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”
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”
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”
In late March 1943 fifty-one year old baker Rigas Carsas and thirty-six year old engineer Roy Clarke, both from the nearby sugar milling town of South Johnstone, were fishing at night near the mouth of Liverpool Creek in North Queensland when they noticed a bright flash in the sky. Continue reading “Unsolved”
In 1995 the Commonwealth provided National Estate funding for a pilot study of Victoria’s aeronautical and astronautical heritage, the first state-level thematic study of its kind. This investigation identified more than a hundred significant sites, three of which related to astronautics. The latter included the Graytown Proof & Experimental Establishment near Puckapunyal; the Ravenhall Static Test Facility in Melbourne’s Deer Park; and the rocket static test site within the former Explosives Factory at Maribyrnong, these last two having been operated by the same agency. Continue reading “Blast from the past”
Military aircraft crashes were not uncommon in wartime Queensland, local Police often the first responders.
By 1944 Queensland coastal communities had grown accustomed to the daily sight and sound of military aircraft transiting to and from forward bases in Papua New Guinea, and beyond. Monitoring the northbound progress of one such formation on the morning of Monday, 28th August 1944 was Caldwell resident Frank Jenkins who stared, fixedly, as something – which he took to be a flare – dropped from one of the planes…’at the same time it was losing height…and [he] saw that it came down very low North of Caldwell over the sea.’ 
Soon afterwards another single-engine plane flew very low over the tiny seaside community and dropped a message requesting assistance for their colleague who had force-landed in the sea about three miles north.
Military aircraft crashes were not uncommon then, another RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) aircraft having plunged into the sea near Townsville a few weeks earlier. 
On duty at the local Police Station that morning was thirty-nine year old Sergeant Francis West (No.2753) who, with his colleague Constable D Crowley, immediately set out in a motor launch owned by local man George Watkins.
On arrival there it was seen that the Aeroplane which was a Kittyhawk (R.A.A.F.) machine No.A.29-190 had landed on a mud flat about 200 yards from the beach, there does not appear to have been any extensive damage done to the plane, the principal damage being bent propeller blades.
The Pilot of the Aeroplane Warrant Officer, John James Guy No.431581 of Ferry Flight R.A.A.F. Bankstown was at the Plane ad he was not injured. There was no other person in the plane at the time.
Twenty-two-year-old Guy explained that he had been flying from Mackay to Port Moresby (via Cairns) when obliged to force land owing to engine trouble.  What Frank Jenkins had taken to be a falling flare was in fact an external fuel tank, these ‘belly’ tanks always being jettisoned before emergency landings (so as to minimize the risks of fire and explosion). His Kittyhawk aircraft was then still new, having only been delivered to Australia (from the North American factory) a few weeks earlier.
Guy was delivered back to Caldwell by mid-afternoon, in time to board the 4pm south-bound train for Townsville.
The matter of guarding the plane was taken in hand by the local Volunteer Defence Corps under Corporal G E Moller, and RAAF Headquarters in Townsville were duly notified. By the following day Sergeant Cunneen had also completed a type-written incident report for the Police Inspector in Cairns. 
Unfortunately however, the aircraft was submerged four times by tidal waters before a salvage crew eventually arrived from No. 6 Crash Recovery Depot at Breddan, 300 kilometres away. Not surprisingly the month-old Kittyhawk was condemned.
 Sergeant Francis West (Report 372-44), 29th August 1944, Cardwell District – 28 Aug 1944 – RAAF Kitty Hawk aeroplane – RAAF Warrant Officer GUY, John James 431581 (Queensland State Archives, ID 2177768)
 National Archives of Australia, NAA: A9301, 413581.