By Phil Buckley
Each September the Australian War Memorial in Canberra opens its Treloar storage annex at Mitchell, to the general public with the event being called “Big Things in Store”. The annex stores thousands of exhibits of two types – equipment withdrawn from operational military use or items captured. These items are stored in the annex due to lack of display space at the main display halls of the AWM in Canberra. The policy of the AWM is that they try to rotate items from storage into the main memorial every year or so to enable the general public to see the many different relics of war.
The Open Day events have been running since the 1990s and thousands of people flock to the annex for each opening. The general public is invited to view many of the military items in the condition as they were deactivated from service and given to the AWM. Aviation items takes up a significant part of the collection and includes bombs, aircraft fuselage sections right through to whole airframes. Significant aviation exhibits observed at the annex on this visit included the following:
RAAF Lockheed Hudson Mk.IVA A16-105. Received by the RAAF in 1942, this bomber was used by various training and operational groups during WW2 in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Post war it went through several civil operators before being bought by Malcolm Long who sold it to the AWM in 2001. It has been undergoing an in-depth restoration since 2010 and in late 2016 was nearly complete.
RAAF DAP Beaufort Mk VIII, A9-557. This is one of only 2 reasonably complete airframes on public display in Australia. A9-557 entered combat with 100 Sqn. in mid-1944, serving in combat in Papua New Guinea. During operations with 100 Sqn., it suffered combat damage as well as an accident, which ended its operational life. The airframe was left in Papua New Guinea at the end of WW2 and remained until recovered in the mid-1970s and exported to the USA. It was imported to Australia by a private buyer, who then traded it to the AWM in 1992. From 1997 to 2003, the aircraft was restored by the AWM with assistance from many private individuals and organizations who contributed parts to its restoration.
Tachikawa K-54 “Hickory”. Flown by the Japanese delegation to surrender their forces in south east Asia at Labuan in 1945. It passed through various hands within the RAAF at end of the war and made its way to Australia, where it ended up in the RAAF Fairbairn playground in the 1970s. It was then moved to storage at Point Cook by the early 1980s. Since then, the fuselage (one of 3 airframes known to exist) has been recovered by the AWM and stored at the annex.
Australian Army Boeing CH-47D Chinook helicopter A15 – 202. Received by the Army in 2000, this helicopter served in the Middle East campaigns. During 16 years of service, it flew a significant number of combat hours in Afghanistan with 5 Aviation Regiment and was one of the first Australian aircraft deployed to Afghanistan and recorded as being damaged by enemy fire in 2009. With nickname of “Centaur”, it was withdrawn from use in April 2016 and transferred to the AWM collection.
RAAF Douglas C-47B Dakota A65-71, (ex USAAF s/n 43-49870). Served with 37 Sqn with the code OM-N. In 1945 it was used to carry the body of Prime Minister John Curtin from Canberra to Perth for his funeral. Withdrawn from operational RAAF use in 1981, it was transferred to the AWM and flown by the RAAF up until 1997 when it was then placed into storage.
RAAF GAF Canberra bomber, A84-247. This Australian built (GAF) Canberra B.20 first flew in 1958. During its service life, it is known to have served with 2 Sqn in Vietnam from 1967 to 1971. The bomber was approved for transfer to the AWM in 1982.
Australian Army Pilatus PC-6 Porter A14-690. Built in 1968 and issued to the Australian Army in Vietnam from 1969 to 1972 with 161 Independent Reconnaissance Flight where it served in a variety of roles from liaison, command and control, photo missions, electronic surveillance, target marking, etc. It is known to have also flown under the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1992 just before it was withdrawn from service.
Australian Army Bell 47G-3B-1 Sioux A1-404. This helicopter served with 161 Independent Reconnaissance Flight in the Vietnam War from 1966 to an undetermined date. It was given to the AWM during 1979 and was put on display in the Post-1945 Conflicts Gallery. It has now been rotated to the annex storage in 2016.
RAAF / Australian Army Bell UH-1H “Huey” A2-773 (ex s/n 67-17575). Acquired by the RAAF in 1968 and operated by 9 Sqn., this helicopter is of historic interest as it was the trial airframe for the heavy hitting RAAF “Bushranger” gunship modifications which turned the Huey into a heavy firepower machine using 2.75 rockets, Miniguns and M-60s. Transferred to the Army operations in 1986, it was withdrawn from use in early 2000s.
RAAF Gloster Meteor F.8 A77-368. Originally built for the Royal Air Force as WA952, it was passed onto the Royal Australian Air Force in July 1951 and served with 77 Squadron in the Korean War until mid-1953. Post war, it served with 75 Sqn and 22 Sqn until being withdrawn from use in 1960 and transferred to the AWM. Restored in the early 1980’s, it has since been dismantled, with the nose and cockpit section on display in the Post-1945 Conflicts Gallery at the AWM and the remainder of the aircraft located in the annex.
RAAF DeHavilland DHC-4 Caribou A4-140. Delivered to RAAF 1964, it served in the Vietnam War with 35 Sqn from 1968 to 1971. Used in peacekeeping operations during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Retired from use by 38 Sqn in 2009 and transferred by road to the annex.
USAF North American OV-10 Bronco 67-14639. This FAC aircraft was flown in Vietnam by RAAF aircrew assigned to USAF TASS. Following Vietnam, it was transferred stateside and then to Europe. It was removed from USAF operations and transferred to the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in the early 1990s. It was removed from use in 1993 and placed into storage. In 2002, the AWM approached the PAF to acquire the aircraft. By 2007 approval was given and it was moved to the annex.
RAAF CAC CA-27 Sabre A94-954. Only the wings are in storage in USAF Korean War paint scheme. Built during 1957 by CAC, this jet served in Thailand with 79 Sqn from 1963 to 1968. Removed from service in 1971 and later transferred to a private buyer. It was exported to USA in 1989, brought back to Australia in the early 2000s, resold to a New Zealand owner who then resold the jet in 2010 to the AWM.
Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Oscar) s/n 5465. Wings and cockpit center section only. The airframe is preserved in unrestored condition and has been divided, with the nose and tail sections on display at the AWM
In addition to the main airframe exhibits above, an amazing variety of aviation components can also be found in the two storage buildings; German and Japanese aircraft engines, a WW2 P-51 Mustang paper mache fuel tank, Avro Lincoln rear gun turret, Luftwaffe bombs, a WW2 era B-34/B-37 bomber gun turret and much more. The next “Big Things in Store” Open Day at the Mitchell annex is planned for September 2017. For more information visit www.awm.gov.au