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Many barristers enlisted in the RAAF and one of them was John Clifford Papayanni. Although destined to be a pilot and successfully finishing his training flying Tiger Moths and Wirraways (check photos above from his No.5 S.F.T.S. training - Cliff seats far left on the front row in the group photo) he didn't get his wings because his luck runs out and the RAAF no longer needed pilots during that stage of the war. He thus went overseas as a wireless air gunner. At the beginning of 1943 and as a result of heavy losses of aircrews and airplanes, the RAF started developing a top secret radio jamming system known as Airborne Cigar or ABC. Papayanni had learned German at school and became a special operator, listening into German communications and jamming the signals, from on board Lancaster bombers. SOs, as they were called, were isolated in an unheated part of the aircraft, where temperatures sank to minus 50 degrees. They posed as German radio controllers to spread disinformation, but breaking radio silence made the aircraft especially vulnerable to tracking by enemy fighters. As a result, 101 Squadron lost 75 percent of its aircrews and more aircraft than any other squadron. Not only that, SOs were subject to torture for information if captured. Many lives were saved when 101 Squadron’s SOs fooled the Germans into thinking the D-Day landings were to be at the Pas-de-Calais. (Nicole Papayanni & Frank Ellis Collection via

John Clifford Papayanni was born in Wagga Wagga, on May 5 1920. He was the youngest of three sons (Basil and George) of Nicholas Papayanni and his wife, Winifred (Nee Hill). All of them grew up in Kogarah. Cliff's grandfather and great-uncle (Basilio and George) from Smyrna of Asia Minor, had founded the "Papayanni Steamship Company" in Liverpool, England. Unfortunately, Basilio's son, Nicholas, gambled away the fortune and headed to Australia, where he met and married Winifred. Cliff was brilliant at school and earned entrance into the selective Canterbury Boys High School, where he was always at the top of his class. Unfortunately, as the family was poor, he was forced to quit school early. Cliff loved school and cried the day he was compelled to leave and find work, at the age of 13, in order to earn money.

When the Second World War erupted, Cliff answered the call. He enlisted to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in No.2 Recruit Center, in Sydney, on April 24 1942, as Aircraftman (AC), where he applied for pilot training. He was transferred to No.3 I.T.S on Bradfield Park, for his initial training. On July 18 1942, he was promoted to Leading Aircraftman (LAC) and 9 days later he was transferred to No. 8 Elementary Flying Training School (No. 8 E.F.T.S), in Narrandera, New South Wales. It was one of twelve elementary flying training schools employed by the RAAF, to provide introductory flight instruction to new pilots, as part of Australia's contribution to the Empire Air Training Scheme. With the schools Tiger Moths, Cliff took off for the skies for the first time and he successfully finished his elementary training approximately 4 months later. The next assignment for the Greek parentage Australian was to Uranquinty, in order to attend No. 5 Service Flying Training School (No. 5 SFTS). He was posted on November 23, 1942, and successfully finished school training sorties. He was about to appear on his wings’ parade at Uranquinty when a bout of measles interrupted. He was forced to wait until the next parade and in the interim, much to his chagrin, change in government policy meant that he was no longer needed as a pilot at that stage. Although a difficult moment for every promising aviator, Clifford choose to stay in RAAF and fight for freedom as an aircrew member. On April 1 1943, he attends No.2 Wireless Air Gunners School (No.2 WAGS), in RAAF Station Parkes, New South Wales. Almost 6 months later, on October 17, 1943, he graduated and was sent to the No.2 Bombing and Gunnery School (No.2 BAGS) in Port Pirie, where he stayed until November 23, 1943. The same day he packed up his personal things and traveled to the No.2 Embarkation Depot. Few days before he had been promoted to Sgt. On November 26 he embarked from Sydney and on January 10, 1944, he disembarked in England. He stayed for 2 months in various Recruit Centers before he was transferred to No.1 Base in Lincolnshire. One month later he was again transferred to No.101 Sqn. Ludford Magna Lancaster’s in 1943 were equipped with a top secret radio jamming system codenamed "Airborne Cigar" (ABC) operated by an eighth crew member who could understand German, some with German or Jewish backgrounds known as "special operators" commonly abbreviated to "spec ops" or "SO". They sat in a curtained off area towards the rear of the aircraft and located and jammed German fighter controller's broadcasts, occasionally posing as controllers to spread disinformation. The aircraft fitted with the system was distinctive due to the two large vertical antennae rising from the middle of the fuselage. Deliberately breaking the standing operating procedure of radio silence to conduct the jamming, made the aircraft highly vulnerable to being tracked and attacked, which resulted in 101 Squadron having the highest casualty rate of any RAF squadron. Since October 1943, they flew 2477 sorties with ABC, losing 1094 crew killed and 178 POWs. Nevertheless, they saved much more bomber crews than their losses. At 23 years of age, Cliff was a hostage to some of these inhospitable confines of an Avro Lancaster bomber, flying in tight formation, hitting targets all over Germany. Cliff was proficient in the German language enabling him to operate specialist radio equipment that intercepted and disrupted the Luftwaffe’s communications. He endured and survived 31 combat missions. Cliff completed his war service in July 1946 with the rank of flight lieutenant. It is reported that after the war, on the occasions Cliff was briefed in what euphemistically was described as ‘difficult’ criminal matters, he would mollify the anxiety of his instructing solicitors by suggesting ‘difficult’ was managing a Lancaster bomber being attacked by a Messerschmitt 109 with cannons blazing!

