The centrepiece of the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum in Lake Boga, Victoria is a restored Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina flying boat. The Catalina was restored and the museum was established, by the Lions Club of Lake Boga to commemorate the service men and women who served at the RAAF No. 1 Flying Boat Repair Depot, which was based at the lake from 1941 to 1947. I have visited the museum in 2006, 2013 and now again in 2017, and I am pleased to say the excellent collection and displays continue to grow and be updated. The big Cat looks good too!
The Catalina was one of the main types of flying boats operated by the RAAF, US Navy and Netherlands East Indies that was often at Lake Boga during World War Two (please see my earlier post for more info on war-time operations at the lake). The big cat at Lake Boga is presented as RAAF example A24-30 but is actually a composite of multiple airframes and parts scoured from all over, with the fuselage said to be the Dutch example used on the original A24-30.
PBY-5 A24-30 History
The original PBY-5 A24-30 was also a composite aircraft being made up of US Navy wings and engines from PBY-5 BuNo 2305, c/n 22 which was broken up for spares in Java in February 1942 due to being no longer flyable and a Dutch fuselage from MLD PBY-5 Model 28-5MN (Military Netherlands) coded Y-72 which was forced down in Java, suffering wing and engine damage which were replaced from the US Navy example (both aircraft were built in San Diego in 1941). The composite PBY-5 then joined USN Patrol Wing 10 and following the US withdrawal from the Philippines and the Netherlands East Indies in March 1942 relocated to operate out of Perth, Western Australia.
Flown to Rathmines, NSW the composite PBY-5 was accepted into RAAF service in July 1942, and allocated to Number 20 Squadron in October 1942 flying out of Cairns in North Queensland for Pacific operations over New Guinea. A24-30 was finally transferred to Number 3 Operational Training Unit (OTU) in February 1943 where it was eventually deemed unsuitable for continued operations. The aircraft was sold to Kingsford-Smith Aviation Service Pty Ltd, Bankstown Airport, Sydney NSW in October 1946 and used for spare parts with the fuselage being sent to Lake Boga for scrapping.
Luckily the fuselage was saved when a local farmer from Nyah purchased it for parts to use on his property. It then sat under a tree on the farm for 40 years until it was donated to the Lake Boga Lions Club. What a history!
The new building of the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum was officially opened on April 21st, 2012 but the Catalina was on display in the open air from 1988 to 2010 next to the original secret underground communications bunker which was opened as the original museum in 1997 (the bunker remains a part of the museum today and is presented in a wartime like state. The new museum hangar was literally built around the Catalina). After many years of outdoor exposure the Catalina was restored again in 2011 to the standard you see today.
The museum also houses numerous artefacts from the RAAF No. 1 Flying Boat Repair Depot days, plus vehicles, models and aircraft parts including the nose of a former Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service – Marine Luchtvaartdienst (MLD) Dornier Do 24K flying boat (of unknown identity in regards to a serial number – Dutch units that were operating in the East Indies when Japan invaded in 1942 were relocated to continue the fight from Australia in February 1942 as part of the RAAF and from April 1942 six Do 24’s were given RAAF serial numbers A49-1 to A49-6) that has been restored after years of being used as a houseboat on the Murray River (it was powered by an internal engine and the steering wheel was operated from the pilot’s seat)! I remember seeing the houseboat on the river as a kid but by the late 1990’s it was apparently stored on dry land in a pretty bad state in Moama until it was acquired by the museum in 2010.