Navigator


 

March 16th, 1973, 0920Z.  It was raining when we departed from  Brize Norton.  On board the Short Belfast we had a very special cargo; a World War II Spitfire that we were to deliver to the Aeronautical Museum in Sydney, Australia.  Our first stop was Akrotiri in Cyprus, where we landed at 1645Z.

March 17th.  After having picked up a couple of obligatory demi-johns of Cyprus sherry (for medicinal purposes only), we departed Akrotiri at 0700Z, landing in Masirah, an island in the Arabian Sea off the south east coast of Oman, at 1435Z.   The air base here was to serve a vital role in the Gulf War some 18 years later.

March 18th.  At 1100Z, we headed across the Arabian Sea, skirting the southern tip of India  to arrive in Colombo, Ceylon (renamed Sri-Lanka) at 1730Z.  After refuelling, we took off  at 1830Z headed for the Island Nation of Singapore.  There were a total of three RAF bases in Singapore at this time: Seletar (maintenance), Tengah (fighter) and Changi (transport).  For those history buffs, Changi was quite infamous as a Prisoner of War camp during the days of  the Japanese occupation in the Second World War.  More recent times have seen it being used as the new international airport, having assumed that role from the ageing Paya Lebar.  We landed in Tengah at 0100Z on March 19th.

A couple of days in Singapore is always a welcome break  This was the first  stopover on this trip that would see us relaxing in an hotel instead of RAF transit accommodations.  The Hotel Equatorial offered very comfortable beds, room service and a swimming pool.  The dining facilities were superb but nothing could beat a late night saunter through the market places of Singapore where the real flavour of the Orient was all too abundant.  The smells of different foods being cooked over sandalwood fires, the calls of the vendors selling everything from children's toys to silk blouses and gemstones and punters betting on anything and everything  gave these places an atmosphere that not even dear old Walt Disney could reproduce (and he had tried!).

March 21st. We took off from a steamy Singapore at 0200Z, flying south east with Sumatra to our right and Borneo to our left.  We then headed due east skirting north of the Sunda Islands before heading south over the Timor Sea into Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territories of Australia.

Although we landed at 0925Z, it was some 25 minutes later that we were allowed to disembark.  The Australians have the strictest Customs and Immigration department that I have ever encountered.   It was always the same routine (I had visited Australia on numerous occasions) - we landed, taxied to the appointed parking spot, but kept all the doors closed.  There then comes a "knock knock", the door is opened, a cheery chap in a Customs uniform wishes us a hearty "G'day Mates" and tosses  a fumigation bomb into the aircraft, whereupon the door is promptly closed and we are left to suffer the  indignities of being well and truly deloused!

The Aspa City Motel was always a pleasant stay when in Darwin.  The rooms were very simple  but adequate and there was always the makings for tea and coffee right in the room (not so common in those days).  Darwin had all the images of a true frontier town;  what stood out in my mind were red dirt roads, tin roofs, barking dogs, flies and Aborigines.  The town was practically wiped out on Christmas Day just two years later when Cyclone Tracy showed no mercy.

At 2305Z, we were off again, this time to the Australian Air Force base at Richmond, New South Wales.

March 22nd, 0610Z.  We landed at Richmond where our precious cargo was offloaded in front of a very enthusiastic gathering.   We ate in the Sergeants Mess, refuelled, and then headed outbound  at 0830Z.    We arrived at the Australian Air Force Base of  Williamtown after a short hop of some  35 minutes and were driven to the Colonial Terrace Motel in Newcastle where we spent an interesting evening being entertained by some of the Air Movements staff from the base.

March 23rd.  We had an early start this morning, loading the Sabre Jet Flight Simulator that was  to be delivered to the Indonesian Air Force.  At 0125Z, we took off heading north west towards Darwin where we landed at 0805Z.  The Aspa City Motel was visited again and we took the time to go downtown and spend a memorable evening at a bar that was typical of Crocodile Dundee  territory.

2220Z saw us taking off for Eastern Java, our destination was the Indonesian Air Force base at  Iswahjudi, near Maduin.  We arrived at 0320Z on March 24th to a very hot and steamy welcome.  The offloading of the simulator was a relatively easy job with the assistance of a myriad of helping hands.  We were not scheduled to depart for about four hours which gave us the opportunity to wander freely about the aircraft ramp, the only proviso being that no photographs could be taken.

What we found there was an amazing collection of Soviet aircraft.  There were no less than 22  Tu-16 Badgers, 10 Il-28 Beagles, 35 MiG-21 Fishbeds, 40 or so MiG-17 Frescos and MiG-15UTI trainers plus a range of Soviet built troop transports. The sad part about it was that they were, in the main, all unserviceable, there being no spares contract in place with the USSR.  We  must have been  the envy of Western aviation enthusiasts, having been given a free-hand to clamber about  these aircraft, which sadly were starting to rot in the jungle heat and humidity.

