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.
One of only two surviving Mk.1 Jindiviks, A92-22 does a slow rot out the back the Australian Naval Aviation Museum’s 6,000 square metre hangar complex at HMAS Albatross. The former Jervis Bay Range Facility gate guardian is second only to RAAF Endinburgh’s A92-9 as the the world’s oldest surviving Jindivik. Would this have been allowed, had a significance assessment been carried out?
Ironically, the Museum has a substantial covered storage facility barely a few hundred metres away.
All collecting institutions endure the frustration of never having sufficient space for the display and storage of their – always – expanding collections.
This is particularly true for large public institutions, like the Queensland Museum, occupying premium CBD real estate. It’s partly for this reason that the provenance of a donation offer is now being subject to ever more scrutiny.
Museum professionals are being challenged to show that this is at least demonstrable, if not substantial.
Queensland Museum curatorial staff were recently presented with one such challenge after having been offered aircraft wreckage allegedly retrieved from the well-known Avro Lincoln (A73-64) crash site atop Mount Superbus in the state’s south-east. Although it remains a popular hiking destination, and one of Queensland’s best-known and most visited aircraft crash-sites (second only to the Lamington National Park’s Stinson VH-UHH), the Queensland Museum had nothing in its collections relating to this significant cultural site.
Similarly, there is nothing in its collections relating to the RAAF’s 10 Squadron – to which A73-64 belonged – despite that unit having been associated with Queensland in general, and Townsville in particular, for almost quarter of a century (equipped with GAF Lincolns for almost half that time (1949 – 1962).
Proving however that this twisted, unrecogniseable, and seemingly unmarked piece of aluminium had originated from atop Mount Superbus was initially problematic. While curatorial staff had no reason to doubt the veracity of the donor’s claim, they needed something more evidential on which to hang a provenance claim. The thicker-than-usual aluminium sheeting was certainly suggestive of a large multi-engine aircraft, and the external silver finish was also consistent with the livery known to have been used then by A73-64, and all other No.10 Squadron Lincolns.
Since the Second World War, all aircraft sub-assemblies have been impressed with part numbers and inspection stamps. The former can typically serve to identify the type of aircraft while the latter confirms the manufacturer. Although in this instance we were able to locate a tiny (4 mm) inspector’s stamp it initially proved to be more of a hindrance, than a help. As one of sixty-eight Lincoln B30’s built by the Government Aircraft Factories in Melbourne we expected to find an inspector’s stamp bearing the signature abbreviation “GAF”. What we found instead though (see accompanying image) was an inspector’s stamp bearing the all too familiar abbreviation “GMH” (General Motors Holden).
Since GMH had been producing aircraft during the Second World War it was possible that surplus sheet metal stocks were used by GAF when Lincoln production commenced in 1946. With further research however we were able to establish that Holden’s Woodville plant in South Australia had in fact been sub-contracted to produce GAF Lincoln wing and fuselage sub-components. Together with the other circumstantial indicators, this was enough to confirm beyond reasonable doubt that the wreckage being offered to the Museum was indeed from the wing of the Mount Superbus Lincoln.