Ron and Stuart Lee from Caboolture Qld have been for some time acquiring Auster Mk.III airframes and components with a view to restoring several of the breed back onto the Australian register.
The Taylorcraft Auster was a British military liaison and observation aircraft produced by the Taylorcraft Aeroplanes (England) Limited company during the Second World War, the design being derived from the USA Taylorcraft company design modified for UK regulations. The Auster III was fitted with a de Havilland Gipsy Major engine and 470 were built, serving with the RAF and RAAF in many theatres of WWII.
Postwar the remaining Austers in Australia slowly retired from the military and formed the basis of the blossoming civil aviation movement in Australia with other surplus types such as the de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth.
Australian Warbird Restoration legend, Ron Lee has had Auster Mk.III, Factory serial c/n 455 ex RAF NX533 then Ex RAAF A11-48, civil registered VH-BVX, VH-MBB in his collection since 1977 and has carried out some restoration on her since. Recently Stuart Lee, Ron’s son has acquired another airframe, Auster Mk.III Factory serial c/n 373 ex RAF NJ970, Ex RAAF A11-34, civil registered VH-BKK, VH-CAJ, VH-DAJ, VH-DSJ. Both of these airframes are now at Caboolture, Qld in temporary storage awaiting the commencement of their restoration to airworthy condition.
A11- 34 and A11-48 were part of a batch of 55 plus Auster III aircraft acquired from the UK during WWII and both had prior RAF service before joining the RAAF. Some RAAF delivered Auster III aircraft served in the South Pacific during WWII operations but both of these Austers remained here in Australia. It is interesting to note that in general, Australian delivered Austers had their engines removed in the UK and upon arrival were fitted with General Motors-Holden’s Ltd, Gipsy Major Series I, 4-Cylinder Inverted engines and coincidentally A11- 34 and A11-48 have engines that were serialed next to each other on the production line!. Therefore both of these machines are true “WWII Warbirds” in every sense and will make great additions to the scene when they are restored in the future and provide a great source of interest to future generations at displays and airshows in the future.
No decision has yet been taken on color schemes but given that both aircraft had careers in the UK and the RAAF it may be that one remains in RAAF finish and one in RAF scheme. Although both aircraft went on to have lengthy civil careers in Australia it is almost certain they will retain their military heritage finish.
Auster Mk.III, Factory serial c/n 455 ex RAF NX533 then Ex RAAF A11-48 History
Manufactured at Rearsby Aerodrome, Leicester by Taylorcraft Aeroplanes (England) Ltd to RAF order for 59 Auster Mk.IIIs serial ranges NX484 to NX545 in March 1943 its first flight was at Rearsby in the hands of pilot Geoff Edwards. On 25.6.43 the aircraft was taken on RAF charge as Auster Mk.III NX533. On 25.6.43 it was allocated to 659 Sqn, at RAF Firbeck, Notts and served there until 15.4.44 when it passed on to the famous Norwegian Spitfire Squadron 332 Sqn, of 132 Wing RAF. She remained with them until 24.8.44 when she moved on to 84 Group Support Unit and was allocated to 135 Wing. Then on 5.10.44 the aircraft rejoined 84 Group and remained with them until 5.3.45 when she was moved to Taylorcraft Aeroplanes, at Rearsby for major inspection before being sold to the RAAF on 12.4.45 minus engine. On 14.6.45 the Auster moved to RAF Maintenance Unit, High Ercall, Shropshire for dismantling and boxing and on 3.7.45 she was transported to Swansea Docks for shipping to Australia on 4.8.45 aboard the Tai Ping Yang as crated cargo. The Auster arrived in Sydney on 9.9.45 and on 4.10.45 she joined the RAAF as Auster Mk.3 A11-48 at 2 Air Depot (AD) Richmond and on 7.5.46 the aircraft was placed in storage Category B. On 19.12.47 the aircraft moved to No.2 Communications Squadron and on 7.9.50 it was issued to ARDU Trials Flight ex 34 (Communications) Sqn. She remained with ARDU until on 11.5.56 it passed on to Base Squadron Canberra and then on 11.5.57 the long serving Auster moved to 1AD Detachment B Tocumwal for storage. This was not quite the end for the Auster in the RAAF for on 24.2.58 the aircraft moved to 2AD for restoration from storage and it was allocated on 23.2.59 moved to Base Squadron Canberra. On 13.4.59 the Auster moved to 1AD Detachment B Tocumwal ex 16 AOP Flight for storage from where it was disposed of by tender on 4.11.59 and sold to Griffith Aero Club starting its civil career. On 14.4.60 the aircraft was registered as Auster III Model F VH-BVX to Griffith Aero Club, Griffith NSW and remained there until 3.1.62 when it was sold to Murray Border Flying Club, Cobram Victoria. She was based at the large former RAAF airfield at nearby Tocumwal NSW and re-registered VH-MBB, remaining there until 12.4.62 and was bought by Masling Aircraft Sales & Service, Cootamundra NSW who sold it on to B. L. Shoobert, of Balldale NSW.