March 24th.  At 0730Z we departed,  heading  for Darwin.  Arriving at 1225Z, we were again subjected to the knock-knock, G'day Mate, fumigation-in-your-face hospitality of the Australian Customs Service.  Something that was not mentioned before about the arrival procedures is that all of the food in the galley is normally confiscated and incinerated.  What an irony this was since a few hours earlier, we had restocked the galley with Australian foodstuffs in Darwin, including canned Australian fruit etc., and here it was being taken away to be burned!

We found out that the Aspa City Motel, which was our usual place of abode in Darwin, was booked up solid, and so we had to make alternate arrangements to stay in the Koala Motel.  It was very  pleasant but somehow lacked the ambience of the Aspa City.  What was different is that this particular motel had a bar that would normally be reserved for Aborigines only.  We pleaded ignorance and,  at the invitation of a very enterprising fellow, enjoyed an evening of tales of the outback.

March 26th.  We had a special cargo to be loaded in Darwin before we left.  A Sea Walrus  fuselage that had been sitting in the desert since the end of Word War II was to be returned  to the RAF Museum at Hendon.  Once it had been put on board and safely secured, we left on the first leg of our return flight at 2235Z.  Our route took us over the Gulf of Carpenteria and then across Cape York Peninsula and over the Coral Sea to Nandi in the Fijian Islands.

We were in for a bit of a disappointment as the refuelling services in Fiji had suddenly decided to go on strike.  We had to divert into Noumea, New Caledonia.  We arrived at 0810Z,  it was quite dark, and so the preconceived National Geographic images of South Seas girls wearing nothing but a grass skirt and a grin could not be seen.  Our accommodations were quite modest in the Hotel Noumea, nothing at all as I imagined this corner of paradise would look like.  Early the following morning, we departed the hotel headed for the airport.  So much for that!

March 28.  We took off at 0030Z en route for our next refuelling stop at Pago Pago in the Samoa Islands.  We crossed over Fiji and then the International Date Line.  There was no ceremony to mark the occasion, quite an anticlimax really.  At 0655Z, we touched down at  Pago Pago, time enough for a drink of orange juice in the thatch-roofed- palm-trees- all-around-terminal-bar before heading north to Hawaii.

A couple of hours into the flight, there was a strange looking spider seen to be crawling up the tail fin of the old Sea Walrus.  Someone suggested that was a  "Black Widow" spider and was also of the "jumping" variety.  Well, that was enough for me, I wasn't about to go near it.  We proceeded to empty a spray can of DDT insecticide in the general direction of the spider, but it kept climbing!   Just then, the Flight Engineer came back to see what all the excitement was about.  He took one look at the spider, took off his shoe and *Splat*   the spider was no more.

When we arrived in Honolulu at 1645Z, the aircraft was taxied to an isolated area and U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspectors boarded.  It would appear that the spider had many  relatives hidden in the fuselage and that they were of a type that would not be welcomed.  The aircraft was impounded for fumigation and we were to be stuck in Hawaii for three days.

 

There seemed to be a lot of commotion at the airport.  There was a military band, what appeared to be a Guard of Honour, lots of people crowding around and a horde of top brass. 

The object of their attention was a C141 that had just landed and was making its way towards the gathering.  The aircraft parked and the red carpet was literally rolled up to the steps. 

 

 

 

 

The band started playing, probably something by DeSousa, and everyone was cheering as the occupants departed the aircraft one by one. 

It turned out that the VIP's were Prisoners of War that had just been released from the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam.  I don't recall how many there were, since we were all caught up in the moment, but in retrospect I would guess at about 30. 

 


The looks on their faces when they were greeted by their respective families is something I will never forget, and I feel both honoured and humbled to have seen a bit of history in the making.

 

 

The Ambassador Hotel on Waikiki Beach was our home for the next few days.  Being British servicemen, we were not at all flush in the money department, so we had to find ways to entertain ourselves in this paradise that didn't involve putting our hands in our pockets.  To our  delight, we did find many events that we could enjoy that cost nothing at all.  We were able to  get a "Rent a Wreck" car for just $6 a day which was a real bonus as it meant that we didn't  have to rely on public transport.   We went over to Pearl Harbour where the U.S. Navy has complimentary tours of the harbour which included a visit to the U.S.S. Arizona.  Some 1,500  men perished aboard that vessel when the Japanese attacked in December of 1941.

We drove around the Island and saw, amongst other things, the Giant Pineapple that adorns the roof of one of the pineapple processing factories.  Some would say that the pineapple is the one thing that made Hawaii what it is today.  We also saw Diamond Head, but I honestly could not see what all the fuss was about.  The afternoon and evening was spent lounging about on Waikiki Beach.  We managed to crash a beach party that night which turned out to be a really wonderful time for us.

The following morning, bright and early, we made our way out to the "Kodak Shell"  This outdoor (free) theatre had been running several times a week for the past 35 years.  We were seated around what  appeared to be a circus ring, perhaps 500 seats in all.  Then the drums started beating and the girls,  dressed in traditional grass skirts, danced their way into our hearts. 

