Last updated 26 February 2023

RAAF flying boats sold as scrap from RAAF Lake Boga, Victoria after the Second World War

Compiled by Geoff Goodall

              The waters of Lake Boga can be seen behind the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum composite-assembled Catalina "A24-30"
            in 1999, soon after it was displayed on the site of the former RAAF Station.               Photo by Nigel Daw       

                In June 1942 the Royal Australian Air Force commissioned No.1 Flying Boat Repair Depot (1FBRD) on 6 acres of land requisitioned on the shore of Lake Boga, near Swan Hill Victoria. The southern Australian location was selected because it was considered to be beyong the range of Japanese aircraft advancing on Australia from the north. The nearby Swan Hill aerodrome was used by military land aircraft visiting the Lake Boga RAAF Station.
               A second repair base was established at RAAF Rathmines on Lake Macquarie, north of Sydney, which had been a flying boat base since 1939. No.2 FBRD at Rathmines worked in association with 1FBRD for the duration of the war, although Lake Boga received the majority of flying boats for repair, rebuilds and routine major overhauls. These included RAAF, Netherlands and United States aircraft.   For a detailed history of RAAF Lake Boga, the book Lake Boga At War by Brett Freeman (Catalina Publications, Swan Hill 1995) is highly recommended.

RAAF Lake Boga in 1943: RAAF Catalina A24-73 OX-M being serviced by No.1 Flying Boat Repair Depot
Photo: Australian War Memorial collection

                With the end of the Pacific war, many RAAF flying boats were ferried to Lake Boga for storage, pending RAAF HQ decisions on  post-war requirements. 1FBRD was decommissioned and the station operated by Lake Boga Care & Maintenance Unit, Lake. All hard standing was covered by stored flying boats, many others parked on cleared earth around the base.
                Civil Registered Catalinas in Australia Part 1
on this site includes a listing of post-war RAAF Catalina sales from Lake Boga  by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, some going on to civil flying careers.
                This article looks at the Catalinas that were left behind, unsold and unwanted, which were passed on to the Department of Aircraft Production for disposal. DAP had tried various methods of destroying groups of aircraft at other RAAF stations - for example a costed experiment held at RAAF Evans Head burning Fairey Battles and burying the remains, which showed the cost manpower and excavating equipment was too high. So DAP settled for a new round of disposals sales at RAAF stations across Australia during 1947-1949, offering aircraft, aero engines and equipment as scrap metal, or for sale at token prices to local citizens as "aircraft remnants" (the official term for aircraft stripped of parts, weathered from years parked in the open). Many farmers bid for these aircraft and towed them home behind tractors, to probvide sheet metal skinning, perspex panels, electrical wiring and light globes, engines and numerous other parts of use on the farm during those austere postwar rationing years.  For more details, refer Ansons and Oxfords on SA Farms also on this site.

This newspaper advertisement from 1949 says it all.         Courtesy Colin Whelan

Lake Boga circa 1950 after the scrap metal merchants had moved in.  A Catalina fuselage on its beaching gear
and RAAF Vought-Sikorsky Kingfisher fuselages stacked behind.                     Photo: Rod Adam collection

Also circa 1950: a complete Catalina, with a cut-up Cat fuselage on its left, with rear blister removed.
Tails and wing sections are stacked in the foreground.  
                     Photo: Rod Adam collection

Another view airca 1950. A complete Catalina and three Cat hulls in the foreground, two oither Cats behind.
Photo: David Vincent collection

This rare colour photo from 1950 shows civil Catalina VH-BDY which had been retired at Lake Boga.
There it was sold  as scrap metal.                                             Nigel Daw collection

Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum
                 We are indeed fortunate that a group of proud Lake Boga citizens ensured that the HQ area of the abandoned RAAF station were preserved, including the underground radio command post.  They were determined that the important role of the wartime RAAF station not be forgotten. The began collecting Catalina airframe sections from farms in the district and further afield, until they had enough to commence reconstructing a composite Catalina for display. Their efforts over many years have resulted in the display of a RAAF Catalina on the site, painted in RAAF markings with a representative serial number "A24-30". It is NOT the real A24-30, which was a former Dutch MLD PBY-4 flown from the Netherlands East Indies to Australia to escape the Japanese advance and taken over by RAAF and rebuilt as a PBY-5. It was sold at the Lake Boga disposals sales to Sydney aircraft dealer Kingsford Smith Aviation Services, which removed engines, instruments and parts, then sold the bare airframe as scrap, probably later taken away by a farmer.
                The Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum has established an impressive display, now with a large hangar for the Catalina and a Dornier Do 24 nose section.  Once the Catalina was moved inside the new building, it was given a professional repaint in 2011 by a team from Historical Aircraft Restoration Society, Albion Park NSW. This was part of a HARS deal in which the authentic rear fuselage blisters were removed from "A24-30" and loaned to HARS as patterns to fabricate new blisters for their airworthy PBY-6A VH-PBZ. When the original blisters were re-installed on the Lake Boga Catalina, HARS then repainted the entire aircraft, retaining the serial "A24-30".

The Lake Boga museum group's composite Catalina fuselage under construction in January 1987.               
Photo by Nigel Daw

Completed and painted as RAAF A24-30, on the museum site in April 1999.                   Photo by Nigel Daw

Timber barges on the River Murray
                 The Catalinas left at Lake Boga were an attractive proposition to the thriving timber trade along the River Murray. River gum was in high demand for railway sleepers, and many teams were cutting down trees and using a variety of methods to get the cut wood to timber mills set up along the river.  The long and wide metal Catalina fuselages with their strong hulls renown for their strength to withstand rough water landings, were seen as a good way to obtain a low-cost barge to load up with timber and tow down the river. 
                 An unknown number of Catalina fuselages were acquired by the timber traders from scrap metal merchants chopping up aircraft at the closed RAAF Lake Boga during the late 1940s and into the early 1950s.   The fuselages were cut down to make open barges and some had marine engines installed so they could make their own way to the timber mills on the river.

Two pictures of a typical timber boat made from a Catalina fuselage, on the Murray River in the 1950s.
This one has an engine and steering gear fitted.                               Photos:  David Vincent collection

House boats on the River Murray
                  Another use for the Catalina fuselages was to be fitted out as house boats.  The cabin compartments provided the basis for living areas, bedrooms and kitchens. Equipped with a marine motor and steering gear, they were seen on the River Murray in a variety of home-made designs.  Only a few had survived into the 1980s when wartime relics had become appreciated.

This house boat, cleverly named "Felix, was tied up at Barmah on the River Murray in 1966.
Photo by Rob Fox

Tied up in the Moira Forest near Mathoura NSW in 1976 was this houseboat still with the Consolidated plate
which identified it as A24-88 which had been a 42 Squadron "Black Cat" RK-A which took part in the secret
long range mission to drop mines in Manila harbour in December 1944.                 
Photo by Nigel Daw

Note the sliding entrance door for A24-88.  This houseboat was found on land at Moama NSW and in 2003
acquired by Australian National Aviation Museum at Moorabbin Airport, Melbourne. It is being restored
   with blisters as RAAF Black Cat "RK-A" and will be mated with a mainplane acquired from USA        
Photo by Nigel Daw

A24-88 under restoration at Australian National Aviation Museum, Moorabbin Airport Vic during March 2016.
Photo by Ian McDonell

Clearly having seen better days, this Cat houseboat was at Moira Forest near Mathoura NSW in 1976.
Photo by Nigel Daw

This abandoned Catalina houseboat was on the banks of the River Murray near Swan Hill in March 1965.
Photo by Geoff Goodall

Paddle Cat seen in 2014 at Bruces Bend near Mildura uses the hull of A24-29.        Photo: Mark Pilkington

                  This house boat Paddle Cat was based on the fuselage of Catalina A24-29. It had been cut away right down to just the hull, on to which the house boat structure was installed. A24-29 was an early PBY-4 model, previously Y-10 with the Dutch MLD in the Netherlands East Indies. Its Dutch crew escaped the Japanese advance by flying to Australia in March 1942, where it was taken over by RAAF as A24-29, the only PBY-4 on Australian strength.

