An Interesting Point – A History of Military Aviation at Point Cook by Steve Campbell-Wright – Book Review

This well-produced, revised and retitled book tells the story of the oldest continuously operating military airfield in the world.

Newport NSW, Big Sky Publishing 2019
Hardcover 252pp RRP $29.99

Point Cook air base occupies an area of about 250 hectares southwest of Melbourne on the shores of Port Phillip. When the base was established, the proximity of Port Phillip made Point Cook a choice location for seaplanes as well as conventional land planes. Flying was in its infancy and still experimental, so the area’s sea-level altitude and absence of hills made it ideal for training and development purposes.

The design of this first air base influenced the planning and development of later military aviation bases in Australia. Point Cook includes rare examples of buildings specific to the pre-World War I, World War II and inter-war periods. These include the oldest hangars and workshops in Australia, built in 1914; the Australian Flying Corps complex, including the seaplane jetty, dating from 1916 and operating until 1937; the water-plane hangar, built in 1914; and the seaplane complex dating from the late 1920s. These buildings caused the base to be placed on the National Heritage List in 2007.

This book comprehensively tells the story of the base and many of its personalities. It is driven by the people and not the infrastructure. In doing so, it provides far more than just the skeleton of the histories of the Australian Flying Corps and the Royal Australian Air Force. It is a well-constructed and well-researched book with vey well-chosen illustrations. There is an isolated and unexplained reference to the Morotai Mutiny in 1945 which perhaps deserved further explanation.

Today Point Cook is home to the RAAF Museum. Initiated in 1952 by Air Marshal Sir George Jones, the Museum has provided for the restoration and display of historic aircraft. It is a ‘Working Heritage Base’ – capable of conducting operations while preserving and displaying Air Force and Australian aviation heritage and continued use by civilian flying operators under licence. The RAAF Centenary celebrations will be focused at Point Cook in 2021. Defence has budgeted $147 million for a base redevelopment of Point Cook between 2018 and 2022.
Do visit one of Australia’s outstanding museums and marvel at the work of its volunteers. But remember to have photo ID on you so that you can enter the RAAF Base!

Reviewed for RUSIV by Mike O’Brien, February 2020

Contact Royal United Services Institute about this article.

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