During the war, Papayanni also played cricket for the Australian Services side. Later, he was a wicketkeeper and batsman and played with Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall, Richie Benaud, and Don Bradman. Papayanni's courage followed him into the law, where he epitomized the concept of fearless advocacy. He was the quintessential defense counsel, appearing in all courts, including the High Court, where he changed the legal landscape in relation to law. In 1968, in the Andrews case, the High Court quashed the conviction and set aside the sentence of the appellant, who had been wrongly indicted, insisting that it is imperative that an accused be tried for the crime for which he is charged. Papayanni was also the appellant advocate in the 1985 case of Giorgianni, where the High Court clarified the law governing the ''guilty mind'' for complicity in a crime, stating that the law requires both actual knowledges of the essential matters and intentional participation. After the war and back in Australia, Papayanni worked in child welfare before becoming a barrister in 1960. In 1964, he married animal activist Joan Edwards. They lived in Henley for 46 years and Joan persuaded Cliff to provide his services for animals, pro bono in many cases, as well as to take on the voluntary position of legal officer of the World League for the Protection of Animals. Papayanni also became a public defender. He was befriended by Doc Evatt, who gave him a wig, which he wore throughout his illustrious career. Mealtimes in the Papayanni household were often interrupted by phone calls from people such as Lionel Murphy, Robbie Waterhouse and Neville Wran, or criminals and notorious underworld figures asking for legal advice. Papayanni gave up paid work in 2007, when he was 87, but continued as legal officer for the league until his death.

For his services during the war, John Clifford Papayanni awarded with the 1939-45 Star, France & Germany Star, Defense Medal, War Medal 1939-45, Australia Service Medal 1939-45 and Returned from Active Service Badge. 

