Restoring an Avro Anson and a Wirraway Comes Home – 2018 Update Part II

The Fantastic Progress of the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre

Regular readers will know that since 2012 I have been 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, built in 1941) at the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (NAHC) in the small Wimmera town of Nhill, Victoria. The project has gone from a backyard shed based restoration of the Anson which commenced in 2009, to a fully fledged aviation museum at the Nhill Aerodrome in 2018!

The aerodrome is a small one today, but during World War Two it was an RAAF Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) air base for training aircrews. 10,000 plus men and women were trained at the base between 1941 to 1946, whilst attending the RAAF No. 2 Air Navigation School,  No. 1 Operation Training Unit,  No. 97 Squadron Reserve, Air Armament and Gas School.

RAAF Avro Anson W2586 over Nhill in 1943
RAAF Avro Anson W2586 over Nhill in 1943 (Photo Source: ADF Serials / Kevin O’Reilly)

During that period, around 30 Avro 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. In addition around 18 DAP (Bristol) Beaufort torpedo bombers and Lockheed Hudson light bombers were also operated at the base.

The latter two are extremely hard to come by today (although they do exist in limited numbers in Australian museum collections, including the only flying Hudson at Temora) but since the Ahrens Hangar museum building was completed in 2014, the aim of the NAHC was to have an example of each of the principle Nhill training aircraft, the Anson, Wirraway and Tiger Moth on display, plus a restored Link Trainer. I am very pleased to say that as of April 2018, this has been achieved! All this in just a few years!

Avro Anson

The restoration progress of the Avro Anson continues at a steady rate. Since my last visit to the museum in January 2018, the most noticeable change has been the steady construction of the wooden starboard wing framework, as per original Avro plans. Although this aircraft is not being restored to flight (the plan is to have it be able to taxi), the level of detail to be an exact restoration is remarkable.

Restoration progress on the starboard wing of the Avro Anson Mk.I (Serial Number W2364, built in 1941) at the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (NAHC
Restoration progress on the starboard wing of the Avro Anson Mk.I (Serial Number W2364, built in 1941) at the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (NAHC) January vs July 2018. Note the addition of the port propeller too.
Avro Anson Mk.I (W2364) restoration - Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre
Avro Anson Mk.I (W2364) restoration – Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (July 2018)
Detailed starboard wing framework reconstruction - Avro Anson Mk.I (W2364) restoration - Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre
Detailed starboard wing framework reconstruction – Avro Anson Mk.I (W2364) restoration – Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (July 2018)
Detailed starboard wing framework reconstruction - Avro Anson Mk.I (W2364) restoration - Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (July 2018)
Detailed starboard wing framework reconstruction – Avro Anson Mk.I (W2364) restoration – Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (July 2018)
Detailed starboard wing framework reconstruction - Avro Anson Mk.I (W2364) restoration - Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (July 2018)
Detailed starboard wing framework reconstruction – Avro Anson Mk.I (W2364) restoration – Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (July 2018)
Detailed starboard wing framework reconstruction - Avro Anson Mk.I (W2364) restoration - Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (July 2018)
Detailed starboard wing framework reconstruction – Avro Anson Mk.I (W2364) restoration – Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (July 2018)
Avro Anson Mk.I (W2364) restoration - Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre
Detailed and meticulous to plan, the Avro Anson restoration at NAHC continues steadily (July 2018)
Avro Anson Mk.I (W2364) restoration - Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (July 2018)
Avro Anson Mk.I (W2364) restoration – note the original piece of fuselage fabric and RAAF yellow training scheme – Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (July 2018)

Link Trainers

Following the Anson, the next acquisition by the NAHC were two Link Trainers. These are an early flight instrument and flight training simulator produced from the 1930’s to the 1950’s by Link Aviation Devices Inc. in New York. They were a key pilot training component in World War Two for most Allied nations including Australia and were part of the training program at Nhill. Two RAAF Link Trainers (A13-54 and A13-60) are being restored at the NAHC but A13-60, which is now in working order will be returned in the future to its owner, who has an agreement with the NAHC that they would restore both to working order in exchange for permanently keeping one at the museum.