From Catalina to party paddle boat
                   The town of Wentworth NSW is established at the confluence of Australia's two most important rivers, the Darling and the Murray. An unidentified Catalina hull was used as the basis for a river cruise vessel at Wentworth, constructed over several years from 1971. The hull probably came from a houseboat and appeared to be in good structural condition.
                  On a block in the town a small collection of Catalina airframe parts were found, including armour plating and a tailplane section clearly showing RAAF serial A24-46. However this Catalina's fuselage sections were salvaged from a farm by Warbirds Aviation Museum at Mildura.  To add to the river cruise experience, the proprietors installed mock paddle wheels on each side. 
                  The following set of photographs were taken by Dave Eyre, who watched its progress during visits to Wentworth.

The bare Catalina hull on the banks of the River Darling near Wentworth in April 1971

The hull internal structure was in good condition

This tail section from A24-46 was among Catalina parts found dumped in Wentworth in 1967.

The finished product: the Catalina hull poses as a river cruise paddle steamer at Wentworth in September 1975


                 Catalina fuselages on their beaching gear were towed home from Lake Boga by farmers in northern Victoria. Some took wing sections to strip off the metal skinning to make sheds and fences on their properties. Catalina remains have been found on farms as far away as Nyah West and Pyramind Hill.

                 Warbirds Aviation Museum at Mildura Vic recovered much of the airframe of A24-46 from a farm near Lake Boga in the early 1970s. The tailplane had a yellow "T" over the camouflage. The sections were held in storage by the museum and no significant restoration work was attempted. The nose section forward of the cockpit was displayed in the museum compound - all the RAAF paintwork had worn away due weather exposure, revealing the original factory US Navy finish.
                  In 1987 John Bell, a commercial pilot from Albany WA with a strong interest in aviation history, particularly military seaplanes, came to an agreement with the museum to acquire the incomplete Vought Kingfisher floatplane A48-2 and the fuselage sections of A24-46. He collected the Kingfisher first, followed by the Catalina in 1989, both having long road trips to Albany WA. There John had been involved in the establishement of the Whaleworld museum on the site of the closed Cheynes Beach Whaling Company, for whom he had flown Cessna floatplanes for whale spotting.  He assembled the Kingfisher and Catalina fuselage inside the museum building.
                 Tragically John Bell was killed on 13 March 1996 when his Cessna 337 struck terrain near Albany while on a low level police surveillance operation. Whaleworld's fortunes were to suffer and the museum closed down, its contents being auctioned in June 2004. As well as the Catalina fuselage and Kingfisher,  the auction included a whale-spotting Cessna 172 floatplane display and John's other restoration project, ex RAAF Vultee Vengeance A27-247 salvaged from a Kalgoorlie scrap metal yard. The Catalina fuselage was moved by road 50 km to a property near Denmark WA, where its owner Bruce Galash continues the restoration to wartime configuration.

The nose section of A24-46 at Warbirds Aviation Museum, Mildura in 1974.            Photo by Nigel Daw

By 1983 the Catalina nose had a turret installed, but was stored behind display hangars at the museum, 
with stacked
Wirraway wings and a B-24 tailplane.                                   Photo by Geoff Goodall

John Bell had re-assembled the fuselage of A24-46 at Whaleworld Museum, Albany WA by January 1994.
Photo by John Chapman

               Another Catalina fuselage had been moved by road in the late 1960s to the Lake Eildon boat harbour in central Victoria. All paintwork had been scraped off, and it was being rebuilt by its owners over several years to become a house boat. Its fate is unknown, but it has been suggested that it is the extensively cut-away fuselage which appeared in a farmers paddock near Nurmurkah Vic where it was identified by Mark Pilkington as A24-19.  It was later moved to another open paddock at Wallan Vic in the 1980s as shown below. 
It was reportedly wrecked when blown over by a wind storm in the early 1990s.
             A24-19 was another of the Catalinas purchased at the Lake Boga disposals sales by Kingsford Smith Aviation Services, Sydney. They were acquired only for their engines, instruments and parts. The stripped airframes were left behind as scrap, many re-sold to farmers.

