Rathmines Catalina Festival 2008

Be sure to put this in your diaries folks! The first Catalina Festival, held last year was a huge success. This year’s event promises to be even better! In addition to being a most enjoyable day, the event provides a fantastic opportunity to raise funds for the Rathmines Catalina VH-CAT and recruit more members and volunteers for the Catalina Flying Memorial Ltd (CFML).


In the Steps of the Black Cat.

Pete & Trish Stuart-Smith completed their epic journey around Australia in their SeaRey amphibian VH-PAZ in early August. Details of, and various articles on their trip may found at Pete's Steps.

Pete Stuart-Smith sums up the adventure as follows:  

It has taken several weeks since returning from our flying boat expedition around Australia to fully take in the eight week adventure.  It is difficult to describe the different experiences and range of emotions that we experienced, owing to both their intensity and sheer number.  

We achieved much more than we had set out to do, both at a personal level and for raising the awareness of the significance of the Catalina story.

The trip received a measure of publicity with a wide range of media.  We had interviews for ABC Stateline (Canberra), ABC Stateline (WA), Channel 7 News Queensland, ABC Radio Darwin and articles in three newspapers (the Cairns Post, The Guardian (Vic) and Northern Times (Vic)) as well as the Pacific Flyer magazine.  A short article will also be coming out in the next issue of the Australian Geographic.  The media produced pleasing reports mostly including promotion of the memorial. Whilst we did not actively seek direct donations to the memorial, we received one, and hopefully raised awareness of the memorial will eventually translate into more donations.

Our goal of documenting and recording the WWII Catalina bases and sites of significance proved demanding but extremely rewarding.  We captured sufficient still and video footage to produce our intended book and documentary.  The difficult task of making them a reality lies ahead. The future sale of these will be a source of income to the memorial.

Apart from Rathmines itself, the bases lie mostly on private land and are all under threat by future development to varying degrees. Parts of the Lake Boga base are currently being ripped up and future development is indicated for East Arm and Melville Bay, potentially obliterating all remains at those sites.  The ramps and aprons at Karumba and Bowen are probably safe for the moment. 

A totally unexpected outcome of our visit to the sites and the publicity they received has been the mobilisation of local authorities to relocate or better display memorials to the Catalina crews both at Cairns and Perth. The need to highlight the Catalina history and preservation of sites at Karumba was also raised with the local Mayor during our visit there.

Another unexpected and inspiring aspect of the trip was the amount of interest and support we received in our quest right across the country from local historians, veterans and complete strangers. More often than not, someone would turn up at the airstrip, or beach, and offer transportation to our accommodation or assistance with refuelling. On several occasions we were given the keys to a vehicle by a stranger - not something that one expects these days!  At Melville Bay and Perth Phil Herdmann and Les Jubbs, respectively, enthusiastically guided us through the sites and supplied with relevant documents and photos. We finished the trip, lives enriched with a new set of friends in every corner of the country.
On a personal note it was captivating to take in the route of my father's final flight in a RAAF Catalina in 1945. In particular, to alight on Trinity Inlet, Cairns, where my father had done many times before in a Black Cat during his posting with 43 Squadron in 1943. To discover the well hidden remains of the Melville Bay base in its idyllic setting brought to life the black and white grainy images that record the base's brief history.  In some ways the unchanged emptiness, raw beauty and vastness of Australia's northern coasts constantly reminded us of the Catalina flights to and from operations to Papua New Guinea and beyond.  How haunting the coastal views must have been heading out up the Cape and leaving Horn Island for hostile territory, and how welcoming they would seem on the return flight.

The trip in one of the smallest flying boats ever built, and possibly the smallest to undertake such a journey around Australia was intense at times and challenging.  The total distance we covered is equal to a third of the way around the world. However, it was such an adventure that we aren't ruling out other expeditions in the future!



Sept 21st 2008

Volume 2 Issue 7

Newsletter Spotlight

  • Rathmines Catalina Festival 2008
  • In the Steps of the Black Cat

pete and trish

Pete and Trish Stuart-Smith with their homebuilt SeaRey amphibian.



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Catalina Flying Memorial Ltd
ACN 103 492 440
Building 2, Ground Floor
35-41 Waterloo Rd
Macquarie Park NSW 2113