Situated approximately 30km west of Melbourne at Point Cook, the RAAF Museum was established in 1952 as a repository for the preservation of aircraft, documents and memorabilia associated with the AFC and RAAF. The location is apt as Point Cook is also the birthplace of both the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) and its successor, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). In 1972 the museum opened to the public and the collection has subsequently grown to over 100,000 items. I first visited the museum back in 1981 and have returned several times to see it evolve and grow. Smaller items such as heraldry and ephemera are changed reasonably regularly and some of the things I saw on my previous trip were no longer on display, so for this week’s post I have again included a lot of pictures. Note that as with all my weekly posts, when the pictures are laid out as a mosaic pattern, you can click on them to see a larger view with the caption.
My last visit to the museum had been back in 2014 when I spent some time in the Research Centre trawling through the records relating to the insignia worn by the Australian Flying Corps as part of my research and contribution to Bob Pandis’ book Flight Badges of the Allied Nations 1914-1918, Volume II, but I have been wanting to visit again and reacquaint myself with the exhibits. The opportunity presented itself this past week when I made a trip to Melbourne to visit my ageing parents and I am glad that I was able take a few hours out of my schedule to take another look.
The museum consists of several parts including external displays of aircraft and a Bristol Bloodhound missile launcher. However, most of the aircraft are housed in the various hangar displays which are divided into different sections across the complex. These are descriptively named the Technology Hangar, Training Hangar, Aircraft Display Hangar 180, Strike Reconnaissance Hangar 178 and the Restoration Hangar 187 where one can watch the conservators restore various aircraft including a de Havilland Mosquito (A52-600).
The aircraft collection is no doubt fascinating for the plane buffs, but as an insignia collector for me the really interesting stuff is housed in the Heritage Galleries which are situated in the main building. These galleries feature objects tracing a chronological the history of the AFC and RAAF from its birth as the Central Flying School on the 7th of March 1913 up until the present day. My main aviator collecting interest is focused on wings of the Australian Flying Corps up until the formation of the RAAF in March 1921 and the museum has some incredibly rare pieces on display including the very first set of wings (known as the AMF Pilots Badge) awarded.
NSW Aviation School Insignia. This badge shows the New South Wales Government aviation school which operated from an airfield at Ham Common, near Windsor, NSW during WW1. In 1925 RAAF Base Richmond was established at the same site and remains operational to the present day. Photo: Julian Tennant
Australian Flying Corps shoulder title and colour patch. The small ‘A’ on the patch indicates that the owner had participated in the Gallipoli campaign. Photo: Julian Tennant
Uniform detail showing the Australian Flying Corps colour patch and ‘Australia’ title on the uniform of Private Arthur Goodes of No 1 Sqn AFC. Photo: Julian Tennant
Australian Flying Corps pilots wings and unit colour patch on the tunic of Captain Roby Manuel DFC. Born at Kerang in Victoria in 1895, Roby Manuel enlisted at the age of 20 and served with the 43rd Battalion AIF in 1916 before transferring to the AFC. Manuel flew a SE5a fighter with No 2 Squadron AFC and shot down twelve German aircraft during his service. Photo: Julian Tennant
Wing and ribbon detail from the tropical dress tunic worn by Wing Commander Stanley Goble during his round Australia flight in 1924. Note that the uniform still features the Royal Air Force (RAF) wings. Photo: Julian Tennant
The First World War gallery also includes items such as the maternity jacket with RFC wings worn by Captain Douglas Rutherford (1 Sqn AFC) who was rescued by Lieutenant Frank McNamara V.C. after being shot down behind enemy lines in Palestine in 1917. It was this rescue that resulted in McNamara being awarded the Victoria Cross, the first for an Australian aviator.
