Thursday 24th May 2012
“In that hour before sunrise, on the waters of the bay, you may hear the roar of motors, and the swirl of flying spray.
Loaded to the Plimsoll to carry out her role, ’tis a Catalina taking off to begin her lone patrol.”
Partial Excerpt from “A Saga of the Catalinas”, written by Wing Commander Geoffrey Gregory (deceased) No 11 Catalina Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force. Full poem (donated by his wife and daughters) on display in the museum.
One and a half hours from Echuca, on the way to Swan Hill, those following the Murray Valley Highway reach Lake Boga. I cannot account for what else we did in the morning, only that the map shows we must have travelled through towns with names such as Gunbower, Leitchville, Cohuna and Kerang. However, once we reached Lake Boga, we paused for a couple of hours to take in the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum.
Listen up, any American or Dutch followers who had relatives crewing flying boats in the Pacific in the Second World War. It is highly likely that they dropped in here for service, because during WWII Lake Boga was Australia’s principal flying boat base. The museum features an historic Catalina (restored by the local Lions Club) however this repair depot also serviced Sunderland, Glen Martin Mariners, Kingfishers and Walrus aircraft.
This museum is the definition of hidden gem. Until you decide to stop and linger, you would never imagine that what appears to be a rural backwater was actually a vital cog in the machinations of the war effort. Many overlook that Australia was bombed during the war, and, following Japanese attacks on Broome in 1942 (16 flying boats lost), it was deemed “Essential to the Defence of Australia” that a safe haven be established. Think “South and Inland” and you are on the right track.
The Flying Boat Museum website points to much more of the history of this installation: http://www.flyingboat.org.au/index.php/about/history
What a Catalina is supposed to look like:
The restored Catalina:
Okay, and yes, this is an engine. At first, I thought it must have been a Pratt & Whitney 1200hp 14 cylinder radial engine, two of which powered the Catalina. On closer inspection though, the sign clearly says it is the Wright Whirlwind engine that powered the Boeing B-29 superfortress bomber. Why it is a Lake Boga, I can no longer remember. Happy to be set straight.
Photograph of flying boat landing on Lake Boga, on display in the museum. I think this is Qantas Empire Airways’ VH-ABB Empire Flying Boat, impressed by the R.A.A.F. – June 26, 1940. Am happy to stand corrected. Check out more at: http://www.aussieairliners.org/shortfb/vh-abb/vhabb.html
This museum is well worth the visit for anyone, but for those interested in military aviation history, it is pure heaven. Yes – all you HARS guys out there – you know who you are! (Historical Aircraft Restoration Society). It is not as if there are Catalinas lying around in everyone’s backyard. Or is there?
Next Destination: Swan Hill