It is the second edition of this most attractive book. A4 size and hard cover. The first edition was released in the year 2014 which was the 100th anniversary of Point Cook. Its author, Steve Campbell-Wright served in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) for 35 years and has a master’s
degree in cultural heritage. It was at Point Cook that he started his air force career in 1970 and adds that the history of Point Cook is an important story. One which should be, states Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston in his foreword, better known to all Australians.
Campbell-Wright asserts that Point Cook has a unique place in Australia’s cultural heritage and that the 100th anniversary was the time to reflect on it all. In 1914, Australia took its most important practical step towards the establishment of what is now considered by many to be one of the most
capable air forces in the world. Wright adds in his preface to Second Edition that the first had been sold out and so a new edition was the opportunity to update the first chapter and to make minor corrections to the text of the preceding chapters.
Chapter One is to do with the history of aviation and the establishment of Australia’s Air Force. It states that the first flight in an Australian military aircraft was by Lieutenant Eric Harrison on 1 March 1914. “The story is not simple,” writes the author, “the beginning, the establishing of the Central Flying School and Australian Flying Corps at Point Cook, was a difficult process at a time of war preparation, rapid technological advances and acute public interest in aviation”. It is a fascinating chapter.
The purchasing of the land for Point Cook by the Federal Government occurred in October 1913, land which belonged to the Victorian Government and it took more than a year for the 734 acres to be transferred to the Australian Government for the sum of 6040 pounds. Pioneer aviators, Henry Petre and Eric Harrison, inspected the site to peg out the locations for the hangars, workshop and office.
Chapter Two deals with the actual establishment of Point Cook in 1914 and records the first air crash in an Australian Military aircraft on 9th March four days after the first official flight. Flown by Petre, luckily he only sustained bruising. It was not just the construction of buildings for the camp as it was then known, which included a school for personnel, that had to be undertaken, but also roads which originally were dust tracks. The first hangar was completed in July 1914.
The first death of a pilot at Point Cook occurred in March 1917 when private pilot Basil Watson’s aircraft crashed at the water’s edge. Watson was the son of a mining investor and had travelled to Britain before the war to train as a pilot. There is a photograph of the wreckage of Watson’s aircraft on page 54. Tragedy struck again in November of the same year when Lieutenant Reginald Duckworth crashed into a paddock. Page 56 carries also a photograph of the Duckworth’s wreck.
There are many photos of those who took courses at the Aviation school during WWI. By 1918 consideration was given to forming a separate Australian Air Fore along the lines of the Royal Air Force in Britain. There is a Tasmanian connection. One page 67 there is a terrific photograph of Eric Cummings in 1919 who flew around the Hobart GPO with his Sopwith aircraft marked “Buy Bonds”.
The book then deals with the substantial development of Point Cook in the 1920s (with lots of pics) and into the 1930s with one noticing the development of the aircrafts themselves. On the brink of war in 1938 a dedication to those who had died in the air services in the last war was unveiled.
Then of course was World War II when there was a great deal of reorganisation at Point Cook with extra building construction. Chapter 8 deals with the post war years which initially were very unsettling for the RAAF with the pressures to demobilise and many senior officers were to be
culled from the service and so, to the latter years.
Campbell-Wright states, “Point Cook is the birthplace of military aviation in Australia, the founding place of the Australian Flying Corps and the RAAF. It played a significant part in the development of Australian civil aviation.”
A great read, which while it will undoubtedly appeal to RAAF personnel present and past, the general public, particularly those interested in military history or just history in general, will find it a fascinating one.
Check BigSky Publishing website.
Reviewer: Author and Friend of Hobart Legacy, Reg Watson