This fuselage, believed to be A24-19, was in a paddock near Wallan, north of Melbourne in April 1986.
Photo by Bruce McAllister via Nigel Daw collection


                Seven RAAF Kingfisher floatplanes were retired at Lake Boga by 1945: A48-2, -3, -4, -5, -11, -14, -18. Their release to the
Commonwealth Disposals Commission was delayed at the request of the RAAF Antarctic Flight, which was preparing a Kingfisher at  Rathmines to be evaluated on the next Antarctic expedition. The Flight requested that the Lake Boga Kingfishers be held in reserve, even though six of the seven were without their P&W R-985 engines. 
                Meanwhile Mr. Norman Padgett of Werribee Victoria was eager to acquire a Kingfisher.  This experienced pre-war airline pilot and adventurer had an eventful RAAF wartime career, being awarded the Air Force Medal for his courage under fire in New Guinea. Following his discharge from RAAF in 1946,  Padgett established a timber mill on a river in Borneo, flying his Anson VH-BAV to Borneo and return twice before purchasing a Navy disposals 70 feet general-purpose launch, on which he planned to carry a Kingfisher to the mill.
                He had offered the CDC 400 for a Kingfisher and A48-2 with engine had been allocated, but within days withdrawn due to the Antarctic Flight request. Undeterred, Padgett met with senior RAAF officers, resulting in no less than Air Chief Marshall Frederick Scherger supporting his request for one of the engineless Kingfishers at Lake Boga be released to him. This was approved and on 2.6.47 CDC sold him A48-5 without an engine for a reduced price 275. Padgett had purchased a serviceable R-985 from another CDC sale and transported it to Lake Boga, where he installed it in A48-5, test flew it on the lake then departed for Melbourne where he landed at Williamstown boat harbour. A48-5 was flown by Norman Padgett without civil registration off rivers in Borneo for the next four years.

Far from Lake Boga. A48-5 on Baram River at Norman Padgett's Borneo timber mill in 1949.     David Vincent collection

               In September 1947 the remaining six Kingfishers were finally offered to CDC but no civil sales eventuated. They were passed to Department of Aircraft Production for disposal as "aircraft remnants" and reportedly all went to a scrap metal dealer. A group of dismantled Kingfishers lay in a field next to the main road at the nearby town Swan Hill for some years. 
               Only one of these has been located. The fuselage, tailplane and floats of A48-2 were acquired from a scrap metal dealer by George Kremor and moved to his fruit orchard at Merbein near Mildura.  He cut open the smaller wingtip floats to make single-man canoes. In 1967 the remains were found by Pearce Dunn who was establishing his Warbirds Aviation Museum at Mildura Airport.
               Having acquired the mortal remains of A48-2, Pearce carried out some cosmetic restoration of the fuselage in the museum compound. In 1987 he agreed to sell the Kingfisher components and unrestored fuselage sections of Catalina A24-46 to John Bell of Albany WA. Both were moved by road to Albany where John reassembled them in the Waleworld museum.

               Over following years, John Bell tracked down some of the airframe parts he needed to complete the Kingfisher : inspecting the yard of an elderly Singapore scrap dealer who had shipped wartime aircraft wrecks from Borneo, including Norman Padgett's A48-5 abandoned on a beach at Labuan. John also visited US aircraft parts dealers and even to Chile to follow up reports of remaining parts from Chilean Air Force Kingfishers.
               Following John's death in a plane crash in March 1996, Whaleworld suffered a decline and was later forced to close. Its contents were auctioned in June 2004. John's Kingfisher and Vultee Vengeance were purchased by warbird restoration specialists Precision Aerospace Productions Pty Ltd and moved by road to their maintenance base at Wangaratta Airport, Victoria. There it was to be rebuilt to airworthy for US warbird collector Gerald Yagen of Virginia Beach Virginia. Yagen had acquired a Kingfisher hulk, which he shipped to Australia for use as a pattern. Metal work began on the rebuild at Wangaratta.  Precision Aerospace applied to CASA to register the aircraft and on 10 February 2012 A48-2 was registered as VH-PSG. Inexplicably, its identity was quoted as "A48-7", which crashed into Lake Macquarie and sank in December 1943.
               Things were looking promising for the world's only potential flying Vought Sikorsky Kingfisher when fate stepped in again. The founder of Precision Aerospace Productions died unexpectedly and his warbird restoration operation soon shut down. The business was later taken over by local warbird owner Doug Hamilton, but Yagen had moved the Kingfisher project to Auckland NZ to warbird restorers Pioneer Aero Ltd.

