Catalina Flying Boats Memorial

Unveiled in 1995, as part of the ‘Australia Remembers’ program, this small memorial between Catalina & Waldron Streets in Henley Beach South honours those who served in Catalina flying boats in Australia and overseas in defence of freedom, 1939-1945.

The Catalina was, quite literally, a flying boat. The fuselage or ‘hull’ was boat-shaped, and the aircraft was fitted with floats at the wingtips.

The Royal Australian Air Force ordered its first 18 Catalina flying boats in 1940, for use as naval patrols. However, following the 1941 declaration of war on the Japanese Empire by the British Empire, the Catalinas were pressed into a number of different roles.

They became Australia’s first modern, long-range heavy bomber capable of carrying a payload of 1800kg of mines or bombs attached under their massive 31 metre wing – with a service range of 4000 km and a maximum speed of 314 kph.

A Catalina had nine crew members, was slow and cumbersome and poorly armed. It relied upon stealth – arriving over its target at night in the dark and at a low altitude.

They were painted dull black (and known as the Black Cats).

One of their main operations was aerial mine laying to prevent enemy vessels from leaving harbours thus restricting Japan’s shipping of raw materials to feed its war machine. They dropped their mines with a splash – no explosion, and tried to escape before enemy fighters could become airborne.

Apart from their bombing and mining, the Catalina was used in search and rescues by deploying Australian built military folboats (or folding kayaks) for rescuing ditched aircrew, to escort convoys, deliver operatives behind enemy lines, and distribute much-needed supplies to coast watchers. Coastwatchers were a mix of civilian and military personnel keeping watch and reporting enemy movements.

The first 18 Catalinas under the banner of the RAAF, grew to 168 by the end of World War II.

Seventy-five RAAF airmen lost their lives during the mine-laying campaign and a total of 11 Catalinas were destroyed.

We will remember them!

Image credit: Catalina Flying Memorial Ltd


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