The Unveiling of Beaufort A9-557
by Daniel Leahey

In April 2000 while visiting the Australian War Memorial’s Treloar Technology Centre, I noticed the rear fuselage of a Beaufort with the 100 Squadron code QH-L marked on it - this was my first ‘meeting’ with RAAF Beaufort A9-557. Since then I have had a fascination with this type of aircraft and those which flew with them during the Second World War.

DAP Beaufort Mk. VIII Serial Number A9-557 Tail Code QH-L

Three years later, the restoration of this aircraft has been completed and the aircraft was placed on public display for the first time in ANZAC Hall on March 8, 2003. On March 28, the Australian War Memorial, in conjunction with the RAAF Beaufort Squadrons Association, held a commemorative function to officially unveil the restored aircraft. Originally, only about 70 guests were expected to arrive, but in the end closer to 450 were in attendance. These included veterans, relatives, Air Force dignitaries and researchers. Click For Enlargment
Before the War Memorial opened its gates, I managed to meet up with veterans from Numbers 7, 8 and 100 Squadrons. It was very interesting listening to their tales - especially about how one managed to shoot down a Japanese ‘Jake’; and another about one of their comrades who was missing behind enemy lines for some time - sabotaging Japanese guns with sand before walking back to base!
The large group of us then moved inside where we were welcomed by War Memorial Director Steve Gower and Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshall Angus Houston followed by a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier (who represents all Australians who have died in war). Click For Enlargment
After the reciting of the Ode and The Last Post, the large group moved to a marquee outside the War Memorial. Here the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Danna Vale, spoke about the history of the Beaufort, and explained to children in attendance what the Beaufort restoration represented. We then heard stories from Air Commodore Keith Parsons (Retired) who served with Beauforts towards the end of the war. This was followed by an afternoon tea. Click For Enlargment

While others were enjoying their coffee and cake, I thought I’d get a glimpse of the Beaufort as soon as possible. As I shuffled into ANZAC Hall, it was awe inspiring to see a complete Beaufort sitting right next to an RAAF Hudson - probably the first time this has happened in over fifty years. It was then I realized that almost three years to the day, I saw the battered rear fuselage of the aircraft sitting in a corner at the Treloar annex. I just had to congratulate those volunteers and workers standing around me on what a magnificent job they had done.

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I managed to talk to Keith Parsons for a brief moment - he commanded Number 460 Squadron in Europe and survived a Lancaster mid-air collision, before returning to Australia to command Number 7 (Beaufort) Squadron. I stood there in shock as he told of his escape from the Lancaster to become a member of the famous ‘Caterpillar Club’ (a group of pilots and aircrew who have survived potentially fatal aircraft incidents by baling out). Click For Enlargment

After the ceremony had ended, I stayed at the War Memorial, looking at and thinking about the Beaufort, speaking with the few veterans who also remained behind. Other relics located in ANZAC Hall include a Hudson bomber, nose section of a Lancaster, the Japanese midget submarine and a section of the HMAS Kuttabul - no doubt this is the perfect place for a tribute for all those RAAF pilots and crew members who had served and died aboard Beaufort bombers.

[ Photographic Walkaround of Beaufort A9-557 ]

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The Beaufort will be on display in ANZAC Hall until April 28, 2003 when it will be relocated to the Treloar Technology Centre and placed in storage until more room at the Australian War Memorial can be found.

 

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