You are here

Dutson Airweapons Range - As Remembered by Russ King

User Login

 

Dutson Airweapons Range - As Remembered by Russ King

The Gippslander arrived at the Sale Railway Station at about 8 p.m. and I stepped onto the platform in my blue battledress, kit bag slung over my shoulder. It was Wednesday, September 24th, 1969, and I had just travelled from Wagga Wagga to Sale as the RAAF’s newest Armament Mechanic.

 

For some reason or other the Duty Driver was actually there to meet me and we made the trip to the Base in double quick time through a thickening fog. ‘Still got time for a couple of beers if we get a hurry on,’ the DD explained. Because of the lateness of the hour, and in deference to my chauffeur’s thirst, I climbed out at the boom gate and the AC in the sentry box, a framie mechanic with an enormous moustache named Boris Schutenko (the framie, not the moustache) showed me into the Guard Room.

 

The Guard Commander was watching Division 4 and was happy for me to doss down in one of the cells rather than find me a room as Chuck Faulkner was just about to nab another miscreant. I crashed almost straight away, having caught the train from Wagga at one that morning; in a twinkling Boris and his moustache were shaking me awake, asking if I wanted to go to breakfast.

 

An hour later, fed, showered and shaved, I entered the MNTESL Orderly Room and presented my credentials. The WOD, a gentleman named Eddy Lee, gave me a room card and a meal pass and, clearance form in hand, I headed for Armament Section, which in those days was located in one of the old wartime eyebrow hangars opposite the swimming pool.

 

Passing the painted bombs out the front I stepped inside, tiptoed over the green painted floor past the curious - or perhaps disbelieving - looks of two troops and a Sergeant in the Seat Bay and announced my arrival to Flight Sergeant John Sparling.

 

White haired and immaculate in neatly ironed overalls, John looked a little like a genial English chappie and he was indeed from the Old Dart, though he wasn’t necessarily genial. I believe John was one of ‘Trenchard’s Brats’ and all I ever really found out about him was that he had served in the wartime RAF, had two pretty daughters and drove a Peugot 404 station wagon very sedately. Anyway, I stood to attention in front of him while he finished totting up the numbers on the Roll then lit up an Escort before actually deciding that he should cast an eye over me. I thrust my paperwork at him and he expressed surprise at my arrival. ‘Not expecting anyone,’ he said to the desk behind me as he signed my inwards clearance and a couple of ‘Harrumphs’ later I was back in the Seat Bay trying not to soil the emerald green floor.

 

After some brief introductions (Rod Garcia, Bob Couper, Grub Whitchurch, Mick Slater, Paul Dilks and Trevor Grant, not necessarily in that order) and a welcoming word I was off again. Hurrying hither and yon I got the necessary signatures on my clearance form, handed over my Clothing Card and medical documents, then drew some bedding and found my room in the Maintenance Singlies Quarters - the ‘H Block’. Later that afternoon I met my roommate, a sumpie named Ted Evertson. Ted had a nose that made him look like a boxer who fought often and won seldom. I hadn’t expected to be welcomed with open arms but was nonetheless surprised when he abused me for unplugging his trickle-charge electric razor. This flagrant breach of etiquette had been performed so that I could play the only record I had with me: Dear Prudence by Doug Parkinson in Focus.

 

I’ve always had to have some music to play and had actually brought my record player with me in the kit bag. Dear Prudence had been bought in Melbourne on the way through from Wagga the day before, all of my other records being in my tin trunk, which was still on the back of a truck somewhere in Northern Victoria. Ted grudgingly forgave my transgression when I promised never to unplug his TCER again; it was an easy promise to make, presuming that he had a background in pugilism (incorrectly as it turned out) I had been prepared to forfeit my first-born son. Still, that thoughtless act is a social gaffe I have never repeated.

 

So what were my new employers to do with the greenest of green Armament Mechanics? It was obvious: the Armoury. My first day on the job - a Friday - was spent in the next eyebrow hangar south, bay servicing L1A1s. We packed it in at 1500 after mopping the gleaming green floor in the Seat Bay and I headed off for my first weekend at home since Easter. I was pretty much a local, having been raised in a place called Traralgon, 30 miles west of Sale, and I hitched a ride with a framie named John Aaltonen, who was going to Melbourne in his Holden-powered Morris Minor.

 

Two things marked the following Monday: it was my 19th birthday and we went to Dutson for the day.