RAAF Link Trainer A13-54 under restoration - NAHC July 2018
RAAF Link Trainer A13-54 under restoration – NAHC July 2018
Restored RAAF Link Trainer A13-60 - NAHC Nhill
Restored RAAF Link Trainer A13-60 – NAHC July 2018

Tiger Moth

In 2017, the main addition to the museum hangar was de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth A17-588 (later registered as VH-GMF, currently VH-RIN), which is privately owned by NAHC Member, Len Creek. The former RAAF biplane basic trainer is a real beauty, fully flight ready (it is flown regularly) and looks like she just came off the production line, despite being built in Australia in 1942!

de Havilland DH.82A Tiger Moth A17-588 - the new aircraft for the NAHC - Nhill January 2018
The Tiger Moth is a beauty and looks factory new! (January 2018)
The Tiger Moth is powered by a 130 hp de Havilland Gipsy Major I inverted 4-cylinder inline engine NAHC Nhill Australia
The Tiger Moth is powered by a 130 hp de Havilland Gipsy Major I inverted 4-cylinder inline engine – NAHC July 2018

CAC Wirraway

Obtaining the final aircraft for the museum collection, former RAAF CAC CA-16 Wirraway A20-722, was a huge community based achievement. They raised the funds locally to purchase the aircraft at an extremely reasonable price of $300,000, which was offered by owner and restorer Borg Sorenson, a patron of the NAHC. Borg wanted to retire the aircraft to Nhill, under the condition it would not fly again, to preserve it as an example of Australian aviation engineering. The Wirraway made its final flight from Tyabb to Nhill on April 28th, 2018 (unfortunately I was overseas and missed the handover event!).

NAHC Wirraway Project Nhill Victoria
The Wirraway Project was a success! NAHC July 2018
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) now home at the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) now home at the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (July 2018)
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) - Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) – Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (July 2018)
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) - Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) – Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre (July 2018)
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) in its new home at the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre Ahrens Hangar
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) in its new home at the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre Ahrens Hangar (July 2018)
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) - The 600 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial engine was licence built at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) - NAHC Nhill RAAF
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) – The 600 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial engine was licence built at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) – NAHC (July 2018)
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) - NAHC Nhill Australia
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) – NAHC July 2018
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) - A Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation success - NAHC
CAC CA-16 Wirraway (A20-722) – A Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation success – NAHC July 2018

Wirraway A20-722 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 and was regularly flown at aviation events for 14 years.

The NAHC progress has been fantastic to see in my home region. I cant wait to see the Avro Anson in a fully restored state and also what the future holds for this fantastic little museum, which has so much local history surrounding it. Once again, well done to the NAHC team!

Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre Ahrens Hangar Nhill Victoria
Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre Ahrens Hangar (July 2018)
Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre Ahrens Hanga
RAAF and local history preserved within the Nhill Aviation Heritage Centre Ahrens Hangar (July 2018)

Restoring an Avro Anson Progress Reports 2012 to 2018:

2012 Nhill Fly In – Where It All Began

2013 My First Close Look at the Anson Project

2015 Update

2016 Update

2017 Nhill Military Vehicle Rendezvous

2018 Update

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14 thoughts on “Restoring an Avro Anson and a Wirraway Comes Home – 2018 Update Part II

  1. Good stuff – thanks for sharing. I often feel that the standard of restorations brings the aircraft back to an even higher quality of finish and detail than when they left the production line, which is a fantastic endorsement both of the devotion and skill put into the restoration work and to the qualities of the original engineering. (I am also sure it extends to maintenance once done – I have a distinct recollection of watching the owners of a restored 1918 Bleriot, picnicking underneath it… and every so often, one of them would look back at the aircraft and find something to clean down with a rag they had to hand, or adjust – true perfectionists, as is so essential in this work. I watched the owner fly it, a little later. Wonderful stuff.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for all the valuable info. and the superb shots. The Wirraway is new to me,it looks like a Harvard T6 ,but wut a 3 blade propeller. Live and learn.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Deano many thanks for sharing the progress at Nhill. I too sadly was unable to be there for the arrival fly-in. However, I “slotted in” between your two visits; inApril. In fact I had the pleasure of camping at the ‘drome for two nights, and catching up with Jo & Team-extreme at WestPrint. Did the walk-around and learnt heaps of the past of this Special Place (Nhill WWII aerodrome). Also was given a great tour by Len. We chatted for quite some time.
    Over some sixteen years (sort of ongoing) I’d been researching Tocumwal’s “McIntyre Field”. Located on the “WWII Brisbane Line”. Named after Captain Patrick William McIntyre; ace aviator WWII from Illinois. I would love to be able to get in contact with his daughter/descendants if possible. Over those many years I perused thousands and downloaded hundreds of documents pertaining to McIntyre Field etc.

    kind regards,
    Noel

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Noel. Tocumwal certainly had plenty of history in itself! Is there a website, Facebook page associated with the squadron(s), Captain McIntyre flew with that you may be able to leave a message on in regards to contacting the family?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Deano,
    One of Patrick’s daughter’s relatives some years ago was in contact with me. I had then sent “what I have” collated on Capt P W McIntyre to them, but no response since. He was the namesake of the airfield. Killed in an accident on a flight from Archerfield QLD.

    Here’s some links for you. Bob Brown was the Tocumwal curator.
    http://www.tham.org.au/

    http://tocumwal.weebly.com/blog/archives/04-2011

    https://www.ozatwar.com/ozcrashes/qld218.htm

    Liked by 1 person

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