RAAF history uncovered

Avro 504K at Point Cook outside a WW1 canvas hangar, part of the Imperial Gift in 1921. 28064_01. (Point Cook RAAF Museum)

By Alesha Capone

A project has started to digitally record a trove of significant Royal Australian Air Force documents, many of which have been locked away for 100 years.

The project will allow the public to gain online access to approximately 191 bound volumes of historic documents, many detailing the aspects of the daily operations of the RAAF in Point Cook and Laverton since 1920.

The RAAF documents will be digitised through a $300,000 project delivered with the National Archives of Australia.

The Point Cook airbase, which was established in 1913, is known as the birthplace of the RAAF.

It is the oldest continually operating military airfield in the world and served as the RAAF’s only base until 1925, when the Laverton base and another base in NSW were established.

Deputy Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Stephen Meredith, said the RAAF records were regarded as key artefacts in the history of the air force.

The documents include the Air Board and Air Council agendas and submissions, along with Chief of Air Staff Advisory Committee submissions.

The Air Board was established in 1920 to administer the Australian Air Corps (AAC) and investigate the feasibility of establishing an independent air force, and later oversaw the disbandment of the AAC and formation of the RAAF.

“The Air Board was responsible for all aspects of the daily operations and management of the RAAF, so these documents include intricate details of how the RAAF was initially structured and controlled,” Air Vice-Marshal Meredith said.

The digitisation project is expected to take around 12 months.

Air Commodore John Meier, Director History and Heritage Branch – Air Force, said:

“The National Archives of Australia’s (NAA) digitisation of Royal Australian Air Force’s historic documents is progressing and the team are doing a great job.

“The earliest of these records are from the 1920s and are now appearing online at the RecordSearch part of the NAA website.

“At last count, there were over 700 individual records covering 1920 to 1925.

“This period alone provides some amazing insights into what was happening at Point Cook and Laverton, back when our fledgling Air Force was being established.

“You only need to look at some of these records that are online now and you get a feel for the deliberations being made by the senior echelon of the Air Force in the early 1920s about Point Cook and Laverton.

“They cover an amazing range of topics, including the appointment of the officers who would go on to establish the Air Force at Point Cook, as well as the acquisition of the various early aircraft types that would fly and be maintained at both Point Cook and Laverton.”

For those who live in Melbourne’s west, and especially those who now live in the many suburbs surrounding both Point Cook and Laverton, these documents not only represent an important part of Air Force’s history and heritage, but also of the region.