RAAF Base Williamtown in the Port Stephens area to the north of Newcastle, NSW has been the largest and most significant operational and training base for the RAAF Fighter fleet since WWII. During WWII the base supported very large fleets of Fighters and training aircraft to supply crews for the fight in the Pacific. Post War, the base remained the strategic hub of the RAAF fighter activity, a role it continues to this day with two resident operational Fighter squadrons and an Operational Conversion Unit (OCU).
One aspect of the Base which was of particular interest, in the days prior to the Fighter World Museum, was the display of various RAAF Fighter types which were on open display at the Base ‘Main Gate’.
Warbirds Online was resident in the Newcastle area for many years and we regularly passed by the base over a number of decades, watching the transition of the Australian Fighter program from the CAC Sabre to the GAF/Dassault Mirage 111 and more recently the McDonnell Douglas F/A 18 Hornet. We also witnessed the frequent deployment of numerous foreign air force training units such as Singaporean A4 Skyhawks, Northrop Tigers and Hawker Hunters as well as USAF F15s and the occasional Hawker Harrier from the RAF and RN. All of this activity was of great interest and a real distraction.
The Williamtown ‘Main Gate’ display was always of particular interest because unlike most bases which feature one or two aircraft at one time, the display included five aircraft including a de Havilland Vampire T55 trainer, de Havilland Vampire F 31 Fighter, a CAC Sabre, Gloster Meteor and two Bloodhound Ground to air missiles. The aircraft were on open display outside the main gate and were easy to access by the general public. Previously, the display had included CAC CA 12 Boomerang A46-30, however this aircraft proved too valuable and fragile and was removed and restored for display at the Australian War Memorial and is now on display at the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, Victoria.
The aircraft were refurbished several times during their time on the ‘Main Gate’, however the harsh coastal climate eventually took its toll on the airframes and fortunately Fighter World was constructed to house all the aircraft undercover and has developed to the great Museum it is today.
Over the years of the existence of the external Main Gate display we stopped often to look at the aircraft and photograph them. Today we present a selection of these photos from the 1980’s as a historical snapshot of the aircraft and their place in the RAAF Base Williamtown history.
© John Parker 2015