Rathmines Park at Lake Macquarie, NSW, Australia, was once the largest RAAF Flying Boat Base in the Southern Hemisphere.
Established in 1939, the base was at one time the home for flying boats from No.’s 9 (Walrus), 11, 20, & 43 (Catalina) 40 (Sunderland & Martin) 41 (Dornier, Martin & Empire) and 107 (Kingfisher) Squadron’s. It was also a base for the Seaplane Training Flight, No. 3 Operational Training Unit and RAAF Marine Section. This section comprised a force of motorised and non-motorised search and rescue vessels, as well as stores.
Rathmines is the only surviving and intact Flying Boat base left in Australia, and it is significant that it has been recognised for protection on the State Heritage Register. Catalina Flying Boats were the only aircraft to see service with the RAAF for the entire war time operations against Japan. These Flying Boats and their crews stationed at Rathmines were involved in events that ended the threat of invasion to Australia, including the mining of Manila harbour and the waters off the East Coast of China, as well as the Battle of the Coral Sea.
During this time, 320 airmen and crew lost their lives, the majority on operational duty.
The last of the Flying Boats left the base in 1952 and the base officially closed on November 30, 1960.
Early base, c.1940. Walrus ‘Seagull’ Flying Boats. (Eric ‘Wilbur’ Watson collection)