Airborne Cigar (A.B.C.) - ARI TR3549 radar jammer carried by 101 Sqn Lancasters based at Ludford Magna. These aircraft carried an 8th crew member to monitor and then jam radars of German night fighters. 'ABC' stood for Airborne Cigar. It consisted of three enormous powerful transmitters covering the radio voice bands used by the Luftwaffe. To help identify the place to jam there was a panoramic receiver covering the same bands. The receiver scanned up and down the bands at high speed and the result of its travel was shown on a timebase calibrated across a cathode ray tube in front of the operator. If there was any traffic on the band it showed as a blip at the appropriate frequency along the line of light that was the timebase. When a 'blip' appeared, one could immediately spot tune the receiver to it and listen to the transmission. If the language was German then it only took a moment to swing the first of the transmitters to the same frequency, press a switch and leave a powerful jamming warble there to prevent the underlying voice being heard. The other two transmitters could then be brought in on other 'blips'. If 24 aircraft were flying, spread through the Bomber stream, then there were a potential 72 loud jamming transmissions blotting out the night fighters' directions. Greek parentage Sgt. Cliff Papayanni (RAAF) was such an electronics special operator and flew the majority of his missions with LL758, completing a total of 31 combat missions. (Copyright Gaetan Marie)
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Still from film shot by the RAF Film Production Unit during Operation HURRICANE. Avro Lancaster B Mark I, NG128 'SR-B', of No. 101 Squadron RAF, piloted by Warrant Officer R B Tibbs, releases bundles of 'Window' over the target during a special daylight raid on Duisburg. Over 2,000 sorties were dispatched to the city during 14-15 October 1944, in order to demonstrate Bomber Command's overwhelming superiority in German skies. Note the large aerials on top of the Lancaster's fuselage, indicating that the aircraft is carrying 'Airborne Cigar' (ABC), a jamming device which disrupted enemy radiotelephone channels. (IWM CL1405)
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This photo of Lancaster Mk.lll, SR-S 'The Saint', 101 Squadron RAF, RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, was taken shortly before its demise: the tally of 119 missions is visible under the cockpit. At 10:30 a.m., SR-S goes down. Another plane, Lancaster SR-U, also falls from the skies. All men on SR-S are listed as missing. Four died on SR-U, the rest become POWs. No one is sure what happened: an ME262 was spotted in the area, but the crash could have been due to a mid-air collision or a bomb mistakenly dropped from above by an allied plane. 23 March 1945. (International Bomber Command Archive)
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Typical pages from Cliff Papayanni Military Record, held in National Australian Archives. The Greek Australian community was very active during the dark days of WW2 and paid a heavy price from freedom. Many of those brave men serviced in RAAF and RAF and the majority of them flew with Bomber Command. Unfortunately a tour of duty with heavy bombers over Germany was equaled to an attempt to suicide, nevertheless, many men took the call and joined 'Bomber' Harris force. (National Australian Archives)
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After the war and back in Australia, Papayanni worked in child welfare before becoming a barrister in 1960. Cliff played first-grade baseball for St. George. Cricket was his passion and he also played first-grade cricket for Manly and St. George as a wicket-keeper batsman. During the War, he played frequently between the missions with the Australian team, in the unofficial league, Allies held in England, with greats such as Keith Miller. For St.George he played with Richie Benaud and Donald Bradman. Some of his opponents were Peter Philpott, Alan Davidson and was great friends with Bill O'Reilly and Ray Lindwall. In 1964, he married animal activist Joan Edwards. They lived in Henley for 46 years and Joan persuaded Cliff to provide his services for animals, pro bono in many cases, as well as to take on the voluntary position of legal officer of the World League for the Protection of Animals. (Nicole Papayanni)
During October 2018, Cliffs daughter, Nicole Papayanni, organized a family reunion in Liverpool were twenty members from Papayanni family members from Australia, South Africa, the US and across the UK and Europe, most of them never met before! As she stated in an interview on Echo Magazine: "We are visiting because we are all descended from the Papayanni family. My great-grandfather was Basilio Papayanni, and he and his elder brother, my great-great uncle Georges Michael, were two of the founders of the Greek Orthodox Church in Liverpool." According to Father Stavros: "The church keeps the Greek community here together – and we are a very close community." After that unique reunion, Nicole and her husband David Paul James, along with her cousin Michelle Papayanni visited Greece for a few days before going back to Australia and South Africa. During the days they were staying in Athens our team grabbed the chance and met them. For that meeting, George Moris created a pencil drawing showing an ABC Lancaster flying during a night raid over Germany, the bomber in which Cliff Papayanni flew his missions during WW2. We also printed a hi-resolution copy of Bertrand Brown (Gaetan Marie) magnificent profile of the specific Lancaster he flew most, along with the squadron patch and few notes about the aircraft and the mission (the same notes you can see on the profile caption above). Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to properly arrange the meeting in Athens but we decided along with Nicole, to make the tribute to her father and update it with more information in the near future. John Clifford Papayanni is the first RAAF Greek parentage airman whose tribute finds its way through our webpage. (George Moris and Dimitris Vassilopoulos)
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Left: Papayanni posing in Delphi Archeological site, during one of his visits to Greece. Right: John Clifford Papayanni and his middle brother, George, while attending a social event.  (Nicole Papayanni)
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Papayanni family story is a story of a persistent Greek family to succeed and overcome current and future problems which lay in its path. In 1832 Georges Michael Papayanni, a Greek merchant settled in London as an importer of dried fruit. His brother, Basilio (on the left photo), remained in Piraeus as agent until joining him 20 years later to build up the ship owning side. During 1844 Papayanni moved to Liverpool to develop trade with North America, importing cotton and grain until interrupted by the American Civil War. Substitute cargoes were found in Egypt and the Black Sea with manufactured goods carried outward bound. In 1850 Pierre Mussabini, a Turkey Merchant joined Papayanni in a venture incorporating both their names. Early cargoes were carried by Greek owner captains until sail began to give way to steam in 1855. On Mussabinis retirement the company became Papayanni & Company and on Georges Michaels own retirement in 1870 the management passed to his son Michael Georges, with Papayanni senior retaining control of finance. From 1870 onwards all new ships were steam powered, the first two being built in 1877 and the last almost a hundred years later. On Basilio Papayannis death in 1897, the company became incorporated as the Papayanni Steamship Company Limited, with Basilio junior at the head. Following the distribution of shares to the family, little capital remained for renewal of ships or expansion. Negotiations between Nicholas Papayanni and John Reeves Ellerman resulted in Ellerman purchasing the company in 1901, with the ships becoming owned by Ellerman Lines Limited the following year. In 1906 the Ellerman & Papayanni Company Limited was formed, with members of the Papayanni family retained as Managers. It continued to operate as a separate entity until 1932 and was merged with the other Ellerman shipping lines into EllermanΆs City Line in 1973. It acquired the Mossgiel Steam Ship Company, Glasgow in 1958. Except for Cliff another member of the Papayanni family also fought during the WW2. Christopher Constantine Papayanni fought in WW2 by joining the Royal Navy and became Chief Petty Officer aboard a few different battleships suffering many traumas of being bombed but survived the war. He was the son of Constantine Papayanni who went to South Africa while his brother, Nicholas went to Australia, father of Cliff Papayanni. (Nicole Papayanni Lenoir-Jourdan and Michele Papayanni Bower)