The clapping was so loud we  could not hear the drums anymore - but no one was clapping?  Every one in the audience had a camera pressed to their face and what we thought was clapping was actually the sound of 500 or so camera shutters opening and closing - that was quite amazing.  Sales of Kodak film were very brisk!

March 30th., 1925Z.  We left Hawaii enroute to Sacramento, California, taking with us many happy memories.  On board were the personal effects and car of a U.S. Army Colonel who was being repatriated to the mainland (are we running a taxi service here or what?).  When we landed at 0330Z, we offloaded the car and other items belonging to the Colonel and were then taken to the Caravan Inn which was relatively close to McClellan AFB.   I recall, after dinner, just relaxing in front of the television in my room.  It never ceased to amaze me that there were this many channels available, and instead of the national anthem being played at 11pm and everything going all fuzzy on the screen, these channels were on 24 hours a day!

March 31st, 1815Z.  We headed east across the Southern United States, our destination being Charleston in South Carolina.  We were over Panama City, Florida, when we were required to go into a holding pattern.  There was a very bad thunderstorm system in our way that was best just to be avoided.  Looking out of the Belfast window, I could see not only the storm but at least 30 other aircraft performing an aerial ballet, avoiding both the storm and each other.  This particular manoeuvre delayed our arrival for two hours, not that we were in a hurry to go anywhere at this stage!

At 0230Z, we touched down in Charleston and were introduced to the driver that was to take us to our hotel - the Holiday Inn.   Apparently, there are two Holiday Inns in the vicinity of the airport, Airport West and Airport East.  Now our driver, talking with that southern drawl that gives the impression that nothing would ever get him upset, took us to the wrong hotel.  That was ok, everyone makes mistakes - but this chap tried to take his bus under an awning in front of the hotel that was not designed to accommodate buses.  We were well and truly stuck quite snugly under the awning.  Someone suggested letting the air out of the tyres so that the bus could be driven out.  The driver let all of the air out of the tyres, so that the bus was no longer stuck, but could not be driven on the wheel  rims.  It was about an hour later when a replacement bus arrived to take us to the correct hotel.

It would have been nice to stay and explore the Charleston area with the civil war history and huge cotton plantations etc., but wait - we are supposed to be working, this is not a holiday - but I believe we could have been forgiven for thinking so.

April 1st., 1730Z.  We headed north  up the U.S. Eastern Seaboard towards our penultimate destination: Gander, Newfoundland.  Arriving at 2255Z, we found ourselves in the welcoming embrace of the Albatross Motel - if ever a place could be called a home-away-from-home, then the Albatross was it!   When the front desk staff greet you by your first name, you realise you are a regular!

April 2nd., 1400Z.  Our final leg across the Atlantic was a good time for reflection about the last few weeks.  I am just guessing here, but I suppose we might have travelled about 35,000 miles in the last 18 days with an actual flying time of 100 hours.  How many games of  scrabble  were played in the back of the Belfast, and who was the ultimate champion of champions?

At 2110Z, we arrived back where we had started from, Brize Norton in Southern England.   Nothing had changed - it was still raining.
 

© UKMAMS OBA 2007


[Here follows a history of the Seagull/Walrus airframe that was recovered from Australia - reproduced with the kind permission of  Andrew Simpson, curator of the RAF Museum]      

A/C SERIAL NO.A2-4PRIVATE

SECTION 2B

 INDIVIDUAL HISTORY

SUPERMARINE SEAGULL V A2-4/VH-ALB

MUSEUM ACCESSION NO.73/A/426

 

27   Aug  34
One of 24 Supermarine type 236 Seagull V aircraft ordered for the Royal Australian Navy to specification 6/34.  Built at Vickers Supermarine, Woolston.  Order No.0.1.416.  Serials A2-1 to A2-24.  Fitted with 775hp Bristol Pegasus engine.
 
08   Nov  35  
Engine installed – Pegasus IIM2 P.15531.
 
03   Dec   35
Test flown from Southampton Water (30 minutes) prior to dismantling and crating for shipment to Australia.
 
12   Dec   35
Engine removed for shipping.
 
11   Jan    36 
Inspected at Southampton prior to shipment to Australia.
 
21   Feb   36
Brought on RAAF charge at No.1 Aircraft Depot, Laverton, Victoria.  Would have carried standard aluminium doped overall colour scheme with black serial number A2-4 on rear fuselage and rudder top. Original RAAF airframe logbook (Form 338) donated to RAFM by its later civilian owner, Squadron Leader Peter Gibbes in 2001 and held by RAFM Archives section.
 
09   Mar   36
Allotted to No.101 (Fleet Co-Operation) Flight, Point Cook where training on type occurred; engine re-installed 16th March 1936; three test flights on 17th March 1936 totalling 1 hr 40 minutes; arrived at Richmond NSW 3 April 1936.
 
