Regular readers will know I have been closely following the progress of the grass-roots, community based restoration of a former Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Avro Anson Mk.I (Serial Number W2364) being completed at a rapid rate by the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (NAHC) in the small Wimmera town of Nhill, Victoria. Since I first came across it in 2012, much progress has been made including the construction of a permanent museum hangar and so much more. As of January 2018 the restoration of the Anson continues with much gusto.
The NAHC is located at the Nhill Aerodrome which was an RAAF Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) air base for training aircrews to serve in World War Two. The base was in operation from 1941 to 1946 and trained 10,000 men and women at the RAAF No. 2 Air Navigation School, No. 1 Operation Training Unit, No. 97 Squadron Reserve , Air Armament and Gas School. Of the vast complex that once existed there, a few buildings remain, including a World War Two hangar (a Heritage Walk also takes you around the foundations of former base buildings).
A number of aircraft types were operated at Nhill but predominately the RAAF flew the Avro Anson twin-engined maritime patrol, air crew training and liaison aircraft from the base. The Anson currently under restoration (serial number W2364) was built in 1941 and operated in these roles, and then as an instructional airframe, until sold as surplus in 1953.
The most noticeable progress on the Anson restoration since my last visit to the NAHC in 2017, is the commencement of the construction from scratch of the wooden wings by restoration project leader Mick Kingwell – no surviving parts were available to be recovered with the original airframe. The starboard wing frame is starting to take shape.
Other key milestones in the past year include the fitting of a pitot tube frame, engine cowl frames and covers, bomb bay doors and compartments. This has been accompanied with the manufacture of a nose observation position Perspex covering, the sourcing of a bomb setting compass unit, bomb sight and 1944 12 volt battery. The Anson is looking great!
Anson Restoration Progress 2012 to 2018
Around 30 Anson training aircraft were based at Nhill, alongside 10 Australian designed and built CAC Wirraway training and utility aircraft – these aircraft conducted air navigation, armaments and bombing training alongside several de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth biplane basic trainers. The aim of the NAHC is to have an example of each aircraft at their museum and they are well on the way to achieving this.
de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth
An exciting recent addition to the NAHC Ahrens Hangar is the de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth A17-588 (currently registered as VH-RIN), purchased by NAHC Member Len Creek in 2017. She is a beauty and looks like she just came off the production line (actually built in Australia in the early 1940’s)! No doubt it will be seen flying about at future NAHC major events.
Bring The Wirraway Home
The funding progress to purchase CAC Wirraway A20-722 is only $52,500 away from the extremely reasonable price of $300,000 offered by owner and restorer Borg Sorenson, a patron of the NAHC, who wants to retire the aircraft to Nhill as an example of Australian engineering.
Borg has offered them the aircraft for much less than he could get on the open market, under the condition it does not fly again. The NAHC plan to just display it as a taxiing aircraft – an overseas or local buyer would want to fly it for sure and Borg wants his labour of love to be safely preserved as an Australian aviation historic asset (fair enough too!).
This Wirraway was delivered to the RAAF in August 1945 and struck off charge in October 1958 when it was sold off for parts. Borg recovered the remains of the airframe from a farm near Horsham (45 minutes from Nhill) in 1984 and began a long restoration in Tyabb, Victoria. He used parts from other Wirraway aircraft A20-512 (also recovered from near Horsham) and A20-731. The Wirraway took its first post restoration flight on June 8th, 2002.
Neil Thomas has continued to do a remarkable job on restoring the two RAAF Link Trainers (A13-54 and A13-60) – an early flight instrument and flight dynamics training simulator produced during the 1930’s through to the 1950’s by Link Aviation Devices Inc. in New York (the Link Trainer was first developed in 1929). They were a key pilot training component in World War Two for most Allied nations including Australia.
The owner of the Link Trainers has an agreement with the NAHC that they would restore both in exchange for keeping one at the museum. A13-60 is now in working order and will be returned to the owner at some stage in the future. Meanwhile work continues on restoring A13-54 which will be kept by NAHC.
Restoring an Avro Anson Progress Reports 2012 to 2017:
If you can help out with a donation to the NAHC to contribute to the Wirraway Fund, all monies will be receipted and donations exceeding $2.00 AUD are tax-deductible in Australia. Payments can be made as follows:
Bank transfer to Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre Inc.
National Australia Bank – BSB: 083-752
Account No: 83325-2480
Please include a reference – (Your Name) Wirraway.
Please send contact details including phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheque payable to NAHC Inc. Wirraway project
and mailed to PO Box 42, Nhill Vic 3418
please include your contact details, name, address,
phone number and email address (if you have one).
For further information please feel free to contact the NAHC via email: email@example.com
A go fund me page has also now been set up at: