APRIL 1 2011 – On March 31 2011, the Royal Australian Air Force – RAAF – celebrated its 90th birthday in style , with a large focus on its past 90years of history. The occasion has not gone unnoticed with many people involved to ensure the RAAF is remembering….
Special functions on many RAAF bases and staging of a warbird/flying event were held this week to remind the general people why the RAAF was formed, where it has come in the last 90years and to remembered those who have died in war and peacetime.
THE 2nd OLDEST AIR FORCE IN THE WORLD
The Royal Australian Air Force is the world’s second-oldest recognised independent and permanent air force.
The generally first recognised air force is Britain’s Royal Air Force formed in 1918 from the Royal Flying Corp.
Many people will say other European air arms were first to be an air force during WW1 as they did fly, as this is outside this article’ scope, so i will leave this issue open ended, as other people may have further information.
BRIEF RAAF HISTORY
From 1913 to 1921, the members were known as the Australian Flying Corps (AFC).
It wasn’t until 1921 that it became a full independent service known as – The Royal Australian Air Force – RAAF.
Since 1921 when the RAAF became an official air arm, it has grown from a few thousand personnel and biplanes, to fast propeller fighter, bombers, transports of WW2, to jets fighters and bombers in Korea /Vietnam wars to the current high technological fighters and transports acting as a respected and broad range defence asset for Australia and its local interests.
In the past 90years many events have happened that has marked the RAAF such as people, technical, political and world events. Each event has either called upon the RAAF to use its capabilities or to use its human resources to resolve the problems.
Wars such as WW1 1915-18, WW2 1939-1945, Korean War 1950-53, Malaya Emergency 1950-60 and the subsequent Indoesnian confrontation 1963-1966, Vietnam War 1962-1975, Gulf War – 1 – 1991, Gulf War – 2 – 2003 have forever changed how many people lived and how the RAAF operated.
Many other activities such as UN operations since 1947 have involved the RAAF assisting in peace-keeping and humanitarian missions throughout the world. These missions have included operations in Bougainville, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Solomon Islands and Somalia. Some have been quiet and others have seen the RAAF caught up in near war like conditions.
Locally around Australia natural disasters have involved the RAAF in cargo movement and people movement in event such as – Cyclone Tracey 1974 , flooding in Queensland in 2011 and a rather unusual event – the airline pilots strike in 1989 where the RAAF used its aircraft to help move people around Australia.
The RAAF is well known as it is seen by some around world as the “flying kangaroo” now days. The Blue lined circle with white background a red kangaroo facing left is what makes the RAAF stand out amongst other countries national air force markings. The kangaroo in circle originates back to WW2 where a RAAF Mosquito bomber crew in Europe adopted it. This is potentially where it started as a basis for change, as in the mid 1950s the kangaroo replaced the red dot in the roundel. More on can be found here – http://www.airforce.gov.au/AboutUs/roundel.aspx . The RAAF ensign also features the kangaroo – http://www.airforce.gov.au/AboutUs/ensign.aspx
THE HOME OF THE RAAF – RAAF WILLIAMS / RAAF POINT COOK
The RAAF however has maintained one key and very important connection with history – it has kept open the oldest operational base in the world at Point Cook, a suburb south west of Melbourne, Australia. The base is officially named as RAAF Williams, in honouring the founding legend of the RAAF – Richard Williams. Otherwise it is known as the Point Cook base to most people.
Point Cook, as it was formally known in early days was established in March 1913 as the location for the Australian Flying Corps – Central Flying School. The base been continuous operation as a flying training base from 1914 up until 1992. After 1992 all initial flight training was transferred to places like Tamworth NSW for private contractor screening/training.
It has also been home to RAAF officer training since 1947, as well as been base for a wide range of other activities.
Currently the RAAF Williams base has many building vacant and these are needing heritage work , such as the historic Bellman hangers and flying boat hangars on the south end.
It is understood funding for these building is potentially / or has been for a long time under review with various Federal Government departments needing to fund the ongoing maintenance and urgent restoration of the base’s history.
Whether the government allocates any more funds for these buildings or hangars on base – is yet to be seen. It would be a absolutely shame to see such interesting, long term base history at Point Cook to just collapse/rust away without anyone understanding the historical aspects of the base and saving it for the next generation of general public/RAAF personnel to visit and learn…..
I have visited RAAF Williams in 2008 and i too believe it needs to be saved for the future generations as others have said.