14   Apr   36
Lower tailskid sternpost failed.
 
20   Apr   36
Allotted to the newly re-numbered No.5 (Fleet Co-Operation) Squadron (Formerly 101 Flight) at Richmond, the unit providing aircraft and personnel for ships of the Royal Australian Navy, with a secondary role to carry out air survey tasks for the Government.  RAAF Form A50 (Unit History Sheet) has A2-4 at Sydney for exercises with HMAS Canberra on this date.
 
08   Feb   37 
Embarked on cruiser HMAS Australia.
 
09   Feb   37 
A2-4 made its first catapult launch, from the Australia.
 
10-17 Feb 37 
Participated in exercises in the Jervis Bay area in NSW with ships of the Royal Australian Navy.
 
22   Apr   37
Flown from Richmond via Darwin (arriving 26 April) by pilot named Jim Alexander on four-day ‘detached duty’ trip to the Northern Territory, `his stops causing quite a stir in the outback towns, where a Flying Boat had never before been seen'  (Nicholl, G W R - `The Supermarine Walrus' Foulis 1966).  This mission was a co-operative one with anthropologist Dr Donald Thompson, mapping aboriginal tribal boundaries in the Arnhem Land area in the Northern Territory.  Crewed by pilot - Alexander; fitter - Sgt Kerr, and wireless operator LAC Barnes.
 
c. May 1937
Worked for a few days with the survey vessel HMAS Moresby - crew as above.  Surveying Northern Australian coastline.  Afterwards moved base to Millingimby Mission Station, flying mainly from a rough grass strip on which the grass in places was as high as the lower mainplanes.  Continued with mapping work.  Then left Millingimby and returned to working with the Moresby for a week, then returning to Sydney in early June 1937 having flown 120 hours in 45 days.  (Nicholl, 1966).
 
5    Jun    37 
Returned to Richmond for maintenance, returning to Darwin 10 June, and to Richmond on 16 June, being allocated to assist with an East Coast Fisheries survey, covering Hobart in the south to Townsville in the north, thence to Pont Cook.
  05  Jul     37 
Alexander again teamed with A2-4 on mission to Tasmania on fisheries work-a survey flight of the Pelagic Fisheries, teaming up with the Fisheries Protection launch, which carried fuel for the Seagull, which identified shoals of fish then led the launch to them.  The crew tried to simplify identification by bombing the fish to stun them and bring them to the surface, but this `proved largely ineffective because they soon found they were using the wrong time-delay fuses'  (Nicholl, 1966). After 40-hour inspection, survey continued until 14th August 1937.
 
10   Jul     37
Underside of hull pierced by jack at Point Cook.
 
15   Jul     37
Hull pierced by Buoy at Mallacoota on the coast of Victoria. 
 
19   Jul     37
FTS for 40 hour check.
 
08  Aug   37 
Alexander flew A2-4 back to Richmond.
 
22   Aug  37 
Embarked on cruiser HMAS Sydney for tour of West Australia waters.
 
08   Oct   37
Disembarked from HMAS Sydney, going to Richmond, and returning to that vessel on 26 October.
 
16   Feb   38
Forced landing at sea, necessitating replacement of port wing tip float
 
28   Feb   38
Struck side of Sydney .
 
22   Mar   38
Evening - camera port collapsed during night flying, allowing water to enter the fuselage, with the result that the aircraft was submerged in Jervis Bay, NSW, for some 18 hours before recovery on this date, which itself caused further damage.
 
29   Mar   38
To No.2 Air Depot, Richmond, for repair.
 
05   Apr   38
Unloaded for inspection at Richmond.
 
30   Jun    38
Airplane to workshops at No.2 Air Depot; engine removed two days earlier.
 
21   Nov  38 
Still undergoing repair in the workshops; engine refitted 28 February 1939.
 
01   Jan    39
No.5 Squadron renumbered as No.9 Squadron.
 
03   Mar   39
Test flying after repairs - aircraft swung on landing.
 
10   Mar   39
Still at No.2 Aircraft Depot - stored.
 
08   Aug  39
Allotted, serviceable, to No.9 Fleet Co-operation Squadron, Richmond, NSW, - then re-numbered (again) No.5 Squadron.
 
12   Sep   39 
To No.10 (Fleet Co-Operation) Squadron, Rathmines, on Lake Macquarie near Newcastle, New South Wales.
 
27   Nov  39
Noted as serviceable on aircraft record card.
 
23   Jan    40
Allotted from No.10 Squadron to Station Flight, at No.1 FTS, Point Cook, Victoria since 10 Squadron became UK based for the rest of the war.
 
13   Feb   40 
Landed at Richmond airfield with wheels retracted.
 
22   Feb   40
Allotted to No.2 Air Depot for repair.
 
06   Mar   40
Still in store.
 
21   May  40
To No.9 Squadron, Rathmines once more.
 
24   Jun    40
Noted on record card as unserviceable for more than two days.
 
25   Jun    40
At Rathmines with No.9 Squadron, exercising with No.24 Squadron, so obviously serviceable again (Unit History Sheet).
 