 

Breathes there an Aussie Armourer who hasn’t heard of Dutson? 15 miles or so from the Base (perhaps five or six as the crow flies), the Dutson Bombing and Gunnery Range is located adjacent to a large sewerage ‘farm’ on the Golden Beach road and in those heady days catered for HE and practice bombing (there were targets for both day and night practice bombing) and air-to-ground gunnery. In the past it had been used for air-to-ground rocketry too, and around the battered old Saracen armoured car that had served as a target there was a small forest of three inch motors stuck in the loam and there were cylindrical cement heads littering the ground all about. (Sharp eyes will notice a mud map of the Range on page five. Note that it is definitely not to scale.)

 

During and just after WWII there had also been a sophisticated air gunners range out to the left of the rocketry target. One or two wooden stands - like tank stands - were all that were left of that installation, though the raised mounds that had held small rail lines for the movement of on-ground gun turrets could still be made out.

 

The range itself is an irregular four-sided shape occupying perhaps seven or eight square miles, sloping from the Golden Beach road down to the swampy end of Lake Coleman, one of the Gippsland Lakes. It was still used quite regularly and its operation and maintenance were given over to the tender care of the East Sale Armourers, hence my birthday on the range.

 

Our job for the day was to burn off some of the bracken fern growing on the emergency ‘airstrip’. In reality this ‘airstrip’ was simply a graded stretch of sandy soil running parallel to the main road. Perhaps a half mile long and 50 or 60 yards wide, it ran downhill from East to West and while it might have once been OK in a pinch if you were trying to set down a Wirraway or a Hudson, I doubt it would have tempted a steely-eyed killer in a Mirage which had run out of noise. A Caribou got stuck on it once I believe - its port landing gear is said to have fallen down a rabbit hole!

 

Nonetheless it was part of the Range and our Warrant Officer, the indefatigable Wally Leiper, wasn’t going to let the bracken fern take over his patch without a fight. He had decided to burn the stuff off before the summer fire restrictions came into effect, and as soon as we had had a brew in the kitchen hut we headed back up the hill to get started. Quickly he was away, throwing matches fusee out of the Jeep for all he was worth until there were three or four blazes on the go. That’s when my career as an Armourer really began.

 

Pointing to a knapsack in the back of the Jeep Wal said, ‘Put that on and come with me young feller,’ and headed off on foot for the nearest patch of smoke and flame as I trundled along behind, knapsack sloshing happily on my back. ‘Now,’ he said to me, and I knew what was coming: I was to make sure that things didn’t get out of hand. He had picked me immediately as the best available man (I was 19 after all) to ensure the inferno in front of us stayed in control; my chest swelled with pride. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘I want you to run around with that range fuel and make sure this doesn’t go out. Got that?’

 

I got it alright, my knapsack was full of kero, not water, and I was the propagator, not the firefighter. Older and wiser already I did as I was told, spraying range fuel all about until I had no more. ‘Good job young feller,’ he said to me when I finally joined the herd on the other side of the smoke, ‘that really got it going eh?’ I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Instead I scratched the rash that had suddenly appeared underneath my sodden overalls.

 

It was impossible not to like Wally Leiper. Skinny and bouncy and exuberant, he was a WWII veteran who had been a tail gunner in Lancasters or Halifaxes or something for about four missions. Then his number came up and his aircraft went down. ‘Caught a packet,’ was his explanation, and he spent the rest of the War in a POW camp in Poland. ‘I spent most of the time playing Tests against the Poms,’ he told me once, ‘Geez it could be cold though.’ Under the perspex on his desk was a little card stating that he was a member of the ‘Grasshopper Club’, an honour you earn when you use a parachute to depart an unserviceable aircraft from all accounts.

 

Where the Flight Sergeant wasn’t always genial Wal always was. A real dynamo, he was forever on the go and looking for something to do. He was Captain of the Sale Golf Club (we were forever making signs or posts or knick-knacks for the course), only smoked Kool cigarettes, insisted on having canned asparagus in the Range rations and he didn’t drive a Peugot; Wal was a Ford man. We would have crawled over broken glass for him if he asked.

 

By and large life on the Range was terrific. We’d go out about once a week and then with increasing frequency as a Program neared. In maintenance mode it was a matter of ensuring that everything was ship shape and Bristol fashion; repairing the gunnery targets, painting forty-fours for the HE target with orange dayglo, keeping the spiders in the quadrant huts down to a manageable level and the like.

