NOWRA

Part Three - Base Torpedo Unit & Jervis Bay

WAAAFPistol Workshop at B.T.U. (Base Torpedo Unit), Nowra.
Note camouflage on the building

 

The word 'pistol' intrigues me, as I never saw anyone wearing or holding one. Maybe this word was used for security reasons instead of the word 'torpedo'.

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WAAAFThe Torpedo Workshop Lecture Room - Base Torpedo Unit, Nowra. Note - American Instructor.

 

The Americans (not many of them) were not accommodated at the airfield at Nowra. It is possible there were huts at B.T.U. or they stayed in Nowra township. I can't remember how many huts there were, as I only noted a few when passing on the bus on the way into town. Some could have been in the woods around the area.

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WAAAFThe RAAF made a mass raid on Lakunai Aerdrome, Rabaul, with Beaufort Bomber aircraft. Members of one of the crews of 100 Squadron, *RAF who took part are 416874 Pilot Officer (PO, later Flying Officer [FO]) Lyle Manhire McLaren, of Largs Bay, SA: 410192 PO (later FO) Sydney Louis Anderson of Canterbury, Vic; 410995 Flight Sergeant Francis Maloney of Coolamon, NSW; 417175 PO (later FO) Raymond Arnold Graetz of Springton, SA. This crew were shot down on operations over Wewak, New Guinea on 20 May 1944 in Beaufort Bomber A9-571. FO Graetz was the only survivor, eventually returning to his unit and being awarded the Military Cross on 21 September 1944. (A.W.M.)
[*A.W.M. shows 100 Squadron as RAF but in other photos I have seen, it is shown as RAAF.]

 

While the crash happened in New Guinea, the crew in the photo had their 'bomber' training while attached to R.A.A.F. Station Nowra, No. 6 Operational Training Unit. The exercises were conducted over Jervis Bay. I met Francis (Frank) Maloney (2nd from Right) and Ray Graetz (first on the right) at dances at Nowra Town Hall with the other two, so this crash was of great interest to me. The loss of three of the crew was really tragic.

WAAAF

I believe that most of the Beaufort crews who trained at Nowra, joined 100 Squadron. I had a crush on Ray and when he was sent to Jervis Bay for a while, he met a girl there and sadly, I faded out of the picture. She was the sister of one of the ground crew and they were later married. Francis (Frank) Maloney had a true romance with a friend of mine and she was broken-hearted, when she heard of his death.

You can listen to the audio and read the transcript of Ray Graetz's escape at the Australians at War website.

 

 

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WAAAFJervis Bay, ACT. Bristol Beaufort torpedo bombers at No 6 Operational Training Unit and Base Torpedo Unit, Torpedo Training Unit. (Naval Historical Collection) (A.W.M. 304345)

 

I do not believe this photo was taken at Jervis Bay but at Nowra because as far as I knew, there was no runway there large enough to house this number of aircraft to take off or land. Actually, I never heard of any runway there at all. It would have cost a great deal of money to build all the facilities at Nowra in wartime and to have more at Jervis Bay (so close) would have been stupid and unnecessary.

However, I recently found a photo that did show a landing strip and the caption stated it was at Jervis Bay but no buildings can be seen.  I find it hard to believe that it was used for Beaufort bombers except maybe for emergency landings.

WAAAFJervis Bay, ACT. Aircraft landing strips, No 6 Operational Training Unit and Base Torpedo Unit, Torpedo Training Unit. (Naval Historical Collection)

 

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WAAAF An essential job carried out on Jervis Bay was the collection of torpedoes dropped by aircrews from RAAF Base Nowra on their training runs. Here RAAF Torpedo Recovery Vessel 03-5 hoists in a Mark XII 18-inch torpedo. 306049 (AWM)

 

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WAAAFJervis Bay, ACT. The RAAF Torpedo Recovery Vessel 03-5 preparing to recover a torpedo at No 6 Operational Training Unit and Base Torpedo Unit, Torpedo Training Unit. Note the damaged blowing head on the torpedo. (Naval Historical Collection)

 

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WAAAFJervis Bay, ACT. Exterior Of The Women's Australian Auxiliary Air Force Quarters at No 6 Operational Training Unit and Base Torpedo Unit, Torpedo Training Unit. (Naval Historical Collection

 

The Beaufort Bomber Crews, who trained at Nowra, were part of 6 O.T.U. (Operational Training Unit) and connected to the Base Torpedo Training Unit. I know some of them were at Jervis Bay some of the time but as I believe all aircraft were housed at Nowra Station, they would have had to come there for their flying duties.

I was not aware of any WAAAF stationed there permanently or any tarmacs at Jervis Bay but then I was not in the know about everything. The cottage we stayed at some weekends was not near this building, as far as I can remember. Also, there were only a few girls attached to BTU and certainly not enough to fill this large building.

All those I knew, worked at the depot not far from the RAAF Station and slept in accommodation in or near my hut. This depot made and experimented with dummy torpedoes for the training and some were recovered according to photographs. I was the one who ordered certain metals in mostly small quantities for the Americans working there.

I can only guess when aircrew were staying at Jervis Bay that they may have been co-operating with the engineers/scientists on results of the exercises. I believe that to make the torpedo runs, the aircraft had to be a certain distance above the water. If tides/waves were moving up and down, it was dangerous, as water could be sucked into the engines with disastrous results.  I was around on some pay-days, so I did know some of the things that were going on.

I found more questions than answers, since I started on my research and some data that is in histories is not always correct.

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A Recreation Cottage for women was put at our disposal at Jervis Bay and groups of us would occasionally go down there for picnics and stay overnight. We always had great times and the men, who sometimes went out with us for the day, always behaved themselves. I did not go very often, as it meant I had to give up my weekend at home and I did not like to do that. I did get very homesick at times and mum and dad liked to have me there.

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On one visit, a group of us hired a boat and went up the river for a picnic. We had a wonderful but very tiring day. When I got back, I had tea and flopped into bed. In the morning, I woke up with one of our group, shaking me and asking, “Who in the hell are you?” It was still dark, with the blinds pulled down and in the dim light, my hair pinned up close to my head, this girl thought I was a man. As she did not seem very particular about the type of men she dated, I did not see why she would be worried about finding a ‘man’ in the room. She was too drunk, when she got in at some ungodly hour, to notice anything and very ‘hungover’ that morning.

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