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Roy Robert Richter, O.B.E. (July 8, 1915 – December 14, 2007) was a pioneer in the Australian oil industry and former World War II RAF Bomber Command pilot. Roy Richter, or Triple R, as he became known by colleagues and friends, was awarded the O.B.E. (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1972 for his "pioneering and dynamic contribution to the development of the Australian oil-drilling industry". [1]

Early life

Roy Richter was born on his family's farm at Loganlea, Queensland (now more accurately ) in the Logan River area south of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia in 1915 as the youngest of 18 children in a blended family. He was the son of Ernest Otto Julius Richter, a German settler who had arrived with his family as a young boy from Bernau, Prussia in 1865 aboard the migrant ship, Susanna Godeffroy, to make a new life in the Logan district and Bertha Friedericke Stefan (nee Mollenhagen) whose family had also immigrated from Prussian Germany during the 1860s. Ernest O.J. Richter, as well as a farmer, served several terms as a Councillor of the Shire of Tingalpa.

After primary years at the nearby local Waterford State School,[2] Roy Richter was offered a scholarship to attend Brisbane State High School in Brisbane city. He attended high school for two years, however, during the Great Depression, he left formal schooling to help his struggling family. He worked firstly for one of his sisters, Lillian (Lil), and her husband, Edward (Ted) Wendt, on their farm at nearby Buccan, and again at Murgon when they moved to a much larger farm.  As a teenager, the farm work proved lonely and he returned home and, before its closure in 1934, worked as an apprentice in the blacksmith's shop at the nearby [3] 

Meanwhile, another of his sisters, Martha (Mattie), and her husband, Stanley Middleton, working as a Patrol Officer, were living in Papua New Guinea.  On their suggestion, Roy Richter decided to join them.

Arriving in Papua New Guinea in 1935, Roy Richter found work in the gold mines and then, fortuitously, in the fledgling oil industry. Learning from books in the field, he became a self-taught mechanical engineer and met the challenges in the remote jungle areas of Papua New Guinea. He would return there following World War II.

In 1940, on one of his leaves to mainland Australia, he met and married a nurse, Marie Dempster Lascelles Jardine,[4] descendant of the pioneering Jardine family which settled the Cape York area. The marriage lasted only briefly.[5]

The War years

With the outbreak of World War II, Roy Richter, now working as an oil driller, returned to Australia to enlist but, because oil was considered vital to the war effort, he was turned away. In September 1942, he returned to Brisbane to re-enlist and gave his name as Robert Roy Richter - swapping his first name for his second - and did not mention oil.

He was accepted and, after initial flight training for the Royal Australian Air Force at the Elementary Flying Training School in Narrandera in New South Wales and then in Canada, he was seconded to the Royal Air Force in Britain as a bomber pilot with further training in Scotland.

During his tour of duty he flew Avro Lancaster heavy bombers out of Fulbeck in Lincolnshire with No. 189 Squadron RAF, where he survived 30 sorties over Europe and clocked up 688 hours as a bomber pilot. With the horrendous attrition rate in the elite RAF Bomber Command flight crews, he was fortunate to survive his tour of duty.

At the end of the war, while waiting to be demobbed, he met his future second wife - Dorothy Mary Audrey Anderson. She was with the Women's Royal Naval Service, or WRNS (known as the Wrens), which was the women's branch of the UK's Royal Navy. Mary, as she was always known, (born September 7, 1923) was from Ashington, Northumberland, England.

While waiting to be demobbed, Roy Richter worked for British Petroleum as a driller on its Midlands oilfields, most notably in the Sherwood Forest area. He finally returned to Australia in April 1946 and Mary Anderson followed 18 months later. The couple was married on December 17, 1947, in Brisbane and left almost immediately for the jungles of Papua New Guinea, which was to be the start of a long and distinguished career in the Australian oil and gas industry.