 

Now and then we went probing for UXBs in the moonscape that was the HE target. Now, I’m not sure how the other blokes felt about this job, but pushing long brass rods into the mud to try and found bombs that had failed to detonate scared the dickens out of me. Wal just whistled and lit another Kool as we pushed and squelched and sweated. I don’t recall ever finding one, but we did come across the odd bit of metal and then it was onto the shovels. Carefully.

 

Otherwise the days on the Range were a lot of fun. We always took the Section rifles - a couple of .22s - with us and tried to bag a bunny or two, with the occasional success. More success came when we tried setting traps. Paul Dilks had been raised on a farm near Chewton - just out of Castlemaine - and he had the touch with the traps; we often had a couple to take back after a ‘trap run’. I think that the Range had been baited with myxo or 1080 but the little dears seemed to thrive on the stuff and there was never a shortage of them.

 

There was plenty of other wildlife too. Emus, ‘roos and wallabies had the run of the place and it wasn’t uncommon to come across an echidna or a joe-blake as you drove around. In fact there was a black snake resident in the praccy bomb target, the battered Saracen. It certainly made painting it fun. On rare (very rare) occasions a hog deer was sighted down around the edge of the lake, but you had to be lucky; I saw the tail end of two in my five years at Sale.

 

 

 

 

Things warmed up when a program was scheduled. These could be one of three types: bombing, gunnery or praccy bombing. Early on in my time much of the bombing was done by 6SQN Canberras, dropping HE American GP bombs in ‘hollow stick’ patterns. Later it was Mirages and Phantoms carrying HE/HES Mk. 82s.

 

Canberras usually came after lunch and combined their bombing with a Navex on the way down. Generally there’d be Wal, an NCO (usually a Corporal) and three or four troops. We’d check the target, start the Onan generator (I’ve always been intrigued by the Biblical connotation of that name; Onan was the bloke who ‘cast his seed on the ground’ wasn’t he?) and cook lunch. Then, an hour or so before the aircraft were due on Range we’d head to the quadrant huts.

 

The heavies would set up the plotting chart in the elevated tower (it still had bullet holes in it courtesy of a situationally challenged Sabre pilot in years gone by) beside the kitchen hut and two or three of us would take the Jeep and drive to the quadrants. Those for the ‘top’ were dropped off and those for the ‘bottom’ left the range, driving along the Golden Beach road to the settlement of Dutson, where they turned down Cricket Bat Lane to the concrete cube that constituted a quadrant hut, not far from the Lake’s edge.

 

After battling with the door and saying ‘G’day’ to the spiders we slid off the metal shutters, connected the field telephone and reported in, then waited. I don’t ever remember a Canberra being on time, so I either read a book or listened to my tranny until the ‘phone buzzed and the bombing got under way.

 

Soon you could hear the aircraft on their run in and the ‘phone would buzz again to let you know that it was ‘in live’. The Canberras just cruised along at the same altitude and we would stand outside the hut to see the bombs leave, then hustle inside to spot them through the sighting tube. There! Centre the splatter of mud and smoke in the little circle, mark it on the graduated quadrant with a greaseproof pencil and quickly look for the second splatter. There again! Centre, mark and and listen to the sound of the explosions arrive and rattle the windows. Now wait for the top quadrant to give their bearings then give yours. In the tower Grub Whitchurch or Bob Couper would be plotting the distances and bearings relative to the target, closely watched by Wal and the Range Safety Officer (RSO), who was usually a pilot from CFS.

 

Mirages were a little different. We would arrive at about nine and as we were setting up we’d hear one in the circuit at the Base. This was the RSO arriving from Willytown, and not long after the thud of the chopper heralded his arrival. There was much less time to waste with Miracles, they were tight for fuel when they arrived so they didn’t muck around. They didn’t just fly across in a straight line either, but preferred ‘toss bombing’, diving in from height and getting away quickly. They usually carried two HES Mk. 82s and dropped them one at a time, which made life a little easier, though this was balanced by the much smaller explosive filling, which didn’t ‘splatter’ as much.

 

Phantoms were much the same, though they had a greater range than the fighters and were able to take their own sweet time when they eventually arrived. Once, when I was spare man in the top quadrant Wal took me down the hill in the Jeep (actually a short wheel base Land Cruiser at that stage) to the first gate on the way to the HE target. This was while there were aircraft on the Range mind you, and I have no idea what he was up to at all. I’m not too sure that he did either, I reckon he just liked the atmosphere of it all; anyway, when a couple of chunks of reasonably sized shrapnel whizzed over our heads even he decided that we were too close and we beat a dignified retreat - thank Christ.

