) Oates, “who is a member of a Beaufort bomber squadron in New Guinea, was made for a daring night attack at mast head height sinking an 8000-ton Japanese transport ship in Rabaul Harbour.” The Sun added, “Oates learned to fly with the Newcastle Aero Club when he was 16 and since then he has never been out of the air for more than a fortnight.”

Oates gained the nickname ‘Titus’ during his childhood, he preferred it to ‘Aubrey’.  Born in 1922, he attended Hamilton Public School and then to Knox Grammar School at Wahroonga (Sydney).  Post school he worked in the insurance industry and with the outbreak of WWII he enlisted in the RAAF as a cadet pilot.

In September 1943 Flight Lieutenant Oates, 6 Squadron RAAF, was heading to Papua via Townsville to fly a Bristol Beaufort British twin-engine torpedo bomber. 

Oates was promoted to Squadron Leader on 1 July 1944, leaving the RAAF in November to become chief test pilot for De Havilland in Australia. After the Mosquito building program ended in 1948 Titus became a charter pilot flying immigrants from Europe to Australia.

Winning the lottery after his return to Australia, Titus acquired the license of the Good Intent Hotel at Campbelltown.  During the 1949 coal miners’ strike, he would fly as far as Adelaide locating supplies for the hotel.  In 1953 Oates and his navigator acquired a Mosquito to take part in the London to Christchurch air race. It wasn’t to be, they had to ditch the plane in a swamp on the Bay of Bengal en-route to London to join the race.  

He sold the hotel and then pursued a career in the emerging television industry. The next challenge was flying a De Havilland Hornet in the Redex air reliability trial. Oates and his co-pilot, Hugh Hamilton, finished second in the fifteen day event on 15 August 1954.

Reports are scant about his later years; it is known he was in the Sudan in the early 1970s.  Titus died of a cerebral haemorrhage in Zambia in about May 1979 while behind the wheel of his car.