Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eric Douglas' Story - Permission from Sally Douglas

Eric Douglas' Story
 Commanding Officer - 3 AD Amberley – July 1942 to November 1948 (possibly to early 1949)
Duties - Formation of No 3 Aircraft Depot RAAF Amberley and it’s build up of Workshops, and ancillary sections to a self contained unit of 1600 (RAAF) personnel. (Eric’s notes)
In 1947 there were 94 Civilian staff associated with Amberley and the ancillary bases mentioned below. Of course there were also many US Servicemen stationed at Amberley during this period and there was also quite a village ‘off’ the Air base at Amberley – were many of the RAAF Airmen lived. It is only in fairly recent times that many of these old wooden houses have been removed. The US Servicemen included many Afro-Americas who were heavily involved in conveys, transporting aeroplanes and parts of aeroplanes to and from Amberley. There were also many top-ranking US Colonels – Reed, Gilchrist and Majors – Millard; to name a few. Of course there were many visits by Chiefs of the RAAF and other dignitaries; including the Duke of Gloucester, and Lord Montgomery (to Archerfield)
RAAF Aircraft at Amberley during that period included – The Anson, Beaufighter, Beaufort, Beechcraft, Boomerang, Dakota, Gipsy Major, Liberator, Mitchell, Mosquito, Mustang, Scout Fighter, Spitfire, Vampire [1948 demo flight – I was lifted into the cockpit by my father], Vengeance, Ventura and Wirraway (Eric’s notes)
Other aircraft in the skies over Amberley included – the Aerocobra, Black Widow, Boston, Catalina, Commando, Corsair, Dauntless, Flying Fortress, Hudson, Kingcobra, Kittyhawk, Lancaster, Lancastrian, Lightening, Lincoln Bomber, Maurader, Percival Gull, Rapide, Skymaster, Superfortress, Tiger Moth, York, Waco Glider and Wapiti.
Other areas under Eric’s command in Queensland were – Archerfield, Lowood, Charleville, and Kingaroy. (Eric’s notes)
While Oakey (Eric made solo return flights from Amberley to Oakey) and Warwick also linked in with Amberley.
Mentioned by Eric are 3AD (Amberley), 82 living and ADHQ in 1946. (Eric’s notes)
Aircraft Storage of ‘Mosquito’ – (likely 1946) – 3AD – Category B - 22, Category A – 10; Lowood – Category B – 21, Category E – 3, Kingaroy – Category E – 7 ie Total of 63.
Total Storage of Aircraft as at 30/9/1946 was 339. (Eric’s notes)
Eric was also instrumental in developing and opening up new runways at Amberley – initially we lived in the (local) Amberley School house and later in a house that was virtually at the end of the main runway and made up of two (pre-fabricated) sections with an outside lobby or landing in between – that is where the kegs of beer were kept. One section contained what we called ‘the ballroom’ (which was often used for entertaining and dancing – by Eric as C/O), the main bedroom and a bathroom – the other section contained the kitchen and a dining/living room and a couple of small bedrooms. It was all very modest and austere in keeping with those war and post-war days.  There was often a RAAF drill that went past the house and I had a perfect view hanging over the fence and could enjoy seeing who was in step and who wasn't and being the ‘boss’s daughter’ could call out and let them know – earning some quick sly looks.
In the latter stages, the road from Rosewood to Ipswich crossed over the main runway at Amberley and there were gates on both sides of the airstrip. So vehicle traffic was often banked up, waiting to drive across the main runway in either direction. A bit like a railway crossing these days - but now of course it is all off limits.
At the back of our house were aircraft hangers and on the other side of the airstrip aeroplanes of seemingly all types lined up – their days of use over. Some were under dark camouflage nets and obviously were secret or had further days of use. At the other end of the main runway was the creek and that was too far and not the place for me to adventure to – although my (older) brother Ian spent many hours there enjoying himself swimming and ‘mucking around’ with his mates and  ‘the troops’.

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