WW1 trench warfare diorama detail from ‘Spotting for the guns’. The diorama depicts an Australian forward artillery observation post communicating with an RE8 aircraft of No 3 Sqn AFC (not visible in the photo) to determine enemy positions for artillery bombardment.Photo: Julian Tennant
Royal Australian Air Force Busby used by Air Marshal Sir Richard Williams, Chief of the Air Staff, on ceremonial uniforms for State and Royal occasions during the 1920’s and 30’s. An unpopular form of head-dress, the Busby ceased to be worn by the time of the outbreak of WW2. Photo: Julian Tennant
Maxim MG 08 ‘Spandau’ machine gun captured by Australian forces during WW1 and one of two that were located at the head of the parade ground at Point Cook until the 1960’s. Photo: Julian Tennant
In addition to exhibits relating to Australia’s air power contributions in the world wars, post war conflicts including Korea, Malaya, Borneo, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq plus the various Peacekeeping deployments and Civil Aid Operations, the galleries also feature exhibits about specific branches such as Chaplains, the RAAF Medical Service and Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (later Women’s Royal Australian Air Force). There are also displays that cover aspects such as basic training, life at postings such as the RAAF Base Butterworth in Malaysia and the RAAF Marine Section.
Australian Light Aircraft Pty Ltd (Dominion parachute) ‘Roo Club’ and IRVIN Air Chute Company ‘Caterpillar Club’ pins awarded to Allied aircrew who bailed out using the respective company’s parachutes. Photo: Julian Tennant
‘Caterpillar Club membership card belonging to Warrant Officer David Milne who was taken prisoner after bailing out in Germany. Membership of the ‘Caterpillar Club’ is achieved by people who have saved their lives using parachutes manufactured by the IRVIN company. In addition to the membership card each individual is also presented with a gold pin of a caterpillar with ruby eyes, with their name engraved on the rear. The caterpillar being symbolic of the silk used in the manufacture of early parachutes. Photo: Julian Tennant
World War 2 war in the Pacific display in the Heritage gallery. Photo: Julian Tennant
Japanese life preserver and control wheel from a Mitsubishi Ki-21 heavy bomber. The life-preserver vest was worn by Japanese pilot Hajime Toyoshima who flew a Mistubishi Zero fighter during the first raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942. Toyoshima became the first prisoner of war taken in Australia during WW2 after his aircraft made a forced landing on Melville Island. He later became one of the leaders of the breakout from Cowra POW camp in NSW and committed suicide following recapture in August 1944. Photo: Julian Tennant
Painted steel helmet belonging to Jack Toliday who served in Northern Australia and the South West Pacific area of operations between July 1941 and June 1946. Photo: Julian Tennant
Nose-Art panel from Wellington bomber ‘Y Yorker’ which flew at least 53 operations over Europe as part of No 466 Squadron (Bomber Command) during WW2. Photo: Julian Tennant
RAAF P-40 Kittyhawk pilot in the South-West Pacific theatre of operations during 1943-44. Photo: Julian Tennant
Distinctive Slouch Hat worn by a RAAF Meteor pilot of No. 77 Squadron in Korea. The hat bears the signatures of many of the squadron’s pilots. Photo: Julian Tennant
Propaganda leaflet directed at North Korean soldiers and dropped over enemy positions during the Korean War. Photo: Julian Tennant
Membership card and patch for Junior Staff Club of the Long Range Weapons Project based at Woomera, South Australia. Photo: Julian Tennant
Model of the Mk II Air Sea Rescue boat used by the RAAF Marine Section. These watercraft were built in 1953 and still used in the late 1970’s. Photo: Julian Tennant
Vietnam period Australian Special Air Service Regiment beret, featuring the distinctive beige headband of that period and AN/PRC-9 FM backpack radio set. Photo: Julian Tennant
Medals, log book and No 9 Sqn patch belonging to Corporal William O’Rourke who completed over 4000 combat missions as an assistant crewman and demonstrated a high degree of skill with the M60 machine gun, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal (DFM) in March 1969. Photo: Julian Tennant
Patch worn by Caribou aircrews of No 38 Squadron while on operations in Vietnam. Photo: Julian Tennant
Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East Area of Operations display in the Heritage gallery. Photo: Julian Tennant
RAAF ground crewman wearing the distinctive Australian Desert Pattern Disruptive Uniform (DPDU) in the Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East Area of Operations display. Note the selection of sub-unit patches in the background. Unfortunately my iphone could not capture usable quality images of the insignia. Photo: Julian Tennant
