Australian War Memorial - July 2013 (PART I)

The Australian War Memorial is located in Canberra - ACT.
It combines a world-class museum and and an extensive archive.

Every time I go to Canberra I have to pay a visit to this museum and I got amused every time.

So here are some photos I thought would be interesting to share.

Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk A29-133, “Polly"

By August 1942 the Kittyhawk aircraft known as “Polly” had arrived with No. 75 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, at Milne Bay on the far eastern tip of Papua. “Polly” was the regular aircraft of Flight Lieutenant Bruce “Buster” Brown, and was flown in the defence of Milne Bay. Brown named it “Polly”, after his girlfriend.
During late 1942 the Kittyhawk was damaged several times while fighting Zeros. On 14 April 1943 “Polly” was flown by Squadron Leader Wilfred Arthur against the last major Japanese air attack on Milne Bay. Although Arthur’s guns failed after take-off, he still led his pilots into action. He was later awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his bravery. Soon after, “Polly” was retired from service and ended up at an RAAF school at Flemington race course.
The aircraft was disposed of by the Department of Aircraft Production around 1947. It changed ownership several times before the Australian War Memorial purchased it in 1992. "Polly" is now on display in the Memorial's Aircraft Hall.

North American P51 Mustang

The Mustang is widely regarded as the most successful fighter aircraft of the Second World War. Developed to meet an urgent British request for fighter aircraft, the prototype first flew on 26 October 1940. It was rushed into production and entered service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in October 1941, but poor performance saw it relegated to a low-level ground-support role. In an attempt to solve the Mustang's performance problems, prototypes fitted with Rolls-Royce Merlin engines were developed in late 1942. The result was an aircraft of superior, long-range, high-altitude performance that was ordered in large numbers by the RAF (as the Mustang III) and the USAAF (as the P-51B and P-51C); these began entering service in June 1943. Further design refinements in late 1943 resulted in the Mustang IV/P-51D and P-51K, which featured a distinctive "teardrop" canopy. 

3 Squadron RAAF began operating a mixture of Mustang IIIs and IVs in Italy in November 1944, and 450 Squadron (its sister squadron) was in the process of re-equipping with Mustang IVs when the war ended. In the meantime, a decision had been taken to procure 690 Mustangs for the RAAF in the South-West Pacific, the bulk of which would be locally produced. Ultimately, 298 US-built P-51D and P-51K models were acquired and 200 P-51Ds were built by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation as the CA-17 and CA-18; Australian production ceased in August 1951. Overall, 15,576 Mustangs were produced across the world. 

The Second World War ended before the RAAF could employ the Mustang operationally, but it was used extensively by 77 Squadron RAAF in a ground-attack role in the early months of the Korean War. After serving with 15 RAAF squadrons - 3, 4, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 75, 76, 77, 78, 82, 84, 86, and 450 - the last Australian Mustangs were retired in June 1960.

Hawker Sea Fury F.B.II

The Hawker Sea Fury fighter bomber was one of the last propeller-driven naval aircraft to see action. Australians flew these heavily-armed aircraft in Korea, attacking shipping and ground targets.

The Sea Fury entered Australian service in 1948 and was used to train the pilots who went on to fight in Korea.

After several years' hard service, the Sea Fury was sent to Nowra, NSW, where it was used to instruct ground crews.

Avro Lancaster B.1

The Avro Lancaster B1, known with affection as "G for George", has a remarkable history. "G for George" flew ninety operational missions over Germany and occupied Europe during the height of the bomber offensive. From the time it was built in 1942 until its retirement from active service in 1944, the bomber was flown by No. 460 Squadron RAAF (when in Britain).

ME 109 G-6/U4/R3

According to my friend Eduardo Brettas this particular aircraft is the only one in the world with the original colours on in.

This is a ME 109 G-6/U4/R3 with WNr. 163824 and was captured in Eggebek, Germany in 1945.

