Welcome to Bairnsdale, and the start of your WW II historical tour of RAAF General Reconnaissance School, No 1 Operational Training Unit & No 7 Squadron.
Unbeknown to most who drive past this monument, within a few kilometres there are ruins of wartime Air Force activity dotted along roadsides and in farm land. This cache will take you to some of them, educate you as to the purpose they served and give you a good reason to take a detour.
Once a mighty command post this ruin now lies in farmland south of the airport. To find this structure drive south of the aerodrome turn off to the corner of Bengworden & Leatham Road.
A W.W. II Ammunition Store you may find in your travels. There are several in the area of the same design.
Thousands of tourists drive past the site where this cache commences on a daily basis in the peak tourist season down here on the coast. Few stop, and very few know why or what the memorial is here for, some locals would have little clue. Even fewer would ever bother to have a look at any of the areas that this cache will take you to.
For those that are travelling through, this multicache will take about an hour to an hour and a half to complete and appreciate. Before you consider that you may not have the time to spare, consider the fact that so many sacrificed their lives here in Bairnsdale, and the mountains and sea around it to better the future of their country. It's worth thinking about.
In the years leading up to the commencement of World War II the political scene internationally was recognised as less than stable. As a result all over the Empire moves were afoot to construct defensive facilities in the event that what some saw as inevitable occurred. One such facility was the RAAF Base at Bairnsdale.
The Commonwealth Government commenced planning for air bases to support and defend the Bass Strait shipping lanes just south of here in the mid 1930's. When war was declared in 1939 construction started within 24 hours, and amazingly the first aircraft were operational from Bairnsdale just 4 months later.
The first aircraft to operate out of Bairnsdale protected the Australian Infantry Forces as they departed for foreign shores in Bass Strait shipping lanes.
Fully operational in 1942 the aerodrome became forever linked with the Australian built Beaufort Bombers which operated here for No. I Operational Training Unit. It is largely for that reason that this memorial is here.
Early in my time in the area I was fortunate to meet some veterans at Bairnsdale Aerodrome who were stationed here in WW II. They told wonderful stories such as one case as a junior officer, of being ordered to man the control tower so that the senior officer in charge could enjoy an evening in the mess, and sad stories of WAAAF Nurses who had hitched a ride with an aircrew to come and party with the airmen stationed who lost their lives with the crew when the plane crashed just a few hundred metres from the current aerodrome lounge. I could have talked to these men for hours but unfortunately I was working and had to go after a short time, leaving them to reminisce.
Due in part to the training operations, the style of aircraft, the tight schedules and other factors, the loss of life was high for men who in most cases not yet left for foreign lands to fight. Over the life of the Bairnsdale & Sale airfield's WW II military use nearly 200 lives were lost from Gippsland RAAF bases, many of those here at Bairnsdale. Many more were injured. Those lost included women of the WAAAF also.
Ponder these and other losses as you wander the gardens here near the hospital, and then wonder what it was like here 60 years ago as you explore the area out at the Aerodrome. I hope you find this, the history of the area, and the Australian wartime history so seldom taught to our kids, as interesting as I do as you undertake this cache.
Waypoint 1 - the beginning.
Commencing the cache will find you at a memorial. In order to complete the cache you will need to find plaques from the many here giving you the necessary information to progress to Waypoint 2.
At the starting point for the cache you need to find a plaque with the historical reason for the place you are starting. It details the dedication of the garden by Air Commodore DJS Riding (AMG DFC).
In the third paragraph how many lives were lost?
X = ABA (Note this for later in the cache.)
In the fourth paragraph how many Beauforts are mentioned?
Y = CDD (Note this for later in the cache.)
From the honour rolls inside the structure find the service numbers for the following two airmen to proceed to waypoint 2.
F/SGT L.L. Fitzgerald
Lancelot Lloyd Fitzgerald flew with 1 OTG. Born in Tasmania in Oct 1925 he enlisted there. At 19 years of age he was killed in Beaufort A9-146 about 5 miles from East Sale on the 7th Feb 1945 when the aircraft dived into the ground during a night flying exercise. Killed with him were W/Cmdr. P. Kingsley-Strack & F/O K. Dobbie.
His service number from the honour roll will give you EEFAC.
F/LT F.K. Morcombe DFC
Flight Lieutenant Frank Keith Morcombe DFC, 1 Operational Training Unit (OTU) RAAF, of Coorow, WA. He was killed in a flying accident on 5 October 1943 at Sale, Vic. Fl Lt Morcombe was awarded his DFC in August 1943 for actions whilst a member of 2 Squadron RAAF. He was transferred to 1 OTU as a flying instructor, but was killed, along with 437116 Sergeant James Whamond Cameron, when their aircraft crashed.
