Air Force 90th Anniversary Reception – RAAF Base Williams








25 March 2011

Thank you Air Commodore Hewitson.

Major General Jim Barry, Major-General David McLachlan, Air-Vice Marshal Chris Spence.

Ladies and gentlemen.

It’s a great honour to be here with you tonight.

This is a very special year for the R.A.A.F – celebrating 90 years of service to Australia.

And this is where it all began.

In 1911, one hundred years ago, the then Minister for Defence returned from England convinced of the need for a military aviation corps.

After much searching Point Cook was selected as the site of our first aviation corps – and was purchased for £6,040.

The Government of the day also purchased five aircraft and a package of pilot and mechanical training for £3,538 – just a bit less than the cost of a Joint Strike Fighter.

The first plane to take off from here was a Bristol Boxkite on the 1st of March 1914. The pilot was Captain Eric Harrison.

Since then thousands of pilots have taken off from here.

In the First World War more than 3,700 men served in the Australian Flying Corps.

By the end of the Second World War there were more than 170,000 personnel in the Royal Australian Air Force – making it the fourth largest Air Force in the world at the time.

Since then Air Force personnel have served in served in Korea, South-East Asia, East Timor, the Gulf region, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of the more than 102,000 names inscribed on the wall at War Memorial in Canberra – more than 11,000 of them are names of men and women from the Royal Australian Air Force.

Four Victoria Crosses have been earned by pilots who served with the R.A.A.F.

The R.A.A.F serves the people of Australia and our region in other ways as well.

When people are in trouble it is often the men and women of the Air Force they see first.

We have seen that in the past few months. Delivering supplies to communities isolated by flooding in Queensland.

Evacuating an entire hospital on the eve of Cyclone Yasi.

Flying the search and rescue teams into Christchurch and Japan.

Today the final C17 returned from Japan, after all their work carrying food, water, people and equipment over the past two weeks.

The R.A.A.F has a long and proud history – it is the second oldest Air Force in the world – and a bright future ahead.

This will be a big year for Air Force.

We will take delivery of the final nine Super Hornets at Amberley.

We will continue work towards Initial Operating Capability on Wedgetail at Williamtown.

We will also have a lot of work to do to get ready for the arrival of the Joint Strike Fighter that will be overhead when the R.A.A.F celebrates its centenary in ten years time.

None of this will happen without a lot of hard work – in the air and on the ground. It is important we recognise this work and sacrifice – and I do so by making this special announcement tonight.

As many of you would know, the wreckage of a World War Two Spitfire flown by a RAAF pilot was recently recovered from the muddy waters of the Orne Estuary in Northern France.

It was shot down on 11 June 1944, five days after D-day, by anti-aircraft fire – and its pilot Flight Lieutenant Henry ‘Lacy’ Smith lost his life.

As a result of its discovery and a recovery operation Flight Lieutenant Smith will be buried with full military honours at the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in a few weeks time in Ranville, Normandy, France.

His aircraft is also being prepared for return to Australia, and I can announce tonight that its final resting place will be here at the Point Cook RAAF Museum.

It seems only fitting that its final resting place be here, the birth place of teh RAAF.

A place of so much importance to the RAAF.

And a place  of so much importance to all Australians.