This Bf 109 was built as a G-6 with standard canopy in autumn 1943 by Messerschmitt in Regensburg, in March 1944 it was converted into a G-6/AS with ERLA-canopy and, after battle damage, rebuilt as a G-6/U4 in late 1944.

It is still not confirmed but seems that this aircraft was part of the I/JG5 since sister machines before and after in Werknummer sequence were in there.

ME 163 "Komet"

According to the James Kightly (, the Messerschmitt Komet is most noteworthy as an extreme example of technical achievement in desperate circumstances, as its effect on the allies, despite the interest at the time, was in reality, minimal.

It is believed WNr.191907 was built in early 1945 and allocated to II/JG 400 at Husum in Schleswig-Holstein, one of a group of stored machines believed to be reserves, but as the fuels had all but run out, it was flown little if at all, and we know it was not given unit markings.  Captured by the British, it was taken to England for evaluation and given the serial AM222, and later shipped to Australia with the 109G 163824.  Retaining its original paint, but left in store until 1970, for ‘lack of space’, it was loaned to the RAAF Museum at Point Cook.  

Unfortunately, during that period most of the original paint was stripped, and a non-original scheme applied in 1978. In 1982 at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, a more accurate scheme, matched to surviving paint samples on the aircraft and photographs was applied, with further detail work undertaken, and following its return to the AWM’s store in 1986, the rocket fighter went on show in 2001.

ME 262

According to the James Kightly (, the Messerschmitt Me 262 was the world’s first fully operational jet powered aircraft.  The AWM’s Messerschmitt Me 262, ‘Black X’ of II/KG(J)51, was captured at the war’s end at Fassberg, Germany. It had been flown from Zatec in Czechoslovakia by Lieutenant Fröhlich and surrendered to the British.  Equipped with the two bomb racks on the nose, it was one of Hitler’s preferred bomber 262s.  It had been test flown at Regensberg-Obertraubling, probably in February 1945.  It may have flown missions in the Speyer and Kaiserslautern areas with 4 Staffel of II/KG(J)51, before being attached to Gefechtsverband Hogeback (battle unit Hogeback) and then flown west to avoid the Russian’s advance.

One of nine Me 262s used by the British for evaluation, WNr. 500200 was ferried to the UK and then flown by Squadron Leader Tony Martindale and Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown for evaluation and demonstration.  After the programme was completed (restricted due to uncertainty over the engines’ remaining, very limited ‘life’) this aircraft was selected as a gift to Australia, and arrived at RAAF Laverton via Port Melbourne on 22 December 1946. 

It remained in store until extricated from RAAF Base Fairbairn by airmen loaned from various RAAF units, including the Aircraft Research and Development Unit.  Later in 1965 it was loaned to the RAAF Museum until 1988, then travelling to the Treloar Centre, Canberra for storage that year after which it was prepared for exhibition and was put on show in 2003, also in Striking by Night.

Removing the 1950s RAAF over-paint  revealed firstly the 1945 British Air Ministry ‘P’ for prototype and serial AIR MIN 81, and under that the original single coat Luftwaffe colours.  (Over the years two other Wk. Nos have been quoted for this aircraft; 500210 112372, but the paint investigation settled the correct identity.)  More intriguingly was a ‘half inch bullet hole’ in the wing, evidence of combat, but so far no documents or records have been found to detail these events.

The Spitfire MK IIa

Spitfire F Mk.IIa P7973. This Spitfire was flown by several Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) squadrons in 1941. Assigned to No. 452 Sqn (RAAF) (RAF Kenley and RAF Hornchurch) Flown by Australian pilot "Bluey" Truscott on "Circus 68", a bomber escort mission into France on 9 August 1941. This was the mission in which famous legless RAF pilot Douglas Bader was shot down and became a P.O.W. Aircraft has not been repainted since WW2 however bears the markings R-H of the Central Gunnery School.|(Markings: R-H) flying 24 operations. In July 1945 it was shipped to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia for display. One of the few Spitfires still in its original paint, it has been displayed in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra since 1950; it has not been repainted since the Second World War.


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