A48-2 fuselage as found in a fruit orchard at Merbein Vic in September 1967.  RAAF 107 Squadron squadron
code "JE-B"is etched in the metal with the roundel.                                            Photo by Geoff Goodall

A48-2 under restoration by John Bell at Whale Word Museum at Albany WA in January 1994
Photo by John Chapman


A wartime picture of a cheerful maintenance crew paddling out to a RAAF Mariner on Lake Boga.
Photo: State Library of Victoria

           The RAAF received 12 Martin PBM-3R Mariner heavy flying boats under Lend Lease.  With serials A70-1 to A70-12, all were delivered across the Pacific in late 1943 by RAAF Catalina aircrews. The Mariners were issued to Nos. 40 and 41 Squadrons, replacing Catalinas and Dornier Do 24s int he transport tole, carrying personnel and supplies to Australian forces in New Guinea and Borneo.
            No RAAF Mariners were lost in service, and all 12 were ferried to Lake Boga for retirement during 1945-46. Under the Lend Lease terms they could not be sold to civil operators, so once RAAF agreed it had no further use for them, the Mariners were handed to Department of Aircraft Production for disposal as "aircraft remnants". They were sold at Lake Boga for token prices to local farmers and scrap metal dealers.  Complete Mariner fuselages, running on the wheels of their beaching gear, were towed away behind tractors and trucks to farms, where their large size provided big sections of metal skinning for fencing and sheds and generous lengths of electrical wiring.

RAAF Mariner A70-1 coded "A"near Swan Hill Vic being towed on its beaching gear by a tractor.
Photo: Richard Hourigan collection

Marivan Caravans
              At least two Mariner forward fuselage sections were used to make holiday caravans. The nose from the bow back to a fuselage break about 10 feet behind the cockpit windows was made into a two level cabin for bunks, kitchen etc, and the hull cut away to fit wheels so that the Marivan could be towed behind the family car.
             One was A70-3 whose fuselage was hauled away from Lake Boga by Mr. T. Leed of Pyramid Hill, Victoria. When he completed making the nose into a Marivan, he painted it with the name "Pyramid Hill", and sold the rest of the airframe as scrap metal. He towed his Maravan to various distant locations around Australia on family holidays. On 24 January 1963 it was spotted being towed through Adelaide before setting off across the Nullabor Plain to Perth. The chassis of the Marivan failed near Southern Cross WA where Mr. Leeds was forced to abandon it.  After repair it was acquired by Mr. M. Innocent of Pingelly WA, then Harry Bingham of Corrigin WA and by 1970 was with Ken Stephens at Doodlakine WA. In 1975 it was donated to the RAAF Association in Perth to add to their aircraft and relics collection for their proposed museum, which was established as the Aviation Heritage Museum of WA.  The Marivan was towed from Doodlakine to Perth behind a museum group member's car in December 1975 and stored for a few years before a mutually-agreeable loan was negotiated with the Sport Aircraft Association of WA, who were developing their own airfield in scrub land at Serpentine, 60 Km south of Perth. It was used by President Charlie Urwin so he and his family could comfortably stay the night at the remote airfield site. Now painted with the name "The Ancient Mariner", it was a regular sight at Serpentine, parked in the shade of trees, until returned to the museum, its last trip being towed from Serpentine to the Aviation Heritage Museum, Perth in October 2002.

 A magazine picture from 1955 shows the Marivan A70-3 "Pyramid Hill" on a typical 1950s dirt highway.

