No. 4 Flight Training Base, Moonyoonooka

The preparation for the production of aircraft at this time must have been phenomenal. In the 1920’s and 30’s at least 1,000 gypsy moths were exported from England to Australia. These however, were toys compared to the aircraft that were being built by Germany in the years leading up to the start of World War 2. England lost many, many aircraft in the early days of the conflict.

It was one thing to manufacture suitable aircraft, but suitable personnel, not only as aircraft mechanics, but also as flight crew for the larger aircraft were needed.

For young men training as pilots and navigators, trips to Canada, New Zealand, Australia or even Rhodesia, (Zimbabwe) for training was necessary.

The first training school in Western Australia was at Maylands, the second at Cunderdin, and the third was at an abandoned gold mining town called Southern Cross. At a later date the training school at Southern Cross was closed and the school moved to Moonyoonooka, near Geraldton. Buildings and water piping were dismantled at Southern Cross and railed to Geraldton.

In 1922 the first official airfield in Geraldton was a fifty acre lot at Woorree. This proved to be too small, and straying stock was a big problem. In 1938 the Dept. of Civil Aviation decided to purchase the Angel property of 434 acres in Moonyoonooka. Added to this was a small area of 43 acres owned by the Preston family of “Amouri Park.”

A sum of 3,000 pounds, (approx. $6,000) was allotted to the project; fencing, levelling, drainage, power, communications etc. and also some building. The airfield was completed just before the start of World War 2.

Farm fencing was removed and used as a boundary fence. Where possible it joined up with recent rabbit proof fencing and the posts given three coats of white paint. The Angel family always maintained that they were underpaid for their property.

With the declaration of war the training of pilots and crew was imperative. It was decided to establish the No.4 Flying School at Moonyoonooka, six miles from Geraldton. On December 20 1940 32,000 pounds was allocated to this project, and the school was officially opened February 10 1941, and all systems go!

The original accommodation huts held eighty beds and were unlined.

The Public Works Dept. did most of the work, but Geraldton builders made a large contribution. Due to a shortage of building material and man power there was constant pressure to complete the flying school. The buildings were built of asbestos with jarrah dado.

Japan came into the war on December 7 1941, and hostilities were very much on our door step, and relentless building of the base continued into 1943. Four of the twenty hangers were in fact dismantled and transported to Kalgoorlie Boulder.

In February 1942 the WAAF arrived and were allocated hut 13. Rather a picket fence was erected around this building. Over the coming months the fence developed a distinct lean. Some maintained that it leaned inwards, while others said that it leaned outwards. Within a year they had their own compound.

In his book of the R.A.A.F.No.4 Flying Training School at Geraldton, Doug Brenkley had an excellent site plan: approx. 180 buildings consisting of:-

A guard house
Sleeping quarters
A kitchen
Ablution blocks and toilets
Boiler room
Store rooms
A laundry
Recreation huts
Lecture rooms
A photographic hut
Garages and workshops
A meat room
A post office`
A dental clinic
Hospital and nurses quarters
Fuel installations

Initially twenty aircraft hangers

In 1943, during World War Two, twenty-two airmen lost their lives in four aircraft crashes in the Geraldton area. The four included eight at Yetna, four at Georgina, six near Northampton and four near Greenough.

Peace was declared in Europe in May1945, and in the Pacific (Japan) in August of the same year, and the base was placed on a care and maintenance basis in April 1946.

A huge two day auction of equipment, which even included two pianos, was held on the first two days of August 1947. Much of this went to Pearce Air Base. Tenders for the buildings were called by the Dept. of Civil Aviation, and many of the buildings were transported to other areas in Western Australia. Many of the huts ended up as station and farm sheds.

In 1946, 1947, and 1948 Captain Charles Snook successfully tendered for sixteen Avro Ansons, six of which were used for parts. The others became part of the West Australian Air Fleet and were used as passenger craft for many years.