120 - 04 - 19444:10Lancaster III, #LM467 (J)Cologne Germany
222 - 04 - 19443:25Lancaster III, #LM467 (J)Dusseldorf Germany
319 - 05 - 19444:50Lancaster I, #LL773 (D)Orleans France
422 - 05 - 19445:20Lancaster I, #LL773 (D)Duisburg Germany
524 - 05 - 19444:05Lancaster I, #LL773 (D)Aachen Germany
602 - 06 - 19443:37Lancaster I, #LL863 (M)Bruneval - Le Grand France
705 - 06 - 19447:35Lancaster I, #LL773 (D)Special Duties Patrol
815 - 06 - 19443:00Lancaster I, #LL773 (D)Boulogne France
916 - 06 - 1944----Lancaster I, #LL773 (D)Sterkrade Germany
1025 - 06 - 19443:00Lancaster I, #ME647 (D)Ligescourt France
1104 - 07 - 19445:30Lancaster I, #LL755 (R2)Orleans France
1212 - 07 - 19445:05Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Vaires France
1314 - 07 - 19447:10Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Villeneuve at Georges France
1418 - 07 - 19444:30Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Wesseling Germany
1502 - 08 - 19443:45

Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Cogueraux France
1603 - 08 - 19444:15Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Trossy St. Maximin France
1704 - 08 - 19447:35Lancaster I, #ME857 (C)Panillac France
1805 - 08 - 19448:15Lancaster III, #ND983 (B)Blay France
1907 - 08 - 19443:30Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Fonteney Le Marmion France
2012 - 08 - 19445:40Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Brunswick Germany
2115 - 08 - 19443:20Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Volkel Holland
2218 - 08 - 19443:05Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Ghent Terneuzen Holland
2325 - 08 - 19449:15Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Russelsheim Germany
2426 - 08 - 19445:15Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Kiel Germany
2531 - 08 - 19443:20Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)St. Requier France
2605 - 09 - 19443:30Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Le Havre France
2706 - 09 - 19443:16Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Le Havre France
2808 - 09 - 19443:22Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Le Havre France
2920 - 09 - 19443:24Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Calais France
3025 - 09 - 19443:54Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Calais France
3126 - 09 - 19443:02Lancaster I, #LL758 (A)Cap Gris Vez France



John Clifford Papayanni OMPF (Official Military Personnel File)

Personal Correspondence of Dimitrios Vassilopoulos with Nicole Papayanni

Personal Correspondence of Dimitrios Vassilopoulos with Michelle Papayanni

Cliff Papayanni Obituary in The Sunday Morning Herald newspaper 

Bar News: The Journal of the NSW Bar Association (Autumn 2012)


Special Thanks to:


Andy Wright for his continues supports on our research. The first tribute to a Greek Australian airman is devoted to him and all the Greek heritage Australians and the personnel in RAAF service,

Donald Mounts researcher and owner of Global Military Research, LLC.