Friday, 11 December 2009

History Bites: Catalinas and World War II

CairnsBlog brings you our weekly column, History Bites, a series of historical vignettes, pertinent to our unique and special region.

Produced by Dr Timothy Bottoms, a published and widely respected historian based in Cairns, North Queensland. He has spent ten years researching and writing City of the South Pacific, A History of Cairns.

History Bites is a series of unique and easily readable pieces for
CairnsBlog readers.
Dr Bottoms is a specialist in Aboriginal and North Queensland history and has wide experience in writing, producing and presenting radio documentaries and music biographies.

‘Catalina landing on the Inlet’
Historical Society of Cairns, CHSP05051

On 7 May 1942, the RAAF withdrew its Catalina flying boats from Port Moresby to a base at Bowen, with Cairns as the advance base.

The first Catalina had actually landed at Trinity Inlet the previous month, when the RAAF was reconnoitring possible bases to which they could withdraw, but in April, Cairns was still within range of long-distance Japanese bombers. It was not until October/November that No. 20 and No. 11 Squadron moved to Cairns.

They were located, along with ancillary staff, first in guest-houses, then when the construction of the Base Camp was completed (in February, 1943), the 350 odd men moved to a row of huts built for them along the Esplanade, from just north of here.

The normal flying mission, or run, took about 18 to 20 hours and crew usually consisted of two pilots, a first and second engineer, two gunners, a wireless operator and a navigator.

Some 3,000 sorties were flown from Cairns, but not all returned; 320 Australian airmen who flew Catalinas in the South-West Pacific theatre of war, never came back.

This is an extract from: A History of Cairns – City of the South Pacific 1770-1995, by Dr Timothy Bottoms, PhD, Central Queensland University, 2002, Photo 2.1, p.72.You can contact Dr Bottoms via email. There is more information on his website.

1 comment:

QLDOnline (via Twitter) said...

Catalinas used to be based at Bowen in WW2