"Pyramid Hill" in a South Australian caravan park in 1958.                    Photo: David Vincent collection

Ted Fletcher tows the Marivan "Pyramid Hill" from its resting place at Doodlakine WA in December 1975 
when acquired by the RAAF Association museum group in Perth.                          Photo by Merv Prime

Charlie Urwin tows the same Marivan, now repainted as "The Ancient Mariner" at Serpentine airfield WA in 2002.           
Photo: Charlie Urwin 

            The second known Marivan used the nose of RAAF Mariner A70-6, which was towed from Lake Boga to Frank Olney's farming property at Berriwillock Vic in 1948. The letter below tells the story and describes the uses it was put to at the farm.
            During 1985 this Marivan appeared at the newly-formed Eureka Aviation Museum at Ballarat Airport Vic. It was painted green with the same waving line as in the picture below, but appeared to have been repainted relatively recently. The museum was later renamed Ballarat Aviation Museum and the Marivan remained in the museum hangar until last reported in 2003. It subsequent fate is not known.

This letter in "Australian Post" magazine tells the story of Frank Olney's Mariner

"Marivan" built from RAAF Mariner A70-6 seen at Ballarat Vic in February 1987 in the Eureka Air Museum storage yard.
Photo by Geoff Goodall

           Only two other RAAF Mariners have been traced:
- A70-1 complete fuselage was towed on its beaching gear from Lake Boga in 1948 to a farm near Swan Hill Vic.  Little was stripped from the fuselage and in 1956 it was towed behind a tractor to another property. Serial A70-1 and the Pacific theatre RAAF blue-white roundel could still be seen on the faded camouflage, plus code letter "A", from its wartime transport radio callsign VHCOA.

- A70-12 was sold to Mr. Angelo Riggonie, of Gunbower Vic, who towed the wingless fuselage home on its beaching gear in 1948.  At his farm it was broken up and stripped of useful components over the folllowing years. In 1969 Pearce Dunn was establishing his Warbirds Aviation Museum at Mildura and following up reports of wartime aircraft remains.  He visited Mr. Riggonie's property later that year, by which time there was little left of A70-12.  Pearce collected the rear fuselage section and parts and moved them to his museum compound on the foundations of the wartime 2OTU buildings at Mildura Airport.
         By 1990 Warbirds was closing and offering many of its aircraft and parts for sale. The Mariner rear fuselage section, still showing serial "A70-12" was acquired by David Braham, Adelaide. It was moved by road from Mildura to Adelaide for Brabham by Adelaide wartime aircraft parts collector John Boden and his son John, who stored it on his property for some years. In 1998 Brabham disposed of it to a museum group at Goolwa SA who moved it to Goolwa airfield where it was left in the grass. The proposed museum did not evantuate and in 2011 the tail section was removed from Goolwa airfield by persons unknown.


           Refer to the file Dornier Do 24 and the Broome Attack in this series on this site.  The five remaining RAAF Do 24s (originally Dutch Navy flying boats evacuated from Netherlands East Indies) were retired at Lake Boga in 1944 and sold for scrap. At least one was saved from scrapping by an enterprising local citizens, moved by road to Bendigo Vic and later to Echuca Vic where it was rebuilt as a house boat with an internal engine and steering gear. It spent 40 years or more on the River Murray in the Echuca area, until retired on land on its boat trailer and rapidly fell into poor coindition. and was recently acquired by the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum. It is being stripped and restored for disolay inside the new hangar, with the Catalina.

RAAF Dornier Do 24s stripped of engines and outer wings at Lake Boga circa 1946

The only known Do 24 survivor, on the River Murray near Echuca circa 2003.       Photo by Dave Prossor

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Catalina wrecks do show up in unexpected places.
In 1990 I literally trod on this submerged USN PBY-5 at a deserted beach on Princess Charlotte Bay, 500 miles north of Cairns. It happened during a picnic ashore for passengers of a coastal ship operating between Cairns and Thursday Island. Later, as the tide dropped, an aircraft wing and two radial engines became exposed. The ship's captain, who had long experience on this coastal run, said it was a US Navy Black Cat which had been washed ashore and wrecked in a storm during the war.

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