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75 years of raaf base wagga
Flight Sergeant Rod Ellem
Air Force Band performing at the Waga Wagga Civic Theatre.
Ask the average Australian what the
significance of 2015 for the military is and
they will rightly point out that it marks the
Centenary of ANZAC. Ask the average local
citizen of Wagga Wagga in NSW and they
will add that it is also the anniversary of 75
years since the establishment of the local
The young Air Force opened a flight training
base in Forest Hill on the outskirts of
Wagga Wagga on 29 July 1940 just as
World War II had begun, which resulted in
many Australian Airmen being trained and
prepared, ready to deploy to Europe. The
first unit based at RAAF Base Wagga was
No. 2 Flying Training School (2FTS) which
is now located at RAAF Base Pearce in
Western Australia. No. 31 Squadron, which
flew Bristol Beaufighters during the war,
was formed there on 14 August 1942.
As we got closer to the engagements, it
became obvious that the concert should
combine both events. Squadron Leader
Mathew Shelley, Commanding Officer of Air
Force Band, prepared a concert programme
that incorporated music typical of the era
in which the Base was established as well
as music for the ANZAC Commemoration.
Two weeks out from the event and with a
sold out concert, it was decided that we
should do a repeat performance for those
citizens of Wagga Wagga who had missed
out on the concert on the Friday. The Wagga
Wagga Civic Theatre was contacted and was
only too happy to allow Air Force Band to
perform on the Saturday as well.
At Sturt Mall, Parade Commander, Group
Captain Ross Jones was challenged by
Wagga Wagga Police Inspector, Peter
McLay. Once given permission to continue,
the parade made its way to Morrow Street.
Salutes were accorded to Commander Air
Force Training Group, Air Commodore Brian
Edwards and the Wagga Wagga Mayor,
Councillor Rod Kendall, who both addressed
the gathered Defence Force members
and public. At the precise moment, the
crowd was thrilled by a fly-past of a C-17
Globemaster flying at low level over the
That night, Air Force Band once again
performed to a capacity audience at Wagga
Wagga Civic Theatre. The accolades we
received from the audience made a long and
tiring weekend worthwhile.
Air Force Band thanks the citizens of Wagga
Wagga for their support and praise and we
all look forward to our next public outing in
the fair City of Wagga Wagga.
The concert was a roaring success, with
locals thrilled by the music representing
the beginnings of their RAAF Base and
touched by the band’s commemoration to
the ANZAC legend.
The street parade was, as you would expect,
a truly great event for both the RAAF Base
and the City of Wagga Wagga. Baylis Street
was lined with spectators when the parade
stepped off from Morgan Street at 11 a.m.
with more than 350 marching Defence Force
members from Army, Navy and Air Force.
Known then as RAAF Base Forest Hill, it
changed its name to RAAF Base Wagga in
1952. Following the end of the war in 1946,
the Base saw the establishment of the
Ground Training School which became No.
1 Recruit Training Unit (1RTU) and in 1950
RAAF Base Wagga became the home of the
Air Force’s Technical Training School
RAAF Base Wagga continues to be a
significant presence in the local community
as well as for the wider Air Force with 1RTU
being the first experience of Air Force life
for the majority of new recruits. The RAAF
College and the School of Post Graduate
Studies are also based there.
So, how do you mark such a significant
year in a place like Wagga Wagga? Well,
you naturally combine the two occasions
into one – with two significant events. When
Air Force Band first raised the possibility
of marking the Centenary of ANZAC with a
special concert in the Wagga Wagga area,
the suggestion was greeted with open arms.
It was suggested that a date closest to the
formation of the Air Force Base would be
ideal. The concert was booked for 31 July
2015. Along with the concert, the Base
started to organise a Freedom of the City
March through the streets of Wagga Wagga
which would be held on 1 August 2015.
With these dates firmly set, organisation
for the two major events could begin. As
you can imagine, this was not going to
happen overnight – plans had to be made
with Wagga Wagga Council to close streets
for the march past and aircraft requested
for a fly-past. Along with the band, Air
Force also arranged to have the Air Force
Balloon and the Roulettes participate.
Unfortunately, poor weather on the day
meant the Roulettes were unable to appear.
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