Welcome to the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum, home of the historic Catalina Flying Boat and site of the secret RAAF Repair Depot.
Lake Boga was an integral part of allied defence during World War II, with a facility that helped to keep Australia safe – the No.1 Flying Boat Repair and Service Depot.
On the original site of the the no.1 Flying Boat Repair Depot, stands an underground Communications Bunker which has been transformed into the Flying Boat Museum. It is fully air conditioned and is an educational trip into our recent history. Also at the museum is an interactive map of the Pacific region and an informative 20 minute film in the theatrette.
The Australian Government had known the existence of Lake Boga as a potential site for flying boat activity as early as 1938. It was not until the Japanese attacks on Broome in 1942, resulting in the loss of 16 flying boats, that the establishment of a safe haven for flying boats and amphibians was deemed ‘Essential To The Defense Of Australia.’ ‘South and inland’ were prerequisites. The Lake Boga potential was revisited. Inspections of Lake Boga and Kangaroo Lake were made, Lake Boga being the preferred site.
Lake Boga was an ideal stretch of water for the flying boats and amphibious aircraft as it was almost circular (offering unlimited choice of landing/take off direction) and free of obstructions. The required infrastructure was already in place. Vacant land around its foreshore, an adjacent railhead and highway, electricity from the Swan Hill power station and lines of communication.
The repair depot itself with workshops and hangars (on the foreshore), a stores area (on railway land near the Depot), living quarters (west of the township), sick quarters (at Castle Donnington), first-aid and dental post (on the foreshore), a radio transmitting station (on the Depot site) and a VHF transmitting station (west of the township).
June 28th, 1942 saw the arrival of the first RAAF personnel under the command of F/Lt. G.S. Moffatt. On July 12th, 1942, the first Catalina flying boat arrived when a quantity of stores and equipment was flown in from Rathmines, N.S.W. Compared to the Walrus that had alighted four months earlier on an inspection visit, the Catalina seemed enormous, with its graceful hull and huge wing span topped by two powerful Pratt & Whitney 1200hp 14 cylinder radial engines.
Hangar construction had just begun. The design, an open-fronted, grandstand type hangar with a cantilevered canopy. Eight large steel-framed structures were erected, 120 feet wide by 58 feet deep. These were to be followed by structures to house activities such as administration, signals & cypher, airframe repair, electroplating, engine/hydraulics repair, draughting, metal work, photography, stores, armament repair, propeller testing, machining, crew rooms, control tower…
The first Catalina to be serviced at Lake Boga was A24-17, which carried a crew of 4, plus 12 personnel on posting from Rathmines in New South Wales, arriving August 5th, 1942. Squadrons 11 and 20 had flown this aircraft relentlessly against the Japanese since January of that year.
During the Depot’s wartime life personnel undertook large volumes of work. 416 aircraft were serviced, repaired, restored, rebuilt or overhauled. These aircraft included Catalina, Dornier, Sikorsky KingFisher, Sunderland, Walrus and Martin Mariner. In the over five years of Depot life, with more than 1050 aircraft arrivals/departures and an estimated 800 test flights (plus associated ‘unofficial aerobatics’), no aircraft met with major mishap. Quite remarkable.
In addition to RAAF aircraft, many allied flying boats used the Lake Boga Depot for repairs, including those of the United States of America and the Netherlands. At peak operation 39 Officers, 802 Airmen and 102 WAAAFs staffed the depot.
The base at Lake Boga closed in November of 1947.