06   Jul     40
Camouflage scheme applied to aircraft
 
11   Jul     40
Embarked on light cruiser HMAS Perth.  Pilot Fg Off E V Beamont. Damaged by gunfire blast and repaired by Quantas in October after disembarkation.
 
02   Aug  40
Fg Off Beaumont flew the Captain of HMAS Perth to Rathmines on A2-4.
 
06   Aug  40
Fg Off Beaumont returned A2-4 and the Captain to the Perth.
 
09   Aug  40
Fg Off P J McMahon left Rathmines in A2-4.  Crew of 4 embarked on HMAS Manoora.
 
27   Aug  40
Fg Off Beaumont flew A2-4 from Rathmines to exercise with HMAS Perth.  Above 5 entries taken from RAAF Unit History Sheets.
 
26   Sep   40
Replaced on the Perth by Seagull A2-17 having suffered extensive gun-blast damage to wings and tail.  Off-loaded at Sydney.
 
26   Sep   40
To Quantas, Rose Bay, for repair.
 
07   Nov  40 
Allotted once again to No.9 Squadron, and modified for target towing duties. 
 
12   Nov  40
Ready for flight test after repair, and test flown 18th November.
 
22   Nov  40
Fitted with target-towing equipment.
 
25   Nov  40
Serviceable with No.9 Squadron at Rose Bay, following delivery a week earlier.
 
23   Dec   40
Noted serviceable in three days.
 
07   Jan    41 
Drogue towing operating from Mascot in Fleet Co-Operation role.  Returned to No.9 Squadron, Rathmines.
 
09   Jan    41 
Anti-aircraft Co-operation Newcastle for No.9 Squadron.
 
21   Jan    41 
Forced landing caused by Fork-end flying wire breaking during flight.
 
30   Jan    41 
Task as of 9 Jan 41 completed.
 
10   Feb   41 
Bounced on take-off.  Port wing struck water and damaged.
 
17   Feb   41 
Allotted to Quantas for repair.
 
03   Mar   41
Serviceable in 14 days with No.9 Squadron.
 
04   Mar   41
Allotment to Quantas cancelled.
 
10   Mar   41
Serviced at No.9 Squadron, Rathmines.
 
24   Mar   41

On combined exercises with Cruisers HMAS Hobart, Sydney, and Australia (Unit History Sheets).

 
08   Apr   41
Allotted to HMAS Australia in error - cancelled the next day since A2-4 was a target-towing, rather than operational, aircraft.
 
18   Apr   41
Target-towing for HMAS Hobart and Adelaide.
 
05   May  41
At Richmond target towing with No.22 Squadron for No.9 Squadron.
 
27   Oct   41
Allotted to No.2 Air Depot for overhaul.
 
15   Nov  41
At No.9 Squadron, Rathmines.
 
26   Nov  41
Flown by Wg Cdr J Alexander from Rathmines to Richmond hence to Rose Bay, Sydney for inspection and service by Quantas at their Flying Boat base.  (This is a different pilot to the one who flew the 1937 missions).
 
29   Nov  41
Received No.2 Air Depot ex-No.9 Squadron; engine removed previous day.
 
  Jan    42
Photograph via F Smith shows A2-4 being hoisted on board HMAS Perth at Garden Island, Sydney.  Whilst on board Sydney at this time the aircraft was painted Matt Light Grey overall with the code `J' in black either side of the cockpit, this being the Perth’s' code letter.  Red/white. blue roundels were carried on the fuselage and above and below the wings, with a large red/white/blue fin flash and black serial numbers on the fuselage only.
 
18   Jun    42
Issued Quantas ex-2AD.
 
03   Jul     42  
Work proceeding.
 
20   Jul     42  
Serviceability indefinite.
 
24   Jul     42 
Components undergoing inspection; engine refitted 31st August 1942.
 
09   Oct   42
Estimated ready in 3 weeks at Quantas.
 
30   Oct   42  
Estimated ready in 10 days at Quantas.
 
07   Nov  42  
Allotted to No.9 Squadron ex-Quantas.
 
09   Nov  42  
Received at No.9 Squadron, Rathmines.
 
22   Nov  42  
Noted unserviceable with No.9 Squadron.
 
09   Jan    43 
Allotted SHQ Rathmines ex-No.9 Squadron for drogue (target) towing duties.
 
26   Jan    43   
Returned to No.9 Squadron.
 
01 Feb     43 
Drogue winch removed.
 
07   Feb   43
Actually received by No.9 Squadron.  The previous day, 6 Feb, Flt Lt Ekins flew A2-4 from Rathmines to Bowen, Queensland which was No.9 Squadron's new base.
 
15   Apr   43  
Flt Lt Clark flew A2-4 Bowen - Cairns - Bowen. At Bowen, the aircraft was used for anti-submarine patrols and co-operation duties with the US Army; to this end on 26th June 1943 the twin gas operated Vickers guns were removed from the aft mounting and replaced in the forward mounting, presumably to suppress return fire from any submarines encountered; single guns fitted front and rear 16th October 1943.
 
