The star of the 75th anniversary celebrations on March 18th, 2017 for the former World War Two RAAF No. 1 Flying Boat Repair Depot at Lake Boga, Victoria (the base was active from 1942-1947) was meant to be the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Consolidated PBY-6A “Black Cat” Catalina (VH-PBZ aka A24-362). The Catalina was one of the types of flying boats operated by the RAAF, US Navy and Netherlands East Indies (Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service – Marine Luchtvaartdienst or MLD units that were operating in the East Indies when Japan invaded in 1942 were relocated to continue the fight from Australia as part of the RAAF) that was often at Lake Boga during World War Two.
No. 1 Flying Boat Repair Depot
It is hard to believe today as Lake Boga is a small, quiet town in northern Victoria but RAAF No. 1 Flying Boat Repair Depot was a busy place during the war, where 416 aircraft were serviced, repaired and rebuilt or overhauled, including types such as the Consolidated Catalina, Dutch Dornier Do-24, Short Sunderland, Sikorsky Kingfisher, Supermarine Seagull/Walrus and Martin Mariner. Officially 1050 aircraft arrivals/departures occurred (they would return to northern bases to conduct long-range patrols, anti-shipping and rescue missions) and an estimated 800 test flights were conducted during the 5 years the bas was in operation. At the height of the war 39 Officers, 802 Airmen and 102 Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force members (WAAAF’s) were based in Lake Boga. Despite all this activity it was also classed as a top-secret base in those days (it was safely a long way from the Pacific theatre front line)!
Unfortunately due to terrible weather in the Illawarra region of New South Wales where HARS are located, the Catalina was unable to fly down to Lake Boga to take part in the 75th anniversary. Luckily there was plenty of action in the air, on the lake and on terra firma to keep us entertained.
The celebration was not devoid of a Catalina presence though as there is a restored Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina flying boat on display in the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum. The Museum will be the feature of a future post.
Celebrating 75 Years – Flying Displays
Seeing aircraft fly over Lake Boga in the morning and afternoon made for a great air show setting. Flying displays included excellent aerobatics by the Sky Aces flying Paul Bennet Airshows Wolf Pitts Pro, Wolf Pitts S1-11X and Pitts S1-S aircraft in single and formation performances.
No air show is complete without some warbirds and Lake Boga had a couple from Paul Bennet Airshows to keep the crowd entertained with some great low flying in their 1943 Grumman (General Motors) TBM-3E Grumman Avenger (Bureau Number 53857) torpedo bomber and a 1954 North American T-28 Trojan big radial engine trainer (Bureau Number 138122). The Avenger is painted in the markings of Torpedo Squadron 8 (VT-8) which operated from USS Bunker Hill as part of Carrier Air Group 8 (CVG-8) from March 1944 and the T-28 Trojan is interestingly in US Army markings (it was transferred from the US Navy and retired to a museum in 1984).
My next post will show the afternoon RAAF flying displays along with the static displays, official ceremony and water skiing displays of the 75th anniversary celebrations at Lake Boga. Plus a Wolf Pitts Pro vs speedboat race!