Lake Macquarie History

Rathmines Air Base Oral Histories

photo: aerial photograph of rathmines airbase

Rathmines Air Base was an important centre for the Catalina seaplanes, which played a pivotal role in Australia's defensive operations during the war. From 1942 they roamed the western Pacific region in covert night operations laying mines in enemy harbours and uncovering Japanese naval vessels by radar. The Catalina possessed an extensive range which enabled the crew to call in the navy while still maintaining contact with Japanese forces. American and Australian naval forces were then able to intercept and defeat the Japanese, driving them from Australian waters and subsequently thwarting attacks on mainland Australia.

After the war, Rathmines RAAF base continued its service by operating as a ground-training base and an Officers' Training School from 12 April 1950. It was renamed again in 1948 to No. 11 (GR) Squadron, and finally resumed the title of RAAF Station Rathmines in 1950. The Catalina aircraft were phased out, and in January 1952, the base was disband and ceased to function.

In 2005, the former Rathmines Air Base was heritage listed by the New South Wales State Government and an application has been put to the Federal Government for similar acknowledgment. The Rathmines' Catalina Festival was formed in 2008 to raise money to buy a Catalina for display for a museum proposed on the site. The festival is held yearly in November. The popular event is exclusive to the region and is the largest community festival held in the Lake Macquarie area.

A Catalina was purchased in 2013 from Puerto Rico, which will feature once the museum is operational.

The Rathmines Memorial Bowling Club occupies one of the remaining original buildings of the base. On September 19n 1984 a wall within the club commemorating and honouring RAAF personnel who operated and trained at the base during its service years was officially dedicated.

The Catalina Memorial was officially unveiled and dedicated on September 16 1972. The walk along a paved, landscaped path leads to a monolithic structure with a Catalina propeller featured on top. Walls either side are inscribed with those who died for their country who had passed through the base at Rathmines.