29   Jun    43
2.35-hour flight from Bowen - C M Bampton was the radio operator (File letter 15 June 82).Aircraft captains on A2-4 whilst with No.9 Squadron at Bowen included:  Flt Lt Millar, Flt Sgts Aistrope, Allsopp, Smith and Watson, and Fg Off Angrove, Dowlsey, Hick, Howard and Lucas.
 
07  Aug   43 
Ground-looped whilst operating in Cairns area, causing extensive damage.
 
03   Dec   43  
Received No.2 F/B Repair Depot for overhaul ex-No.9 Squadron.
 
04   Jan    44  
Flown by Wg Cdr V A Hodgkinson Rathmines -Rose Bay, Sydney for overhaul by Quantas.  (File letter 10 Dec 78). Overhaul commenced 28th January 1944.
 
12   Feb   44    
Unit History Sheet notes that on this date last of No.9 Squadron Walrus/Seagull aircraft allotted to No.3 OTU, but after a protracted overhaul, A2-4 remained at Rathmines, mainly for communications duties, and had a new engine fitted on 23 February 1945,the overhaul finally being completed 10th July 1945, with a 35 minute test flight – its first flight since 28 January 1944 – the following day.
 
22   May  45  
Allotted to No.3 OTU for storage at Rathmines, but delivery flight delayed due to unservicability.
 
26   Jul     45
Received at 3 OUT Rathmines (45 minute flight).
 
06   Oct   45 
Flown by Sq. Ldr R H Gray for Air-Sea Rescue demonstrations.
 
17   Dec   45 
Although allotted to No.2 Flying Boat Repair Depot, noted `Not to be delivered until hours complete' on the record card.  Possibly using up flying hours until next overhaul due. Had flown some 1300 hours by this date.
 
18   Dec   45 
Flown by V A Hodgkinson Rathmines - Rose Bay.
 
13   Jan    46  
Flown by Hodgkinson Rose Bay - Rathmines (1 hour flight).
 
03   Feb   46   
Flown by Flt Lt Rohde Rathmines - Quantas, Rose Bay -Rathmines.
 
22   Mar   46 
RAAF Seagull aircraft declared surplus and stored, although A2-4 flew on for a time.
 
27/29/31          Mar   46  
Flown by V A Hodgkinson on Rathmines area local flights including photographic exercise of entrance to Lake Macquarie (Rathmines).
 
     Apr   46 
A2-4 made only 4 flights of 4 hours total.
 
25   Apr   46   
Unserviceable due to hailstorm damage to tail plane and other parts.
 
29   Apr   46  
Obviously repaired by this date.  Flown by V A Hodgkinson Rathmines - Rose Bay - Rathmines - perhaps as post-repair test flight.
 
8/9/10/11  
       May  46
Flights by Hodgkinson round Rathmines area.
 
16   May  46  
Allotted to storage.
 
21   May  46
Despite above instruction, flown by Hodgkinson on two Rathmines - Williamstown return flights - a 40 minute trip each way.
 
15   Aug  46      
Issued to maintenance Squadron Rathmines ex-Air Sea Rescue Squadron. (Airframe logbook records 2 September 1946)
 
03   Oct   46 
Sold through Commonwealth Disposals Commission to McIlltree Motors Sydney for £600.  Airframe hours - 1,660.  One of two Seagulls and two Walrus aircraft purchased by Mr E E M McIlltree at this time.
 
10   Oct   46
Issued to McIlltree Motors, and stored.  (Airfame logbook records 20th October 1946). Last entry on RAAF Movement Card.
 
12   Mar   51
Allotted registration VH-ALB and listed to Self Drive Motors Pty. Ltd.  Not used, and remained in store. Received in good, but dismantled condition.
 
16   Jun    54
McIlltree withdraw the Seagull, VH-BGP, ex-A2-3 and Walrus VH-BLO ex-P5664 and the former X9515 that he had operated in the New Guinea/Solomans area.  VH-ALB he retained in store, at Sydney.
 
1959    
Purchased by Ansett Captain Peter J Gibbes of Melbourne – former RAAF Squadron Leader, MVO, DFC, AFC.   Co-owners former RCAF pilot Harry O'Hara of Canadair and amateur pilot Anthony Whiter.  (`Aircraft' August 1960). 
  Sold with remains of McIlltree's other three Seagull/Walrus aircraft, which were burnt to provide hangar space.  Prepared for new CoA by Lawrence Engineering & Sales Pty, Ltd.  Camden, NSW.  (Airsport April 1960).
 