OFFICIAL RAAF MUSEUM ON RAAF WILLIAMS
The co-located RAAF Museum has been pretty much for years struggling to gain secure government funding for its growing collection – it is the sole official main source of RAAF heritage – items, aircraft’s and documents.
It is hoped that the best way to ensure the museum survives and expands is that the “Pegasus project” which is meant to potentially include more hangers and more museum space for items to be displayed will one day be completed.
The museum has much potential to be transformed into a much large tourist attraction along the lines of the USAF Museum at Dayton, Ohio in the USA if the federal government are willing to ensure the money can be allocated.
Meanwhile volunteers work away keeping the few items on show maintained to a exceptionally high standard and restoring such rare aircraft as WW2 era Mosquito aircraft for future display. The RAAF Museum can be seen here –http://www.airforce.gov.au/raafmuseum
RAAF. As I have visited the museum, I also agree that it does need massive long term federal funding to ensure more buildings are built to space out its large growing collection and bring some in out of the rain/sun before they deteriorates further.
The RAAF beside RAAF Williams and RAAF Richmond, the Air Force has and did at one stage have many bases all around Australia. Nowdays it is limited to a few in each state. More on the many RAAF bases history can be found here – http://www.airforce.gov.au/raafmuseum/research/bases.htm
HERITAGE FLIGHT GEAR DISPLAY HELPS TO CELEBRATE 90YEARS OF RAAF OPERATIONS
It was rather unplanned that i would have any involvement in the 90th Anniversary of the RAAF. I had by chance, a meeting at the Avalon airshow in March 2011 with a person from RAAF Richmond. Via correspondence afterwards, I was able to organise at short notice my attendance for RAAF Richmond’s 90th Anniversary Ball on April 1st 2011. I was keenly sought to attend due to my large variety of historical flightgear and this was seen as something different and interesting to show off.
On the sides were a Alison T56 engine nacelle in grey colour from a C-130E Hercules (which were retired in 2000) ……..and on the other side – a DC-3 propeller (the famous C-47 Dakota was retired from RAAF service in 1999 ….only….after 56 years of service!!!!).
In company with another ex RAAF service member / heritage collector Dennis, we both were able to showcase a bit of history and enable the 350 personnel and guests a insight to where the RAAF has come from.
I had 7 individual displays covering – WW2, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000-2011 sections with flight suits, flight helmets/oxygen masks, life preservers, boots, flight manuals and books to show how technology developed over this 70year period.
Here we see WW2 – RAAF P-40 Kittyhawk 1944 – desert campaign flight gear – C helmet, H oxygen mask, airtex shirt and pants, brown 1936 made flight boots.
Next is the Korean war era – CAC Mustang 1950 – E helmet / H oxygen mask, WW2 era issued cotton K-1 flight suit and general purpose brown boots.
Here we see a early 1970s RAAF Caribou transport aircraft flight gear – grey crew headset and light green cotton flight suit. Next is 1980s RAAF Mirage fighter gear – HGU-2/P flight helmet / MBU-5/P oxygen mask and nomex flight suit.
Here we see 1980s RAAF flightgear – a HGU-55/P flight helmet/ MBU-5/P oxygen mask and green RAAF issued nomex flight suit. On the end is current flightgear as used in the last 15years – tan colour nomex flight suit and Secumar life preserver.
Many people inspected the line up of flightgear, as most would of never seen such a large variety of flight gear on show before.
Here we see from the other collector present on the occasion, Dennis, a view of his collection.
Dennis is ex RAAF i found, so he is keen like myself, to ensure the RAAF’s legacy continues and old items are preserved.
We both had a good long chat over 5hrs and learn a lot about each others background and collections.
We may work in future together at more RAAF events to educate peopple.
From talking to people, I was able to network with a few and out of this and I have potentially arranged some new aviation stories and feature articles, which will appear on this flightgear blog and in the AOPA magazine which i write for, hopefully later on in 20011.
Keep a eye out….
RAAF media on the night also photographed myself with my collection, along with Dennis and his collection., so we hope this might increase interest in what we do with our collections within the RAAF structure.
The night was rounded off with a good dinner provided by the base’s hospitality services and music provided by a army band.
My thanks go to John, Amy, Alex, Dennis and others who enabled this event attendance to happen and to be worthwhile in attending. I appreciated their assistance and time.
AUTHOR AT EVENT
It is not every day that you get to share with 350+ people on a RAAF military base – your own personal flightgear collection. It was indeed a rare privillege.
It hopefully raises the interest in what i as a collector, historian and journalist do and to also help to ensure the RAAF’s past is not forogetten.