Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2005.
Lionel Whittaker spent his early years in South Australia where he worked as a mechanic with a firm in Maitland. His job was repairing tractors and farm equipment. At the outbreak of World War II he applied to join the RAAF but was rejected on medical grounds.
Lionel came to Alice Springs and was appointed a motor mechanic with the Department of the Interior. Lionel’s first job was to reassemble the original AEC roadtrain which had broken down.
The unit had four differentials and steered at both the front and the back axles. The AEC, known as the ‘Government Roadtrain,’ travelled thousands of miles with freight servicing remote communities, cattle stations and mine sites that had previously been serviced by Afghan cameleers. From 1940 until the cessation of World War II, in August 1945, Lionel Whittaker’s work was of national importance. He was the foreman-mechanic in the Allied Works Council Workshops in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and other Northern Territory centres. Lionel had a mobile workshop and maintained equipment during the building of the bitumen road on the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs to Darwin. This project was the single, biggest road building task undertaken by the Allied Forces in World War II.
It was no easy task as heavy machinery vibrated to pieces on corrugations, bogged incessantly in the red sand of the Centre or literally sunk deep into the muddy black soil plains in the quagmire of the Top End wet seasons. When the war ended Lionel was appointed supervisor of the Alice Springs Government Workshops. He was responsible for the layout of machinery. The building in which he worked is now the National Road Transport Hall of Fame which was relocated in 1995 from the Transport and Works fleet depot in Alice Springs (Lionel’s workplace) to its current site. Lionel was awarded an MBE for Public Service in 1969 after 39 years of dedicated service. He retired in November 1977. Lionel fell ill and died in Alice Springs in February 1981.