17   Mar   60
Test flight.  Fitted with Pegasus VI engine, No.33432.  (Engine Log Book, DoRIS Ref.B465).
 
14   Apr   60

Received its first CoA, No.3617.  Initially registered for private use, but this was later amended to include charter work by Amphair - (Amphibious Air Charter Work) Pty Ltd, of No.3 Tubaru Steet, Toorak, Victoria.  Alterations included adding a window each side just aft of the undercarriage radius rod, the installation of seven passenger seats with blue and silver interior decor, a new instrument panel and more modern radio equipment.  (See Radio Log DoRIS Ref.B469).  The external colour scheme was: silver wings, nacelle, struts and float bottoms and arctic blue fuselage, float tips and tail assembly.  The aircraft initially carried a Walrus symbol on both sides of the bows with black hat, dark blue body and white wing, circle and scarf, and at one stage the titling ‘Amphibious Air Charters’ on the nose.  The registration letters on the fin were white, and black letters on the top starboard wing and lower port-wing underside. 

                                   Photos: FlyPast May 93 p.61; Flight 14 Oct 1960 p.621; Air Enthusiast Jul/Aug 98 p.73.

The aircraft was used on fishing and other expeditions and pleasure flights in the area of its Melbourne base, often being seen on and around the waters of Port Phillip Bay, Victoria.  Gibbes, as operations manager of Anseft/ANA held a full commercial pilot's licence, so he could fly the aircraft as these operations.  `It never failed to startle the odd fisherman... in the seclusion of his boat far out at sea, to be suddenly accosted by an amphibian whose crew asked `for a loan of some bait to do a bit of fishing, please'.  (Nicholl, 1966)

 
       Oct   60       
Photographed at its base, Moorabbin, Victoria (IPMS Australia newsletter 20).  Art this time the aircraft carried a tailwheel that originated as a Vampire nose wheel.
 
1962    
By this time the not totally appropriate Walrus symbol was replaced by the title `Amphibious Air Charters' in black, edged in yellow, on both sides of the bow.
 
Mid 1962     
Due to increased maintenance costs and the lack of readily available spares, the Seagull was advertised for sale for £6,000.
 
       Sep   62    
Purchased by Robert W Shute for £5,000, the new owner took a conversion course under the tutelage of Gibbes and received the necessary endorsement to his licence.  Shute formed the Barrier Reef Flying Boat Service operating from Mackay, Queensland.
 
30   Sep   62   
Engine removed for overhaul - had flown some 92 hours since March 1960.
 
02   Nov  62 

Test flight after overhaul - fitted with Pegasus VI 33393.  (Engine Log Book DoRIS Ref.B466).

The aircraft was used to carry passengers - mainly tourists - and cargoes out to the islands of the Great Barrier Reef and up and down the coast, with only one engine failure, caused by the failure of an oil pipe line which had been accidentally omitted from a pressure test during overhaul.  The aircraft landed on the sea and was towed to port.

 
17   Mar   63 
Last regular flight.  had made 27 flights Nov 62 - Mar 63.  Stored out of service at Mackay.
 
29   Oct   63     
Certification approved for ferry flight to Bankstown, Sydney on this date where the aircraft was advertised for sale.  had flown 33 hours 45 minutes since 2 Nov 62.
 
c.May 1964
Purchased by a group of local Sydney businessmen - S R Johnson, ‘Hockey’ Treloar and J L Nicholls.
 
03   Jun    64   
Ferried the 35 miles to Camden NSW for maintenance.
 
06   Aug  64       
Engine inspected for CoA renewal. (Engine log book DoRIS Ref. B467).
 
8-12 Aug 64 
Aircraft inspected at Notley Aviation Pty Ltd, Camden.
 
17   Sep   64
Registered to the three owners c/o Yeramba Estates, Wynyard House, 291 George St. Sydney.
 
26-29 Sep 64    
Conversion flights with R Shute at Camden.  (Aircraft log book DoRIS Ref.B468).
 
02   Oct   64 
Conversion training by one of the new owners proceeding, aircraft caught in a ground loop when the port float hit the ground and bent in, the aileron arm was broken and the fabric torn.
 
Early 1965    
Moved north again, to Mackay.
 
Apr-Aug  65 
Not flown.
 
Aug  65    
Flown back to Camden.  Made occasional flights. Photo at this time - Flying Review International Dec 65 p.254.
 
30   Jan    66 
Forced landing made at Terrigal, just north of Sydney with engine trouble.  Returned to Camden.
 
   Apr   66  
1½ hours flown.  Not flown after this date.
 
22   Sep   66  
Certified as un-airworthy by Dept of Civil Aviation and following this was officially `permanently withdrawn from service'.
 
21   Jun    67  
First RAFM contact reference the aircraft, to Mr McIlltree, its first civilian owner, who forwarded the letter.
 
28   Aug  67   
Hangared at Camden 40 miles from Sydney by this date.  Cared for by Mr Noel Notley on behalf of the owners.  Still claimed to be airworthy.  Engine had only 90 hours since new.
 
Aug 68
Stored in open at Camden by this time.  Engine still run up every six weeks or so by Mr Notley.
 
     Oct   68   
Damaged in a windstorm.  Both floats torn off and wings damaged.
 