Patches made as souvenirs for different RAAF pilot graduation classes. Photo: Julian Tennant
Militia Cap: East Timor. This cap belonged to one of the organised local groups opposed to East Timorese independence. These militias conducted a campaign of violent resistance before and after the ballot on August 30, 1999. Photo: Julian Tennant
CT4A Airtrainer in the Training Hangar. Photo: Julian Tennant
Training Hangar display area. Photo: Julian Tennant
Aermacchi MB 326H (A7-001) on display in the Training Hangar. A Maurice Farman Shorthorn used to train pilots during WW1 can be seen in the back left. Photo: Julian Tennant
Avro 643 MkII Cadet (A6-34) in the foreground, with CAC CA-12 Boomerang (A46-30), de Havilland DH-84 Dragon (A34-92), CAC CA26 Avon Sabre (A94-101) and Hawker Demon (A1-8) on display in the Display Hangar 180. Photo: Julian Tennant
Restoration Hangar 187. The fuselage of a de Havilland Mosquito (A52-600) can be seen in the right foreground and (I think) that’s a DH60 Gypsy Moth behind it. Photo: Julian Tennant
A Flying F-111garoo. Model of a combined F-111C and Kangaroo made by Major Jim Potts of the USAF who worked on the F-111 Program Office in Ohio, USA and presented to Colonel Bradley Heterick (USAF) when Heterick completed his posting as Manager for the RAAF F-111C acquisitions at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Photo: Julian Tennant
General Dynamics F-111G (A8-272) on display in the Strike/Recce Hangar 178. Photo: Julian Tennant
Avions Marcel Dassault presentation pin given to RAAF test pilot Derek’ Jell’ Cuming in recognition of his first flight at the speed of Mach 2 on 3 June 1960. Derek Cuming was a renowned test pilot and the first to fly a jet aircraft, a Gloster Meteor, in Australia. He achieved the rank of Air Commodore in 1968. Photo: Julian Tennant
There is also a small gift shop which includes books, souvenir items and a comprehensive selection of Squadron patches for purchase. As far as I am aware, these are the same patches that are used by the squadrons, originating from the same manufacturer, the only difference being the lack of Velcro backing. In addition the shop sells some REPRO aviator brevets and collectors should not confuse those with the issue wings.
Every-time I visit this museum I find something new to look at and this visit was no exception as there were pieces on display including some items from recent deployments to the Middle East which had not yet been displayed during my previous trip. There were also some things such as the rare Roo and Caterpillar Club pins that resonated with my parachuting/special forces collecting interests. For a visitor to Melbourne it can be a bit difficult to get to as it is located on the RAAF base about 25 minutes’ drive from Melbourne although there is also a bus service, the Werribee Park Shuttle, which stops at the RAAF Museum on flying days (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays). However, despite its location, the RAAF Museum should be on the agenda for anybody visiting Melbourne with an interest in aviation or military history.
RAAF Base Point Cook
Point Cook Road
The Museum is closed on Mondays (except public holidays), Good Friday, and Christmas Day.
Admission to the RAAF Museum is free, however, donations are gratefully accepted.
Note that as the museum is located within the grounds of the RAAF Base, all visitors over the age of 16 will need to bring photo identification to enter the Base.
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On the 20th of March 1917, Lt. Frank H McNamara became the first Australian aviator to be awarded the Victoria Cross after landing his aircraft behind enemy lines to rescue a downed comrade, whilst serving with No. 1 Squadron Australian Flying Corps in Palestine. The citation for the Victoria Cross reads,
“most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during an aerial bomb attack upon a hostile construction train, when one of our pilots was forced to land behind the enemy’s lines. Lieutenant McNamara, observing the pilots predicament and the fact that hostile cavalry were approaching, descended to his rescue. He did this under heavy rifle fire and in spite of the fact that he himself had been severely wounded in the thigh. He landed about 200 yards from the damaged machine, the pilot of which climbed on to Lieutenant McNamara’s machine, and an attempt was made to rise. Owing, however, to his disabled leg, Lieutenant McNamara was unable to keep his machine straight, and it turned over. The two officers, having extricated themselves, immediately set fire to the machine and made their way across to the damaged machine, which they succeeded in starting. Finally, Lieutenant McNamara, although weak from loss of blood. flew this machine back to the aerodrome, a distance of seventy miles, and thus completed his comrade’s rescue.”