 

As part of one bombing program we hosted a couple of boffins from the Weapons Research Establishment in South Australia (it’s had three or four name changes since those days), they were there to test out a new-fangled thing called a ‘laser’. They set up their gizmo beside the top HE quadrant and by the end of the week had shown they were able to give the distance and bearing of a bomb from the target from a single point. In so doing they also informed us that the target itself was 25 yards or so from where it was supposed to be! I suppose that we were lucky it had only moved that far over the years, and we duly relocated it to the middle of another crater.

 

All of those bombs and bangs and things were great fun of course, but overall I confess that I enjoyed gunnery programs more.

 

In the week prior to gunnery there was usually a day on the Range with a grader and driver from Works and Jerks. To help the jet jockeys line up for their run in, a large arrow - pointing to the targets - was cut into the earth and the grader cleaned up the bracken fern that had grown since the last program. The local magpies certainly made the most of the many witchetty grubs that were exposed in the process, but it disturbed the bunnies no end.

 

We would generally use an LGS for gunnery programs because we had to bring a dozen or so targets with us from the Section. These were bright-orange, very heavy denier, nylon-mesh squares, about 30' x 30', with a black circle in the centre and they came in very handy for a kip when the need arose. As soon as we arrived at Dutson we would open the tower, crank up the Onan, have the obligatory brew and then drive down to the target poles to set up.

 

 

There were four targets to set up, each slung on ropes between four poles, two the size of big electricity poles (complete with L-shaped metal ‘steps’ driven into each side) and two more - about 4' high and with a small ratchet-winch bolted to them - perhaps 10' feet in front of their larger cousins. When slung the target laid back at an angle of maybe 10º and its lower edge was about 5' off the ground. The drawing at left gives some idea of the setup.

 

 

Once all four were up it was back to the tower to wait for the RSO. We knew he was around because we had heard his aircraft in the circuit at the Base, and pretty soon the chopper could be heard coming from the direction of Lake Wellington. During WWII a RAAF crash boat used to operate from a jetty at Marlay Point and the helo would stop there to hoist a warning flag so that fishermen and boaties knew that it wasn’t a good day to go out. The chopper would do a lap of the range to flush out any Commies hiding in the scrub then set down beside the corrugated iron dunny. I used to marvel that the darn thing didn’t just fall over, but I suppose it had spent years in the southerlies that whipped over Dutson in the Gippsland winters.

 

Every now and then a senior officer would jump out ahead of the RSO, but the chopper pilots always gave us a ‘heads up’ over the radio so we were never caught out at all. I don’t think that it would have mattered though, they were always pretty relaxed and sometimes even cooked lunch! Anyway, after a brew it was down to business. The RSO would get the gen from the Sale tower and we would have an idea of how the schedule was holding up; soon enough the sound of the jets could be heard and then there they were - usually in pairs, but not infrequently in fours - little dots that got bigger very quickly.

 

Just as with the bombing there was no mucking around. Most of the time they would all make a pass to get the lay of the land (though I’ve no doubt there had been much scanning of maps the day before) and then it was ‘on live’ crackling from the radio in the tower.

 

The approach was from across the Golden Beach road and it was pretty low - 150'-300' - and pretty fast too, around 450 knots I’m told. Even at that late stage you could see the pilot making small corrections, then an odd, low zoom filled the air and was followed by a brief - maybe a half a second - tearing sound, like heavy fabric being ripped, as the guns were fired. Down at the targets the earth flew and the nylon rippled and the Miracle (the fighter types called them ‘Darts’) climbed away rapidly at about 45º, roaring like billyo.

 

Even as it was rolling out at the top of its climb the next customer was on his way in. Wiggle, zoom, tear and roar, up it went like, well - a dart - sun glinting from the pilot’s helmet. Three or four passes were made by each aircraft, then they took up formation and headed for the Base and some much needed Avtur.

 

A little closer to the action than the rest of us during all of this was the troop who had been given ‘foul line duty’ for the sortie. Armed with a piece of bunting on a pole his task was to ensure that each aircraft had ceased firing by the time it got to the bottom road, about 400 yards from the targets. It wasn’t too hard to judge, the guns trailed a ripple of smoke as they fired, and if they were still firing when the aircraft crossed the road the foul line man had to raise his ‘flag’. I can only presume that a foul shot rendered a pilot’s pass invalid, because in all of the gunnery I saw I never observed a foul shot. I venture to suggest that the knucks were more interested in gaining some altitude than they were in creeping a few yards closer to the target. Standing on the foul line certainly gave you a terrific view of things, and lest you think that there was a risk of being bombarded with spent cartridge cases we were positioned well enough out to the side to avoid any. Just the same I always thought that a tin hat might have been handy, at least it would have looked pretty gung-ho.

