Explosives, firies, the RAAF and Lemon Tree Passage School

A flight of RAAF Mirages.

 

“NOTHING!” is the standard answer to enquiring parents when they ask their kids what they did at school each day.

There was however a very different answer to the same question in the early 1980s from kids coming home from the old Lemon Tree Passage school.

“We blew it up!” was the response from pupils one on particular day, and in part they were right.

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But, dear reader we are getting ahead of ourselves, so it may be wise to set the scenes which led up to this exciting event which people still talk about today.

In these times there was a very close working relationship between the Lemon Tree RFS brigade and the RAAF.
Several brigade members were active or former members of the air force and civilian firies were made members of the sergeants’ mess.

It probably all started when the brigade was out at the old Oyster Cove parachute drop zone.

RAAF personnel were running out two parallel lines of half 44 gallon drums and pouring kerosine into them.

They were to be involved in war games when fighter aircraft were to ‘attack’ the base from an aircraft carrier off the coast in a night-time ‘raid’.

The RAAF personnel were constructing a fake runway to decoy the US planes.

Try as they might the kerosene just wouldn’t ignite.

The firies explained that they mixed petrol with kerosene for their drip torches to make them more effective and drove back to the station to get some.

It worked and the RAAF contingnet invited the brigade to watch the action.

RAAF Williamtown was blacked out and the fighters swooped down out of the night sky to ‘attack’ the artificial runway.

The RAAF won the war game.

To get some decorative stone for the gardens outside the fire station, the RAAF demolition officer came out and blasted the old quarry at Mallabula.

He did the same with a rotted out channel marker in the bay.

The school principal was worried about the huge gum trees overhanging the lower playground and their threat to the pupils.

A phone call to the base had the demolition guy out with a bus full of work experience kids and explosives.

One by one the towering gums crashed to the ground with the schoolchildren watching on from a safe distance.

A senior pupil was even allowed to press the plunger for the last tree.

But there’s more!

The debris was bulldozed into a huge pile which became a bonfire for cracker night.

Another exciting day was when a ”Mirage’ fighter crashed into the foreshore of Tanilba almost demolishing a row of houses after the pilot had ejected.

The grainy picture shows a wing of the aircraft up against a waterfront property fence.

The fire brigade was on the scene quickly to cordon off the area.

Today of course none of this type of thing could happen.

You see, strict protocol and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) issues have put an end to it….and stopped people having fun as well.

 

By Geoff WALKER

The old photo of a wing from the crashed aircraft at Tanilba Bay.

 

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