The Rathmines Memorial is erected on land donated by Lake Macquarie City Council, now known as Catalina Park. The walk along a paved, landscaped path leads to a structure with a Catalina propeller featured on top. Walls either side are inscribed with those who served at Rathmines and who died for their country, or have since died and had served on the base at Rathmines. The monument was officially unveiled and dedicated on September 16, 1972.
The Monument is constructed of stone brick, set on a plynth with a Catalina propeller mounted on the top.
A plaque affixed to the monument is inscribed:
“Dedicated to those who served at the R.A.A.F. Rathmines and to all associated with Flying Boats and Seaplanes 1939 – 1960.
Unveiled by Air Vice Marshall W. E. Townsend G.B. C.B.E. 16th Sept., 1972.”
The memorial has 4 stone brick walls to the front and facing the monument, with plaques of deceased personel who were associated with Seaplanes at Rathmines between 1939 – 1946.
One wall, (south side), is dedicated to those who served with the RAAF Sunderland Squadrons, 10 & 461.
Poem by Richard Udy. 2014 (ex 43 Squadron RAAF):
Why is this quiet place of beauty now to be remembered
This sparkling water, those nearby hills, tight eucalypt stacked
“Rath”is a fort, an ancient structure from old Celtic days
Built to defend a people wantonly attacked.
So here, in years gone by this fort of Rathmines
Throbbed with the roar of labouring engines and the buoyant life
Of valiant warriors training as crews together their encounters
‘gainst enemy fleets, close hidden in far harbours,
waiting to strike and take our homeland for their own design.
Here too sound echoes of those larrikin days and serious,
Those faces we remember, friends for whom we grieve.
This is the place, so tangible and vibrant, they were here!
And we can almost catch a glimpse of them and hear
Those old Cat songs; that shouted greeting and that genuine grin,
. . . . . . . . . but then,
There are so many who have not returned to greet us,
Lying in unknown places now, some foreign ports,
Vanished without trace in seascapes wild with storm
Or blasted from the sky on treacherous mining runs.
Sure, there were those who made it through the conflict
And played their part to build this nation’s place
In a new world of hopes and dreams, new confrontations.
But come what may in days ahead to threaten or enthral this land
We will, by this quiet consecrated place, remember
Those youthful heroes and that gallant band.
Donations to support the upkeep of our Memorial Walls are gratefully accepted.
In 1938, as the storm clouds gathered over Europe, the Australian Government decided that as the coast of Australia was unprotected and surrounded by potential enemies, a surveillance capability was required. The Government approved the purchase from Britain of eight new Short Sunderland flying boats to patrol the coastline.
An order was placed for the aircraft on 1 July 1939, and No 10 Squadron was formed. Air crew travelled by ship to England for training on their new aircraft. Following the declaration of war with Germany on 3 September, the Squadron remained in England to operate with the RAF ; ground staff followed by sea to England soon after. The Squadron was to remain based in England for the entire war. On 25 April 1942, No 461 Squadron was formed from trainees of the Empire Air Training Scheme and manned mainly by Australians; it was called the “Anzac Squadron”. Like No 10 Squadron, it operated in the European theatre until the end of the war.
The two Squadrons became a part of the RAF Coastal Command and were involved mainly in Convoy Escort and U Boat Search and Destroy operations. The Sunderland aircraft were found to be good general workhorses and were used for many unusual jobs, such as flying troops out of Greece and Cyprus during the withdrawal, attempting to spirit madame De Gaulle and her children to England after the fall of France, (this operation resulted in the first fatalities of No 10 Squadron crews). The Squadron also flew Lord Gort to Malta with the George Cross when the Island was awarded the bravery decoration. They also undertook many other unusual operations.
After the war, members of the two squadrons met at various places around Australia and formed a Branch of the RAAF Association, the Sunderland Squadrons Association. Its aims were: “To continue the friendship and spirit of mateship that existed during the war” and “To perpetuate the memory of mates who failed to return”.
After nearly 70 years. the branches are still active and on the 10th April 2013, one of the greatest efforts was realised – the dedication of “The Sunderland Memorial Wall” – took place at Rathmines. The old base was created especially for Sunderlands of 10 Squadron but never used by them.
The Memorial & Walls in memory of the men & women who served with and died flying Catalina’s during the war, was dedicated on 19 September 1984. Some time later the Sunderland Association suggested a wall should be erected for Sunderlands and their crews, to provide balance for the two iconic aircraft of WW2. Accordingly, the Sunderland Memorial Wall was dedicated on 10 April 2013.
At the dedication ceremony, Mr Peter Jensen, President of the Sunderland Branch, spoke of the losses sustained by the two squadrons. As the squadrons were engaged in mostly maritime operations, the members who gave their lives in combat and those who fell victim to the wild weather of the Bay of Biscay, now lie at the bottom of the sea. They have no grave and the memorial has brought squadron mates together in a place to rest and to be remembered.