The Seagull and the Walrus
5 Squadron (later renumbered to become 9 Squadron) are first recorded to have been in Lake Macquarie on 4 November 1938. 5 Squadron flew a reconnaissance flight over the area in A2-20 Seagull V.
The selection and construction of RAAF Rathmines was accelerated by the arrival of the second world war. A ridge of silt around the base initially made it impossible to bring aircraft ashore. A temporary slipway of old railway sleepers on a framework of green trees was laid down in September 1939. The first known military aircraft to arrive at RAAF Rathmines was A2-4 Supermarine Seagull V on September 12.
The majority of Seagulls and Walruses first arrived at Rathmines from 1940 onward, after 9 Squadron’s transfer. They were also used by other units stationed at the base, notably Seaplane Training Flight.
Wartime Rathmines was dominated by aircraft. By the height of the base in late 1942, aircraft were moored on Lake Macquarie and drawn up under trees along the shore. They occupied hangars, the hardstand and the sky above the base.
“There was always aircraft noise at Rathmines. It was good. In the hangars they would often bench test engines after major service and this noise could be heard over the entire base. Also seaplanes and flying boats were constantly taking off at maximum revs.” Flight Lieutenant Donald Linthorne Watson. Unpublished autobiography. Collection of the Australian War Memorial PR03236
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