 

Usually there was enough time to replace the targets between sorties, but a stray projectile would occasionally sever a rope and it was then that you really earned your pay. This required one of us to climb up the large pole - the end of a fresh length of rope between your teeth - slip it through the pulley (the damn thing was at the very top) and bring it back down again. There was no such thing as a safety belt (chew on that you OH&S types) and we never considered using one, the subject just didn’t come up. The time factor was something else that added a frisson of excitement to the job too; there were invariably more aircraft on the way so speed was of the essence. Once, while up a pole trying to stuff the soggy end of a length of ½" rope through a pulley, I heard the familiar and unwelcome sound of the next quartet in the distance. It certainly helped me to concentrate on the job at hand.

 

Used targets were taken back to the tower area, laid out flat and inspected for hits. Whichever Corporal was in charge for the day decided the colour of each hole (every time I think of dipping paint I think of the story I heard about one financially challenged Armourer painting his kitchen with the stuff), one of the troops kept a tally on a bit of paper and another whited out the holes with a piece of 1½" rubber hose that had been dipped in acrylic paint. The RSO took the tallies with him when he left for the day and they were received with a great deal of interest from all accounts.

 

As well as signalling the end of the day’s gunnery his departure also brought with it the chance of flying back to the Base, rather than travelling in the back of an LGS. After cooling their heels all day the 5SQN pilots were glad to get back in the air and usually returned the long way, often flying low up the 90 Mile Beach to Seaspray then zipping past the Gas Plant at Longford. If you were really lucky you might spot a girl or two sunbathing topless in the sand dunes.

 

One of the last things to do at the end of a day of gunnery was remove the warning flag from the Marlay Point jetty and this became a job for the section new-chums. I have no idea who the first was, but it became almost obligatory to winch the newest arrival from Wagga down to the jetty; the catch was that half way down the pilots would haul the Huey sideways and carefully dabble their human cargo’s feet into Lake Wellington. This custom was the cause of much mirth, not to mention a great deal of anticipation in the Section when the arrival of a new troop coincided with the scheduling of a gunnery program.

 

The remaining aircraft work on Dutson was practice bombing. I can only recall it one night program, and that was carried out by some F4s over a couple of evenings. The target was a large wooden pyramid to the east of the road that ran down to the HE target. It had a series of electric lights around the base and one on its apex as well and it took the electricians from Works and Jerks three or four days of steady yakka to get it up and running. No one we could find had any idea when it was last used; perhaps the spiders in the bottom quadrant could have told us, they were a bit surprised when we levered open the door and peeled off the shutters for the first time in Lord knows when. The program went smoothly enough though, the first aircraft arrived at about 1900 and the last a couple of hours later and the bombs were easy enough to spot, though well off target.

 

Of much more interest were practice bombs dropped in daylight hours. In the case of my time at Sale this was always Mirages and always combined with gunnery. The right hand quadrant was actually located beneath the tower and the left stood in the middle of the paddock on the other side of the gunnery targets, looking for all the world like a cuboid fungal growth that had just popped up out of the ground.

 

With the targets up and the RSO in place we manned the quadrants. The Mirages swooped in and dropped their BDUs as we plotted the spotting charges and radioed them in (we had installed aerials and begun using walkie-talkies by now, though the old field telephones were maintained ‘just in case’) then sat back to watch the gunnery. Those in the bottom quadrant had a terrific view of this, seeing it from the other side of the aircraft’s approach, and from quite a deal closer too. It was as well to slip back inside when the guns started firing lest you got caught in a shower of spent 30mm cartridge cases; they would rain down onto the concrete roof with a solid jangle and thud into the earth outside.

 

Being Armourers we also used the wide, open spaces at Dutson for any demolition jobs that came along. At Sale that usually meant the disposal of TX pyrotechnics and we would have a whale of a time shooting off foliage penetrating flares, rockets signal distress and signal cartridges and operating day/night flares with gay abandon. I’d love to know what the local cow cockies thought was going on. One odd job that came along was the demolition of a pile of geo-thingummy charges that an oil exploration company no longer wanted. Laid out on a long line of det cord they made a very satisfying series of noises.

