Flying Past

Image: World War II aeroplanes at RAAF base  Source: Dpt. of Defence

Image: World War II aeroplanes at RAAF base
Source: Dpt. of Defence

An interesting question was asked of me today. We have our display entry for the Oakey Show foyer display competition up and as part of it I’ve got some old Oakey photos up. One of the photos is of the opening of the Oakey Aviation Base. The Oakey Army Base, as it is now known was originally constructed in 1943 by the Royal Australian Air Force as a training facility and overflow aircraft maintenance depot for the RAAF Base at Amberley. After the war (WWII) it was used to store surplus aircraft, which was later cut up as scrap metal. In 1969 the Australian Army assumed responsibility for the base for use as an Army Aviation training base.

Now you may be saying “yeah, yeah, very interesting but where’s the question you mentioned at the start?” Well the information relating to the opening of the Oakey Base was pretty sparse and so I used the construction year to date the picture circa 1943. Well this morning one of our patrons raised the question about the date because of the helicopters flying in the background. So I began the hunt to find out what date the picture could be.

Image: Army Aviation Centre Parade Source: Dpt. Defence

Image: Army Aviation Centre Parade
Source: Dpt. of Defence

First things first, I’ve got to try to identify the helicopters flying in the background. The “Huey” (Bell UH-1 Iroquois) which was the helicopter that I am most familiar with wasn’t in production until the late 1950s and wasn’t used with the RAAF until around 1962. So I had to go earlier than that.

Well next I looked at the photo and thought, why not Google “1940s Helicopters” and see if I can match the type of chopper. No such luck. But what I did find was that in comparing the helicopters I realised that the planes looked like Cessna’s to me (as an aircraft mechanic I make a great librarian). Unfortunately the Cessna 180 wasn’t widely used until the 1960’s.

It was at this point that my mind started to put two and two together and came up with 1969. My customer was right; my date was out by 26 years. When I first put a date to the picture I looked at when most of the other Department of Defence images were taken and added the fact that the base opened in 1943 (roughly when the other pictures were) and so dated the image circa 1943. What I didn’t consider was that the caption reads “Parade and fly-past to open army aviation centre”. The key word there is ARMY, just because I’ve always known it as the Oakey Army Base I didn’t think twice about the caption.

And so, after a long and distracting search, I’ve come to the conclusion that the date for the image is actually circa 1970. Literally as I am writing this post, I’ve just had another customer dispute the date, pointing out the shape of the cars in the background as being more late 50s than early 40s.

Well I’ve learnt many things today, the main one is that if I put photos up in our library I can actively promote discussion with our community… oh and I got the date wrong on the image.

See you all next week.

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