Ted and Jean Trautman arrived at Moonyoonooka with their family in 1949. They were one of nine families with the Dept. of Civil Aviation at that particular time, and this department was now in total control. Jean, along with Cecil Gibbings were on the Geraldton Scout Committee and a successful tender of 6,000 pounds was made for one of the hospital buildings to be used as a scout hall. It then had to be moved to the new location! The Geraldton Council had recently bought a large earth moving machine and there was great interest in it, but even more in the low loader that transported it to Geraldton. It was soon realized that this enormous machine would be perfect for transporting buildings and everyone wanted the building. (First in best dressed).

The loader was only going to be here for a short time and Cecil, who was a builder, prepared a site, cut the hospital building in half, had it transported to the site and the two halves placed on stumps. Cecil then joined them up again. The new scout hall had two positions in Sanford St, and can still be seen standing opposite Nagel College playing field.

The second hospital building was intended as a memorial hall on the highway end of Seventh St, but a gentleman by the name of George Allen felt that the hall should be in Fifth St. He felt so strongly about this that he donated half an acre of land for the hall. The hall was built in Fifth St and is now a furniture shop opposite the IGA supermarket.

The hospital building ended up in Seventh St, and first became a kindergarten and then a hall for the local band to practice in. After the band, the hall remained unused for some time before becoming a farm shed

Stan Gratte’s father was responsible for bringing a “jinker” from Kalgoorlie to transport many of these buildings. Some buildings had to be entirely demolished and then rebuilt.

Paddy Glynn bought two hospital buildings and made one his home in Malcolm St, where it still stands. The other building is a private home, and although slightly altered still remains in Third St, No. 258.

Two buildings went to the Moonyoonooka town site; one as a church hall, and the other as a CWA meeting hall. Every Railway siding between Geraldton and Mullawa tendered for a building.

Another building became the rifle club, which later became the pistol club, two sheds finished up at lot two Edward Rd, two more sheds became Thompson’s Boat Builders. The Waterside workers Amenities Hall seated 140 people, and the PMG had two sheds in Evans St Geraldton and two in Northampton. A small hut in Glenfield, Joyce hall was later burnt down. Lynton Station had buildings, but these were demolished in 1970 – 71.

The Presbyterian Church had one at the back of their block, the Bluff Point Girl Guides had one shed, and The Boat Shed Restaurant in Marine Tce, is in fact two sheds joined together end to end.

A number of “air force huts” were also purchased by the Christian Brothers for use at St Mary’s Agricultural School Tardun.

Jim Trevaskis was a member of the council during the 1970’s, and was putting on pressure for a new office and reception area at the airport. He was finally successful, and the council moved the old building to Jim’s street!! It became the Bluff Point Scout Hall for a few years

One of the bigger buildings at the air base was the recreation hall which was also used church services. Father Gallagher, who was transferred to Three Springs, knew the hall well and when the Three Springs Road Board successfully tendered for it the Father assured the members that it would be an excellent size. In fact, as he gave his sermons, he could just see that people at the far end of the hall were fast asleep!

Three Springs town hall was another former air base building and was officially opened on June 1 1949. Frank Cardilline was the building contractor who was responsible for the attractive rendered façade. Sir James Mitchell performed the official opening. At the time the district was in drought, and there had been no rain for eight to nine months. However Sir James told the locals to have faith as he felt that rain would come. At about midnight someone ran into the hall and exclaimed, “it’s raining!” It poured for at least two hours and the main street turned into a river. The vehicles outside the hall were parked in mud pools, and people’s lovely clothing and shoes that they had worn for the opening were ruined, but they were still happy that it had rained!

The town hall stood the district in good stead for many years with cabarets, badminton, and the hospital fetes were always a great success. In the 1980’s a new brick town hall was built and a tourist information centre was set up in the front of the old hall until finally, a demolition ball was held in 1998. Batavia Salvage of Geraldton dismantled the building, and it took four men three weeks and was quite a project.

Many of the local farmers bought timber etc. and it was rather a sad ending for a building that gave so much pleasure from the air base days of the 40’s, to its years as the three Springs Town Hall. The site today is a shire garden, the site of the original town hall of 1912.

As you drive around Geraldton you may notice old, odd, and sad looking buildings here and there. It is so hard to believe that those buildings of so many years ago made such a contribution to the lives of many air force personnel, many of whom did not return to this wonderful land of ours.

Back To The Home Page