By  Jul     69  
Moved by road to Bankstown NSW for restoration.  There was some interest in the forthcoming BP sponsored London-Sydney air race, and it was decided that the entry of the Seagull would enhance public interest, and it was duly allocated the race number 48.  Overhaul cost approximately Australian $18,000.  To increase the range to that necessary for some sectors of the race, an 86 US gallon auxiliary fuel tank from a Mustang was installed.  The aircraft was entered by a four-man syndicate headed by Allan Parkes.
 
09   Jul     69
Test flight after complete overhaul for CoA renewal at Aerosmith Bankstown.  Painted in camouflage scheme and white registration letters on fin.
 
24   Nov  69  
Engine inspected for CoA renewal (Engine L/B DoRIS Ref.B467).
 
26   Nov  69
Flying recommenced.  Time to make the race starting line in London had run out but it was still hoped to join up with the race competitors at Singapore and return with them to Sydney.
 
30   Nov  69
Photo in flight on this date - Aeroplane Monthly Mar 80 p.137.
 
08   Dec   69 
Left Bankstown, Sydney for Singapore.
 
17   Dec   69
Reached island of Timor, flown by Allan Parkes and John Williams.  Held up at Dilli through lack of 80 Octane fuel.  Repairs made and fuel obtained.
 
30   Dec   69
Began trip back to Bankstown.
 
08   Jan    70  
Arrived back at Bankstown having logged nearly 60 hours flying on the round trip.
 
21   Jan    70
100 hourly inspection on engine and airframe.
 
Late Jan 70
Flew north to Taree, NSW, a pleasure flight to watch the annual aquatic festival.  Return intended for 26 Jan 70 but aborted due to thunderstorms and high winds forcing another night at Taree.
 
27   Jan    70

See account in Air Pictorial, Apr 70 p.128 - took off at 0615 bound for Sydney, but suffered engine failure at low altitude shortly after take-off.  Initial cause was failure to select both fuel tanks for take-off.  The aircraft came down rapidly, no more than 12-15 seconds after the engine cut out.  The pilot recovered the aircraft well and aimed for a nearby paddock.  However, the starboard wheel hit a tree stump hidden in the long grass, tearing off the undercarriage leg and tearing a long gash in the lower starboard fuselage. 

The aircraft touched down, the wing dropped, the starboard float was torn off, and the aircraft veered through a fence, damaging the lower starboard wing, coming to rest about 50 feet further on, the crew and passenger, Neville M Parnell were unhurt.  This accident closed the Seagull's flying career with a total of 1,893 flying hours.  The wrecked aircraft was dismantled and trucked back to Bankstown.   Photo as landed - Aeroplane Monthly Mar 80 p.138.

 
28   May  70 
Engine inhibited for long-term storage.
 
Jul     71   
Derelict and vandalised at Bankstown by this date RAFM still negotiating with Mr Treloar to acquire the aircraft in complex and protracted negotiations.
 
  9    Mar   72
Registration cancelled.
 
May 72
Acquired, finally, by the RAFM.  Exchanged with Mr Treloar for Spitfire XVI TE384 plus Australian $5,000.
 
Aug  72 
Moved to RAAF base Richmond for storage, via No.2 Stores Depot Sydney.
 
Jan    73
Airlifted to Darwin by RAAF.
 
Feb-Apr   73
Airlifted back to UK in two loads on RAF No.53 Squadron Belfast aircraft, including XR365 which loaded the Seagull at Darwin on 25 March 1973. On the way back the Belfast had to be fumigated at Hawaii because Black Widow spiders from the Seagull were found in the aircraft. See file note from Dave Carter, June 2005. Photo on arrival at Brize Norton from Gander, 2 April 1973 - A History of No.53 Squadron RAF Brize Norton (022676).
 
05   Apr   73
Final `installment' arrived at RAFM store at RAF Henlow.  The loads had arrived at Brize Norton and were moved to Henlow by 71 MU.  Arrived at Henlow with a quantity of spare parts.  Aircraft in poor condition, especially the wing structure.  Restoration work commenced immediately.
 
1975
Hull under restoration at RAF Wyton by a volunteer team, the wings being restored by RAFM staff at Cardington.  Photos: Control Column Jul 76 p.112; Air Enthusiast Jul/Aug 98 p.73.
 
08   Sep   76

Wyton completed hull restoration by this date, moved by road to Cardington by end of Sep by team from RAF Abingdon.  Photo: Control Column Jul 77 p.111; Aircraft Illustrated Oct 78 p.514; RAF News April 13 - 26 1977p.8.

 
  Nov  79  
Moved to Hendon for Display in newly opened Battle of Britain Hall by this date, where it has remained on public view ever since in Australian camouflage and markings as A2-4 once more. Photo - Air Enthusiast Jul/Aug 98 p.73.

      

TEXT - ANDREW SIMPSON           © ROYAL AIR FORCE MUSEUM 2007