during World War II

During WW11 the Darwin / Singapore route was cut by the Japanese. To help maintain links with the UK, Qantas used Catalinas on the non-stop Perth, Australia to Ceylon route; a distance of 3513nm and a duration of about 28 hours. The record for one flight was 32 hours. The RAAF / Qantas Catalinas took off from Nedlands on the Swan River in Perth and landed on the water at Koggala Lake in southern Ceylon. The fuel load for this flight was 1980 gal.

The Catalinas held 2000 ft until enough fuel burnt off than went to 11,000 ft.  The max payload was 1000lb. That meant max of 3 passengers, troop microfilm, mail and any priority cargo. The max takeoff wartime take off was 36000 lbs but the civil figure was 8500 less!! Non-essential gear eg APU, as well as war gear such as gun turrets, were taken out.

The flights were operated in total radio silence so celestial navigation was the main nav tool. As Cocas was on the direct track, it provided a nav fix, if needed. But, radio silence would have been maintained in the area.

First regular flight for the Catalinas on this Indian Ocean route was 10 July 43. After November 1943 operations were extended to Karachi. [Banfield 1984; P.56ff & Wilson S 1991 P.57]

The Catalina was replaced by converted B-24 Liberator bombers in the middle of 1944. These could not match the Catalinas for range so their route was; Perth / Learmonth WA / Ceylon.

The next aircraft on the route was the Lancastrian, which were converted Lancaster bombers. Five arrived in Sydney April 1945 for Qantas. They operated a twice-weekly service between Mascot and Hurn in the UK.

The Lancastrian WWII route from Sydney was to Gawler [Adelaide] for refuelling than to Learmonth in WA. Crews changed and passengers' seats were turned into bunks before departing for overnight stage to Colombo. At Colombo crew change and passengers use a hotel for a wash etc. while plane refuelled for flight to Karachi.

BOAC crews took over for the trip to UK. Next stop, Lydda in Palestine for crew change and fuel, than 2650miles direct to Hurn.

Hurn Airport is now known as Bournemouth International Airport and it is in Christchurch, near Bournemouth, UK.

After the war, the return trip could also go Colombo / Cocos Island / Perth / Sydney. [Allen 1984 P.22] The WW11 built runway at Cocos was the usual pierced steel plate [PSP] matting.

The route returned to the pre war Darwin / Singapore operation in February 1946, using the Lancastrian. [Banfield 1984 P.58]



Melbourne to Europe via Asia

Page last updated on 31/12/03

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During WWII
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