Whilst in the Royal Air Force, for my very first tour of duty overseas I had the good fortune to be posted at the end of 1957 to No.1 Air Trials Unit, RAAF. My good luck was to be in the half of 1 ATU that resided permanently in Woomera, unlike the many range workers who were only "Monday to Friday commuters", flying back to Adelaide every Friday evening.
I spent the next three years living in Woomera, travelling to work each morning either on the long, articulated coaches that were supplied for use by the RAAF personnel or else driving some vehicle or other if we had an "early start". Our primary job was to supply the target aircraft that were used almost every day for testing of either air-to-air or ground-to-air missiles but I seem to remember that we spent a lot of time escorting visiting VIPs around our control centre. Possibly it was because, at that time, we were proud of the fact that we were able to land our target aircraft many, many times. I think that we claimed something like 47 flights out of one Jindavik, although there wasn't much of the original aircraft left by that time.
I still have a copy of "Gibber Gabber" carrying the editorial welcoming
me to Woomera, plus many fond memories of being woken by flocks of noisy
gallahs, going 'roo hunting, endless hours in the coffee shop, too many
count, St. Agnes brandy and middies and schooners, and being called "mad pommes" because we used to go for a walk in the rain - on the very few occasions that it did rain. Being single, each Christmas we were required to leave Woomera for a month's break so we travelled. Thanks to my Australian friends, I managed to see many, many places in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales and the country made a lasting impression on me. Unfortunately, it took me until last November to return to Australia for the first time in over 40 years and I was visiting again only two weeks ago on business, but only for a few days.
These days I'm semi-retired and, all being well, I will be back in Australia again this October/November on vacation. This trip I would very much like to revisit my past and go to Woomera. I understand it's much easier these days, as the old Port road has been surfaced. It used to be quite an experience driving over it, especially if it hadn't been graded for a few months.
I know that it's been a very long time, but I would be pleased to
hear from anyone who was with 1 ATU from 1957 to 1960 - especially those
in Flight Control. I'd also like to contact Duncan Patterson (at that time
a Corporal in the
RAAF) and any members of the Barnes family (Bob Barnes was the Manager of the Senior Staff Mess, his wife's name was Helen and they had a daughter named Elizabeth and a son called Colin).
(Mon, 17 Jul 2000)
Just been given your web site location and it is great. I see that there is not a lot of early history in Memories. I could write a book.
I was at Woomera from Jan 1950 until Sept 1960 - started as an Electrical Fitter with the Department of Works. Firstly accommodated in tents at Phillip Ponds Camp, then to the tent lined huts at Woomera West, even did a short spell in tents at Koolymilka.
In the 50's we were taken by bus every Sunday to Lake Richardson for a swim. We also used to get water carted from this lake as it was fresh. The first Open air cinema was at the RAAF 2ACS camp and before the films were shown, if ladies were present (nurses , teachers, etc), the men were warned to watch their comments on the films. Sunday evenings, the Salvation Army's Major Grey would come to the camp and show 16mm films and then invite all to stay for a short service. It was surprising how many stayed as he was a well respected man. I actually pegged out the boundaries for the Open air cinema at Woomera West. Our Engineer, Charlie Hughes collared me to hit in the markers with a sledge hammer.
I moved into married quarters in 1951 after marrying my wife Margaret. Our three children were born there. I was actively engaged in Scouting right up until I left. Cubmaster, Scoutmaster and eventually Group Scoutmaster. I took a plane load of Scouts and Guides in an army DC3 that had been somehow diverted from Emu Fields, down to Adelaide for the Queen's visit in 1954.
I became the Official Photographer for the Department of Works and photographed most of the construction etc all over the range. I was given a private franchise and started "Woomera Studios" operating at first from home. I must have photographed all the children there at some time or other. Also sporting bodies and even a few weddings. We, my partner Ted Booth, and myself were allocated a section of the old officers mess and set up a photo shop and studio there as by then the population was allowed to use a camera within the township area. We even had a Camera Club. Many would remember our candid photos called "Taffigraphs".
Regarding the garage (Memories 3) on the Woomera west road, this was first opened by "Bluey Henderson" who was an avid motorcyclist riding an HRD Black Shadow. I once touched 117 MPH (188 km/h) on the Kooly Road riding pillion. He formed the Woomera Motor Cycle Club. The garage was taken over afterwards by another motorcycle club member , Stan Laycock. Stan was the Mechanical Workshop Manager at Woomera West. He rode a Norton. I was also a member of the Woomera Pistol Club and was made a life member.
By now many should have worked it out that I am John "Taffy "Gordon. I finished my time as Leading Hand of the Electrical Section Base Workshops Tech Area under our engineer, Wally Jones. Yes they were happy days, perhaps I should write that book.
Hope you all enjoy this and I would love to hear from any old pals.
(Thu, 29 Jun 2000)
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