Lake Macquarie History

Catapulted flight

Australian cruisers carried WWI era technologies into WWII: above deck launching and crane retrieval for biplanes.

photo:catapulted flight

RAN cruisers operating with the Grand Fleet in the North Sea during WWI participated in launching trials using land planes. A Sopwith Pup flew off HMAS Australia (I)’s quarter deck on 18 December 1917. Further trials in early 1918 saw Sopwith Pup, Camel and 1½ Strutter aircraft being launched from 30 foot ramps.

HMAS Australia (II), Canberra, Hobart, Perth and Sydney and the armed merchant ships Manoora and Westralia bore catapult launching and crane retrieval systems during WWII.

Each ship carried a 9 Squadron detachment usually made up of a pilot, engine fitter, airframe fitters, armourer and photographer with the aircraft. The observer (navigator) and telegraphist air gunner were naval personnel. Crews completed reconnaissance, anti-submarine and artillery spotting. They also participated in bombing missions and combat in national and international theatres of war.

The catapult crew were RAN personnel. The WWII era launching system was powered by an explosive charge of cordite.

Catapult launches and crane retrievals were daily features of 9 Squadron’s operations when on detachment to the RAN.

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