Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published August 14th 2015
The RAAF Story Beyond the Planes
My husband was in the RAAF in his younger years, so a visit to the RAAF Museum was a must while we are in Townsville. The Museum abuts the RAAF Base and is next to the Townsville International Airport, which is used for both military and civilian purposes.
At the entrance to the museum is a solid walled cage marked 'Danger RAAF Military Working Dogs' and inside the cage are a couple of toy puppies. Apparently these puppies, I mean, ferocious military dogs, usually bark but the motion detectors are not working today.
The RAAF has a history in Townsville going back to the 1930's when a base was first established there for civil aviation but was fully operational as a military base before Japan entered WWII.
This small museum which focuses on memorabilia and historical artefacts rather than airplanes is run by enthusiastic volunteers. Their passion for the museum is inspiring. The historical memorabilia on display dates from WWII.
In the first building we find uniforms, insignia, medical supplies, training materials, weaponry, rations and many models of airplanes. A pack of study cards schools the student in Survival of Atomic Attack and Silhouette cards teach ship identification from the air. Unopened medical supplies from the 1940's are complete with written instructions. There is a weatherproof silk map and a tiny Heximine stove designed to heat ration food.
a model of a Caribou hangs above a display dedicated to these airplanes.
One display of pilot's helmets chronicles their development, commencing with leather helmets and goggles to the more modern high impact, high tensile, double visor and safety helmets. A dummy pilot is kitted out and strapped into a Mirage ejection seat. Diagrams on the wall explain how this works but my husband runs through it, he remembers this stuff.
The story of the Battle of the Coral Sea in WWII is enhanced by wall mounted maps and photos. The American air force flew to this battle from bases in Australia. There are also pictorial displays from Vietnam and Afghanistan.
We move off to a pair of Nissen huts where we find air traffic control equipment and a flight simulator. Dummies are dressed in uniforms and there is a display of caps. In glass cases are air force china and crockery, leave passes, and so much more. A second hut contains shelves of documentation that might quicken the pulse of military researchers.
The mood turns sombre on the lawns outside where damaged propellers and motors are displayed along with information boards about the crashes. One is the propeller of a Dakota that crashed in 1944 but was not discovered until 1989, when the remains of the crew were painstakingly recovered and buried in the Cairns War Cemetery.
A damaged propellar. The story of the crash is on an nearby information board.
In a large garden shed different types of bomb casings are displayed and in a garage are some engines including a Rolls Royce Eagle V12. In the grounds we find anti-air craft guns, a Vampire Trainer Plane currently under restoration, a broken helicopter, a surface to air missile and an old RAAF truck.
You will find the museum at RAAF Townsville, Ingham Road, Garbutt, (Townsville) Qld. 4814. They do not currently have a web presence but can be contacted by telephone on 07 4752 1712. Opening hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays 9am to 12pm and Sundays 10am to 4pm or by appointment. Admission is free. There is a bench seat just inside the gate and there are public toilets. Parking is kerbside in the street outside. A small shop sell souvenirs.