His service number from the honour roll will give you FDGHCJ
With the above information, calculate the coords for Waypoint 2:
S 37° HD.EEC'
E 147° 3G.GFH'
Waypoint 2 - Age will not weary them, they will not grow old as we grow old.
This waypoint will find you at a memorial of a different kind. There are thirty eight memorials at this location serving as tributes to men who served at Bairnsdale Aerodrome.
The plaque inside the gate makes for interesting reading.
"On suntipped wings he loved to fly the wide, unmeasured sky." reads one memorial. I'm sure it applies to many here.
Of those who will not grow old there are two who are the youngest of the servicemen & women here.
Their age will give you QR.
One is F/SGT C.A.L. Haslam. Colin Arthur Lee Haslam was originally from Narrogin WA. He enlisted in Perth after attending Wesley College, where he is listed on their honour roll on the "Lych Gate" after he died here in Bairnsdale in late 1944.
The other is SGT G.C. Lawrence. Gregory Carlisle Lawrence served with the General Reconaisance School. Originally from Bunyip in Victoria, he enlisted in Sydney. He was one of 4 airmen killed when their Avro Anson (W2253) crashed at Won Wron. His 4 fellow aviators are buried adjacent to him.
Using QR to complete the following, the coordinates for waypoint three are:
S 37° 52.XXX' where XXX = 41 x QR
E 147° 34.DDY' where Y = 19 ÷ QR
(Note the value for D was collected earlier at WP1 and the number substitutions represented by Q & R may have already been used and represented by other letters.)
Waypoint 3 - you got past security...
At this location there is a history of the Aerodrome with some interesting information and yet another honour roll. A brief stop to read this and you can move on to waypoint 4. To proceed find the following individuals on the honour roll.
SGT A.W. Baxter, who served in 1 OTU, presents somewhat of a conundrum. My research has found two different dates of death for SGT Baxter. In all likelihood the date found here is wrong, as evidence suggests his aircraft Beaufort A9-85 collided with A9-88 on 27 Aug 1942, some months after the date here but only the pilot was reported to have been killed in that accident in one source, though the August date matches that of his death on the national Honour Roll. I would be inclined to think that the date here is wrong and that SGT Allan William Baxter (Navigator), SGT Alexander James Coto (Pilot), SGT Edward Raymond McMullen (Wireless Air Gunner) & SGT Keith Goodfellow (Wireless Air Gunner) were killed in a mid-air collision approximately 5 miles north west of here in August 1942.
The other of the two you need is ACW M.J. Carey. Standing out here on this list as unusual for being in the minority, Margaret Jones Carey was born in Scotland, but enlisted in Perth. Only 22 years old at the tme of her death she was already married leaving Patrick Carey a widower.
Aircraft Woman 4th Class in the WAAAF, I'm not aware of her role in the crew, but the aircraft was lost over the sea off the NSW Coast and wreckage believed to be from the aircraft was found at on a beach at Crescent Heads. The plane and crew were never recovered. A memorial to the crew of Avro Anson W- SSTT stands in Sydney War Cemetery, which is situated about 17 kilometres west of Sydney.
SGT Baxter's Serial Number will give you part of what you need,it is FDUVWJ.
ACW Carey's Aircraft Number W- SSTTwill give you the remainder.
(W is an actual letter in the aircraft number and is not a substitution.)
Waypoint 4 will be found at:
S 37° 52.UVW'
E 147° 3T.0TS'
(Note the substitutions represented by STUV & W may have already been used and represented by other letters.)
Waypoint 4 - your mission if you choose to accept it...
Is to enter the structure adjacent to the plaque at Waypoint 4 and you will find an interesting but small display about the Aerodrome over past years. Peruse at your leisure. You are a short drive from the final GZ for this cache.
Before you leave get what you need from the plaque, and use it and other information from earlier in the cache to work out the final cache location.
From the plaque unveiled by Air Vice Marshal Candy (Ret'd) you need the date.
Z = the day of the month here.
KLMN = the year
The final location and the cache may be found just a short drive away, adjacent to a road to the south east on the other side of the airfield near another ruin of interest at:
S 37° HV.MZD' (where HV & D were collected earlier.)
E 147° VF.TQD' (where VFTQ & D were collected earlier.)
The cache is an unusual defence force surplus container, which if assembled and replaced as found will keep the contents nice and dry for years to come. I suggest you take some repellant as the mozzies near GZ can be the size of Beaufort Bombers at some times of the year.
I hope you enjoy it.