Official Opening of Historic Airport Hut 48, Ballarat
The Ballarat Branch of the Air Force Association hosted an official opening of their newly allocated rooms in the recently restored Airport Hut 48 at the Ballarat Aerodrome on Thursday 28 March, with guest speaker WWII veteran, Mr Jack Bell, 101.
For more than 50 years, Airport Hut 48, also known as the former Royal Australian Air Force Officers’ Mess, at the Ballarat Aerodrome has been unused and in a state of disrepair since the 1960’s. Now the historic site that once housed Wireless Air Gunner trainees has been restored for public use by the Ballarat City Council and Heritage Victoria.
AFA Victoria President Max McGregor said, “The Air Force Association thanks the Ballarat City Council and Heritage Victoria for its commitment to restoring this important heritage site, and the very high standard of restoration that has been achieved.”
“We also recognise the dedication and hard work of members of our Association here in Ballarat who have campaigned for a number of years for this site to be returned to its former glory.”
AFA Ballarat Branch President, Noel Hutchins said, “This official opening is also our opportunity to formally acknowledge the Ballarat City Council and Heritage Victoria for undertaking the restoration of this historic WWII building and allowing the Air Force Association to re-establish rooms there.”
The Air Force Association’s occupancy of rooms in Airport Hut 48 harks back to the building’s historic link to its WWII past.
Following the outbreak of WWII, a RAAF base was established in Ballarat in 1940. The No 1 Wireless Air Gunners School – commonly known as 1WAGS – was established under the Empire Air Training Scheme to train Wireless Air Gunners for the fight against the German Air Force in Europe.
After the end of WWII, the RAAF base became a radio training school and Hut 48 was turned into the Officers’ Mess.
A key part of the official opening will be an address given by 101 year old WWII veteran Mr Jack Bell, who completed Course No. 2 at No.1 Wireless Air Gunners School at RAAF Base Ballarat in 1940.
Mr Hutchins said, “An important part of our plans for the restored site includes a memorial to all the Wireless Air Gunners who trained in Ballarat but never returned from the war.”
Above (left): Hut 48 before refurbishment
Above (centre): The newly refurbished AFA Ballarat Branch rooms at Hut 48.
Above (right): Guest speaker WWII veteran Jack Bell engages the audience at the official opening