Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum – Home of the Catalina

Thursday 24th May 2012

Lake boga Flying Boat Museum - Home of the Catalina (1)

“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:

Lake boga Flying Boat Museum - Home of the Catalina (9)

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

Lake boga Flying Boat Museum - Home of the Catalina (16)

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

21 thoughts on “Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum – Home of the Catalina

  1. It is hard to imagine the courage it took to go to war in these machines. Often flying alone over vast expanses of ocean, slow with limited maneuverability and vulnerable to attack from much faster aircraft. Let alone mechanical failure so far from base. But the value of these long range observation and delivery platforms was surely appreciated by their fellow combatants.

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    • Hello Mike, I totally agree with you. When I read the post from Pacific Paratrooper about the seven airmen who were downed and then subsequently strafed I felt very sad. How must they have felt, lumbering along with little chance of scoring a hit against the attackers. Their relief at jettisoning safely would have been so short-lived.

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  2. Nice pictures of an interesting museum. It’s also nice to see a pure flying boat version of the Catalina as the amphibious ones are a bit more common and popular.

    I’d be interested in knowing more about that engine too. It can’t be a Wright Whirlwind as it has too many cylinders and the Whirlwind was an interwar engine that couldn’t possibly get a B-29 airborne.

    The B-29 ran on Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone engines and your pictures show a similarity to the Duplex-Cyclone. The reason it may be at the museum is that that engine type also powered the Martin Mars.

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    • So glad you enjoyed the post. Did you find the link through to the article on the Black Cats & Double Sunrise service also? That post had a nice slideshow of a restored Catalina. With regards to the motor, I have enlarged the original photo and the sign reads: “Wright Whirlwind Engine as fitted to a B29 Superfortress. Owned and restored by Patrick Dillon of Lake Boga, 18 cylinders, 3500hp”. Patrick Dillon did comment on my post at the time I originally wrote it, so I could put you in touch if you had more than a passing interest. He told me they have leant it to the museum for display. Lake Boga is in Victoria, but very close to where I live in New South Wales, we have an Historical Aircraft Restoration Society and one of their chaps told me that that Wright engine series was very common in the late thirties through to the fifties, and in fact the HARS aircraft collection includes a Lockheed Super Constellation and two Lockheed Neptune aircraft which still use much the same engine. I am certainly no expert on engines, so I bow to the greater knowledge of anyone! I just love the Catalinas, and, to a lesser extent, the Sunderlands also.

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  3. Pingback: The “Black Cats” of the Double Sunrise Service and other flying stories | The Reluctant Retiree

  4. Hello, the motor you viewed on display, is an 18 cylinder 3500 hp, has been partly restored, along with the other radial motors and are privately owned and they on loan to the museum..

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