Frank Hubert McNamara was born at Rushworth, Victoria, on 4 April 1894. After completing secondary schooling in Shepparton, he studied teaching at the Teachers Training College and the University of Melbourne and went on to teach at a number of Victorian Schools where he joined the senior cadet units. In 1912 he transferred to the Brighton Rifles and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in July 1913. After the outbreak of the First World War he served at Queenscliff and then Point Nepean before attending the Officers Training School at Broadmeadows, then between February and May 1915, instructed at the AIF Training Depot at Broadmeadows.
In August 1915 McNamara was selected to attend the Point Cook Flying School, graduating as a pilot in October that year. In January 1916 he was posted as an adjutant to No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps and sailed for Egypt. In May 1916 he was seconded to No. 42 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps to attend the Central Flying School at Upavon, England. Following this he was attached as an instructor to No. 22 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps in Egypt before returning to duty with No. 1 Squadron.
On 20 March 1917 McNamara, flying on a bombing mission in Gaza, saw a fellow squadron member, Captain D. W. Rutherford, shot down. Although having just suffered a serious leg wound, McNamara landed near the stricken Rutherford who climbed aboard, but his wound prevented McNamara from taking off and the aircraft crashed. The two men returned to Rutherford’s plane, which they succeeded in starting and, with McNamara at the controls, they took off just as enemy cavalry arrived. For this action McNamara was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Portrait, maternity jacket and items belonging to Douglas Wallace Rutherford, No. 1 Sqn AFC, who was rescued by Frank McNamara in the action for which he was awarded the VC. These items all comprise part of the collection held at the RAAF Museum at Point Cook in Victoria. Note that despite being an AFC pilot, Wallace’s jacket features the pilot wings of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), whilst the portrait shows him with the Observers brevet for which he originally qualified. Douglas Wallace Rutherford was born in Rockhampton, Queensland on 29 September 1890. He joined 5 Light Horse Regiment on 7 December 1914 and departed Australia later that month with the second contingent destined for Gallipoli. He went into action in May 1915 and was wounded on 28 June. After receiving medical attention in Alexandria, Egypt and London, UK, he returned to the 5th Light Horse in April 1916 and soon transferred to the Australian Flying Corps, qualifying as an Observer in August 1916. After promotion to Captain in November 1916, Rutherford commenced pilot training with the 5th School of Military Aeronautics at Aboukir, Egypt and by 1917 had returned to No. 1 Squadron AFC as a qualified pilot. Rutherford undertook operations against Turkish forces with No. 1 Squadron until being forced down in the Amman area and was captured by the Turks. He was imprisoned in Constantinople for six months before being returned to Australia in December 1918.
In April 1917McNamara was promoted to captain and appointed Flight Commander, but his wound prevented further flying and he was invalided to Australia in August. His appointment with the AFC ended in January 1918 but he was reappointed in September and became an aviation instructor. In 1921 he transferred to the newly established Royal Australian Air Force as a flight lieutenant and held a number of senior RAAF appointments between the wars, including two years on exchange to the RAF in the mid-1920s.
At the outbreak of the World War Two, McNamara was promoted to air commodore and then an air vice marshal in 1942. From 1942 until 1945 he served as Air Officer Commanding British Forces in Aden before returning to London as the RAAF’s representative at Britain’s Ministry of Defence. In July 1946 he became Director of Education at the headquarters of the British Occupation Administration in Germany. He remained in the UK after retiring and died in London on 2nd November 1961.