 

Wal came back from somewhere at one time all fired up with the good gen on using ammonium nitrate and diesel as an explosive. He was like a kid with a new toy and decided to test the mixture on a particularly prominent tree that stood beside the newly-cleared strip that had been established to give a line-of-sight from the tower to the HE target.

 

We augured a hole down into the root system and lowered a stick of PE4 down it to make some space for the ANFO, then poured a whole bag of Nitropil and diesel that had been baking in the sun down a funnel into the cavity. Back at the tower Wal wound up the Beethoven, gave the call and the result supplied the Section baggers with firewood for all of the next winter. It made a great bang too.

 

The last demolition I was involved in at Dutson was with the newly-commissioned Al Cross, who a month or three before had been one of our Corporals. Fresh from learning all of the ARMO tricks at Kingswood, Al had decided that one of the last remaining ‘tank stands’ from the wartime air gunners range had outlived its usefulness and that he should apply his new found knowledge for the good of the Service.

 

Well, we dug and scraped and placed a stick of the good stuff at the base of each sturdy red gum leg, lit the blue touch paper and retired to see the results from a safe distance. It made a most agreeable ‘WHOOMP’, but when the dust settled we noted that not much appeared to have changed. Indeed little had. The stand had gone up, then straight back down from whence it had come! We tried again, only putting charges under two legs this time and the result was more firewood. The only problem with that was that the Victorian Housing Commission had recently put gas fires in all the Married Quarters.

 

Having such a large secure area at our fingertips provided more than just an interesting place to work. We were able to sign out the keys and the Section .22s and use the facilities out of hours as well. Some blokes - not necessarily Armourers - would draw rations and camp for the weekend, spending the time shooting and trapping and generally unwinding. There was the added advantage of being ten minutes from Golden Beach, where the surf fishing was always pretty good and if it was summer the body surfing was OK too. Occasionally a few of us would go spotlighting during the week; terrifying the poor ‘roos (we didn’t shoot at them, it was more the rally-type driving that scared them) and bothering the rabbits, though they instinctively knew that they were fairly safe. The sights on the Section rifles really needed some attention; wouldn’t you think that a bunch of Gunnies could look after that?

 

So that was life on Dutson in the early seventies. A related job of sorts came our way during the summer of 1969/70 when a farmer from down Lochsport way rang the Base and reported that he had found parts of a wrecked aircraft in one of his paddocks. For some reason the gun-plumbers were given the job and we spent a week digging out what had once been a Lockheed Hudson. Nobby Noblett, the WOE from ‘Jets’, which was what the Macchi end of MNTESL was known as, did the identifying, though we never found out the circumstances of the crash. ()

 

Armed with shovels and picks and sieves and all sorts of other specialised implements we uncovered both engines, the instrument panel, four or five ammunition bins (still full of ball rounds in fair condition) and a host of little knick-knacks that hadn’t been found during the initial recovery. There was an officer’s cap badge belonging to one of the unfortunate pilots, a propelling pencil and a set of identity discs for example, but it was fairly clear that most of the wreckage had been removed years before and there was hardly any of the airframe. We cooled off on the nearby Ninety Mile Beach at lunchtimes (the dunes were about 100 yards from the site), adding sunburn to already sore muscles, but it was a fascinating week, a wistful look into another time.

 

(Just out of interest, the HS748 end of the Squadron was referred to as ‘Turbos’. I’ve no idea why Daks and Winjeels weren’t called ‘Pistons’ - or maybe they were and I simply can’t remember. Further, after doing a bit of research I reckon that the wreckage could have been from one of about seven aircraft. Several Beauforts, a Hudson, a Ventura, a Fairey Battle and an Anson all crashed around the Golden Beach {it was known as Letts Beach in those days} area during WWII)

 

Anyway, my time at East Sale came to an end early in 1975, when I left on posting to 482SQN at Amberley. I had arrived as an 18 year old singlie ARMMECH and was departing as a 24 year old ARMFITT with a wife and a two year old daughter.

 

I had done a thousand different things. Created a headful of memories and forgotten just as much. I can still see two bombs tracing sharps arcs as they fall from a Canberra, long since scrapped, still see an echidna trundling through the bracken and still feel the slosh of a knapsack on my back. The taste of canned asparagus will stay with me until I die, as will the sound of Defa cannons ripping the air over the Golden Beach road and the musty, dusty smell of the bottom quadrant hut. For the next 18 months I prepared and loaded bombs that were observed and plotted by fellow Armourers at Dutson and other places as well; but that’s another story.
 

 

Who's online

There are currently 0 users online.