Oil industry

Over the years, the Richter name became well known in the oil industry, starting out in the 1940-50s with Australian Petroleum Company in Papua New Guinea; from 1954 with Australian Associated Oil Fields firstly in Roma [6] in outback Queensland, then later in the remote Kimberley (Western Australia);[7][8] followed by more exploration with the forerunner of Australian Associated Resources Limited's Mines Administration Group (Minad) in both Moonie and Roma.

With the boom of oil exploration in Australia in the early 1960s, following amendments to the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1959,[9] Minad formed a joint venture partnership with Canadian oilman, Peter Bawden, establishing Richter-Bawden Drilling. Roy Richter was appointed the company's managing director based in Brisbane.

Richter-Bawden drilled the Moonie and Roma oil and gas fields and the company is credited with building the first gas pipeline in Australia, allowing local gas to be used to generate electricity in the town of Roma. Today, Roy Richter's voice can be heard through one of the several audio panels within the Oil Patch interactive walkthrough display on the history of the local oil and gas industry, which forms part of Roma's The Big Rig and its Oil and Gas Museum tourist attraction.[10]

In 1968, the company, against fierce international competition, also won the contract for the first offshore drilling platform in Australia. When the country’s first offshore blow-out occurred later that year on one of its Bass Strait rigs, the Marlin platform, assistance from internationally renowned Red Adair - the American oil well firefighter - won Roy Richter membership of the “Royal Order of Fire Eaters”.[11] The Richter-Bawden partnership ended and, from 1974, Shelf Drilling Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Richter Drilling Group, continued operations in Bass Strait.

The Richter Drilling Group was formed in 1971, which encompassed Richter International and Shelf Drilling. The companies' overseas exploration for oil and geothermal energy included Tonga, Timor, PNG, New Zealand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Roy Richter's long association with overseas oil drilling companies and oil industry suppliers entailed extensive travel to both Canada and the USA and later to the UK, Middle East, Asia and the Pacific region.

By the late 1970s, Richter Drilling was Australia's leading oil drilling contractor with almost 500 employees working across 10 rigs in Australia and the South East Asian region.[12]

From its inception in 1959, Roy Richter was an active member of QUPEX – The Queensland Petroleum Exploration Association - serving time as Chairman and Vice-Chairman in 1964 and 1963, respectively, and served as the Chairman of QUPEX Golf for 12 years.[13] He was also a foundation member of the Oilwell Drilling Contractors Association of Australia[14] and former President.

Roy Richter was awarded the O.B.E. in 1972 for his "pioneering and dynamic contribution to the development of the Australian oil-drilling industry".  That citation stated that he and his company had "drilled more exploratory and producing oil and gas wells than any other company and the success and efficiency of those operations resulted from his outstanding personal contribution and ability to more than equal overseas competition".

After retirement from Richter Drilling in 1984, he returned to work on a consultancy basis and, several years later, co-formed another oil exploration company with two longtime associates. With 100 years' experience in the oil industry between them, they called the new company Century Drilling.

Later years

From the outset, the family was based in Sunnybank, a southern suburb of Brisbane, Queensland, where Roy and Mary Richter lived until their full-time move to the family's holiday home in Surfers Paradise. As a young man, Roy Richter played competitive cricket alongside his brothers and was an expert marksmen, however, in the 1960s, he developed a passion for golf and played regularly until his late eighties. Roy Richter died on December 14, 2007. Three months later, Mary Richter died on March 17, 2008. The couple is survived by three children, Christine (Tissie) Richter, Suzanne (Suzy) Richter and Robert Richter; and two grand-daughters, Georgia Richter-Ward and Alice Richter-Ward. Roy Richter's funeral service was held at the historic Bethania Lutheran Church in the Logan River area, which was built by German settlers in 1872. He and all his siblings were baptised and confirmed in the church. Roy Richter was buried in the adjoining graveyard alongside his grandparents, parents and many other members of his family.


External links

Susanna Godeffroy [1]

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