Serial No. 1381, Bowen

The Australian Government had little expertise or interest in radar technology at the start of the Second World War. By 1942 however the continent’s coastline was dotted with scores of radar stations operated by locally-trained technicians using, in many instances, Australian-designed and built radar equipment. This is the story of one such unit – Bowen’s No.55 Radar Station (RAAF).

Built in anticipation of a possible Japanese aerial attack against Australian mainland targets, approval for development of the Bowen radar station (costing £9,700) was granted in early November 1942.1Encl. 27A, Air Force Headquarters – CAS [Chief of Air Staff] (Organisation) – Establishment – Radar Stations – General, NAA: Series A705, Control Symbol 231/9/1031, ID 3336324, https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/NAAMedia/ShowImage.aspx?B=3336324&T=P&S=107.  Land and buildings necessary for the development were then requisitioned via the National Security (General) Regulations). The site selected for the installation was an elevated sandstone plateau at Cape Edgecumbe, two miles north-east of the port. Continue reading “Serial No. 1381, Bowen”

9 September 1942

Bundaberg in south-eastern Queensland was a center for flying training during the Second World War. As a consequence, the surrounding Burnett Region is peppered with wartime crash sites.

Drury’s Anson being dismantled in Lutz’s cane field. Official records indicate it was never repaired, being struck off charge the following year. Military activities at that time were commonly photographed by civilian and military personnel (Bundaberg Library bun06577, Clifford Potter Collection).

A brick maker prior to enlisting, Flight Sergeant Thomas Peel Drury was one of many pilots who came to grief while undergoing advanced training at the RAAF’s No.8 Secondary Flying Training School (SFTS) in Bundaberg. Continue reading “9 September 1942”

‘never…except by aeroplane’

Like other eminent organisations, Qantas too has its own foundation narrative – concerning two recently demobbed Australian airmen (Hudson Fysh and Paul McGinness) who, in an epic 2,180 km overland journey in a Model T Ford, successfully surveyed the continent’s northern aerial route from Longreach (Qld.) to the Katherine River (N.T. ) railhead in preparation for the first England to Australia Air Race arrivals. Continue reading “‘never…except by aeroplane’”

Same as it ever was

For some years now I have been trying to locate the surviving Skippy (1960s Australian television series) helicopter VH-AHI with a view towards having it repatriated and preserved in Australia.

After serving in PNG it later appeared on the U.S. civil register as N1164T. In 2012 it was permanently deleted from that register however in 2014 I was eventually able to track down its current owner – a helicopter spares dealer in Florida – who was happy to sell the unairworthy but mostly complete airframe for $US5,000.

VA-AHI on location ourside the Waratah Park Ranger headquarters.

Continue reading “Same as it ever was”

Unexpected

Corrosion is already evident
Corrosion is already evident

The demand for war memorial furniture here in Australia has been so great, for so long, that it’s now difficult to obtain the military-grade anchors, propellers and guns that were once the entitlement of every R.S.L. club. Next-best-things, such as diminutive Cessna propellers which began appearing on memorials some decades ago, have now become acceptable substitutes for the once commonplace P&W giants. Continue reading “Unexpected”

Going, going….gone.

This unusual piece of early Australian [aeronautical] silverware realized $4,700 at auction in Sydney earlier this week, selling for more than three times its estimated reserve.
This unusual piece of early Australian [aeronautical] silverware realized $4,700 at auction in Sydney earlier this week, selling for more than three times its estimated reserve.
Aviation heritage has never attracted broad investor interest, the inclusion of such items in high-end auction catalogues being more the exception, than the norm. Indeed, there is no such thing here as a established aeronautica market, as there is say for antiques or fine art. Continue reading “Going, going….gone.”

High above the Dardanelles

Queenslander Alfred Warner served in the Dardanelles for more than two-and-a-half years, far longer than any of his compatriots, and yet you won’t find his name mentioned in any Australian military history. As Australia’s only airship pilot (and airship station commander), his war experience was singularly remarkable, much of it spent floating high above the sea lanes and battlefield of the North Aegean in what was [then] a state-of-the-art war machine.

Alfred Warner (right) in the gondola of his Sea Scout airship, which was essentially a modified RAF B.E.2 aircraft fuselage (Simon Warner Collection)
Alfred Warner (right) in the gondola of his Sea Scout airship, which was essentially a modified RAF B.E.2 aircraft fuselage (Simon Warner Collection)

Continue reading “High above the Dardanelles”

Opportunity Lost

Pf Heatwole Sepr 1979 (ii)Back in 1979 the Queensland Museum was offered the nose section of a Douglas A20G Boston. Continue reading “Opportunity Lost”

“daddy come out and have a look at this funny plane”

Fourteen year old Thomas Honor had been playing outside his house at Maroondan in Queensland’s Burnett region when he urgently beckoned his father. Walking to the back door David Honor, a widower, described seeing “a large aeroplane flying at a very low altitude Continue reading ““daddy come out and have a look at this funny plane””

Project 1381

Surrounded in every direction by sugar cane fields, the steel and concrete remnants atop Charlies Hill south of Home Hill (North Queensland) reveal little now of the anxieties that led to its construction, nor the secrecy that once surrounded the operations of this former wartime radar station. Continue reading “Project 1381”

That tabua

It is not generally known that the Queensland Museum holds the most comprehensive and important collection of Charles Kingsford-Smith memorabilia, none of which have seen the light of day since returning to Australia on 9th June 1975 (coinciding with the anniversary of the first Pacific flight). Continue reading “That tabua”

GAF Jindivik programme, August 1966

bin saves

I cannot be sure when or where it was exactly that I retrieved these, but I am guessing this might have been around 1995 during the Maribyrnong Munitions Factory or RAAF Laverton closures. Whichever, I simply couldn’t let these Kodachrome slides get carted off for land-fill.

Dumpster-diving isn’t taught to museum studies students, and is never likely to be. That’s a shame because museum employees are often – as happened in this instance – given privileged access to important sites before they’re irrevocably altered, or lost.

Here we have a uncommon glimpse of an era when state-of-the-art fighter aircraft were locally hand-crafted under the one roof by tradesmen employed on the basis of their skills, rather than their age. Continue reading “bin saves”