STORIES of bravery, loyalty, mateship and romance bring Australia’s early years of aviation to life at the Narromine Aviation Museum.
Now a new wing at the museum, located in one of Australia’s best known World War II aerodromes, further explores the impact this small western NSW town had on a continent defined by its vast area.
As the first air routes were established between England, Java and Australia in the 1920s, Narromine took on new importance as a refuelling stop between Darwin, and the capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
The imaginations of a generation of children were ignited by the newsreels of dashing pilots and the possibilities aviation created for a young nation.
Those same children would soon grow into the young pilots who fuelled an insatiable war in the sky from 1940-44, with 2850 airmen training at the Narromine base.
As the first Elementary Flying Training School outside the capital cities, the self-sufficient village housed 1000 men and women, who learned their skills quickly before joining bomber squadrons in the European, Middle East and Pacific theatres of war.
Of the first 10 courses completed at Narromine, half of those 19-23 year olds never returned.
The museum displays memorabilia, photographs and historic aircraft, as well as Australia’s only flying replica of a Wright Flyer Model A. It tells stories of mateship, war and romance, like the tale of Marie Cleal, who arrived at the base in October 1943 as part of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force. At any one time about 50 women were stationed there, engaged in jobs from parachute packing to undertaking fabric work on Tiger Moths.
Maree met trainee pilot Herb Bell and the two planned to marry. They exchanged 12 months of letters, however a misplaced letter and a chance meeting on a Brisbane street led to misunderstandings and they went their separate ways.
Each went on to marry others and have children, but their wartime romance was not forgotten and 47 years later they found each other again and married in 1994.
Narromine Aviation Museum, Narromine Aerodrome, Trangie Rd.
Phone 6889-7131, www.narromineaviationmuseum.org.au
THE first Mirage jet to be manufactured in Australia is the latest acquisition on its way to the Queensland Air Museum at Caloundra.
The purchase of the plane from South Australia comes hot on the heels of the arrival of a new Lockheed Neptune in March.
The Mirage was built at the Government Aircraft Factory at Fisherman’s Bend, Victoria, in 1965 and was operated by the RAAF from 1967-85. It is a single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed by the French company Dassault which was operated by the French airforce and widely exported.
About 1500 were put into service in several countries, including Australia. The Mirage has a wingspan of 8.22 metres, a length of 15.03 metres and an empty weight of 7050kg.
It could achieve a maximum speed of 2350kph and had a combat range of 1200km.
Queensland Air Museum, Caloundra Aerodrome, open daily 10am-4pm except Christmas Day.
Phone (07) 5492-5930, qam.com.au
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