On 14.8.63 the Auster changed hands again to W. T. Underwood, Pleasant View Station, Baradine NSW and stayed there until on 1.2.73 it was registered to L. Paul Backhouse, Moonya Station, Gulargambone NSW and moved again on 13.11.75 to Peter Moores, Canberra ACT by which time it was in unairworthy condition.
On 5.2.77 the aircraft was acquired by Donald A. Bunn, Albury NSW and struck off the civil register, moving by road from Canberra to Albury. The Auster did not remain long in Albury being aquuired by engineer Ron Lee and has remained with him ever since. Ron has moved several times over the years and the Auster has moved with him, now residing partially restored at Caboolture, Qld.
Auster Mk.III Factory c/n 373 ex RAF Serial NJ970 Ex RAAF serial A11-34
Australian Civil registration VH-BKK, VH-CAJ, VH-DAJ, VH-DSJ History
Manufactured at Rearsby Aerodrome, Leicester by Taylorcraft Aeroplanes (England) Ltd to RAF order for 338 Auster Mk.IIIs & Mk.Vs, serial range NJ609 to NK132 in April 1943. On 3.5.43 taken on RAF charge as Auster Mk.III NJ970 and on 3.5.43 the Auster was allocated to 20 Maintenance Unit (MU), Aston Down UK and then on 10.6.43 was issued to 658 Sqn RAF and served there until 20.6.44. She then moved back to 20 Maintenance Unit, Aston Down for storage ending its RAF career upon which it was sold to the RAAF minus engine on 15.1.45 and fully overhauled by Taylorcraft Aeroplanes, back at Rearsby and test flown on by test pilot G. Derbyshire. The Auster then moved to RAF 222 Maintenance Unit, High Ercall, Shropshire for dismantling and boxing on 27.2.45 and on 22.3.45 it was transported to Liverpool Docks for shipping on 9.4.45 as crated cargo on board SS Gloucester.
The Auster arrived in Sydney on 5.6.45 and was allocated to the RAAF as Auster Mk.3 A11-34 on16.6.45 at 2AD Richmond NSW. On 6.8.45 the Auster moved to School of Army Cooperation, Canberra where it served until 23.1.46 where upon it passed on to the Care & Maintenance Unit, Narrandera for storage from where it was received by No.16 AOP Flight on 21.11.46, passing on to Station HQ, Canberra on 14.7.47. The Auster was then loaned to the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) on 21.10.47 and on 18.12.47 it was registered as Auster III Model F VH-BKK. In 1949 the Auster was re-registered as VH-CAJ as part of DCA changing all of its aircraft fleet into the VH-CA block. The Auster was based at Essendon Airport, Melbourne. On 24.4.61 the aircraft moved to the Tasmanian Aero Club, Launceston Tasmania with a change of registration to VH-DAJ. However she moved on again on 13.11.61 to Benson & Shaw, Melbourne Vic and remained with them until 6.5.65 when she was registered to J. Mann, Bannockburn Vic, later Carmut Victoria. Again on 8.9.66 the Auster moved to Tom Francis Motors, Hamilton Victoria with whom it remained until 13.10.69 when the aircraft was deregistered by its owner. The aircraft next appeared in 1973 when it was stored on a farm at Wannon, Victoria with new owners Mick and Audrey Forrest. On 8.1.80 Mick Forrest re-registered the Auster as VH-DSJ and it rejoined the register on 25.5.93.
The aircraft remained in service until approximately 2002 when it was sold again to a NSW owner D. W. Fletcher, Lambs Gully NSW. The aircraft then moved to Luskintyre NSW where it was recently purchased by Stuart Lee and moved to Caboolture in June 2017. In typical fashion the aircraft was recently retrieved in a marathon operation by Ron and Stuart Lee with the assistance of Noel Spalding.
Warbirds Online looks forward to hearing more about the restoration of these Auster Mk.III aircraft.
© John Parker 2017