Historic RAAF helmet gifted to Coffs Harbour RSL sub-branch memorabilia collection

Coffs Harbour RSL sub-Branch President John Lloyd receiving a helmet for the memorabilia collection from Robert Loretan.

A HISTORIC Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) helmet has been gifted to the Coffs Harbour RSL sub-Branch to be included in their memorabilia collection.

The helmet had been worn in service by Robert Loretan, who presented it to sub-branch President John Lloyd.

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“Robert has generously donated his personal flying helmet which he wore as a pilot member of the RAAF’s illustrious ‘Roulettes Aerobatic Team’, established in 1970,” John Lloyd told News Of The Area.

Robert acquired the helmet while on exchange with the United States Air Force, where the helmet design was the latest technology in the 1970s.

Robert returned to the RAAF and the helmet became the basis of their ‘form-fit’ design for RAAF pilot issued gear.

“The helmets are specifically fitted to each pilot and are designed to offer protection against powerful G-forces and incorporate breathing systems,” he said.

“Our memorabilia collection is a continual work-in-progress started after WWI and is on display in the foyer of Coffs Harbour C.ex Club on Vernon St.”

Members of the sub-Branch look after the display and maintain a record of donations.

“We view the collection of military memorabilia items as an integral part of maintaining direct contact with military history, especially as it relates to people of the Coffs area and their personal experiences.

“The display is held not only on behalf of veterans, but most importantly on behalf of our Coffs community, to reflect their historical connection with the sacrifices of our citizens in military conflicts and service.”

Over the ANZAC Day period the sub-Branch hosted visits by primary schools in the Coffs Harbour area to view the display and receive explanations about the items.

The helmet presentation took place on 24 May at the regular Thursday morning coffee sessions for veterans and family held at C.ex Coffs Harbour.

“Our coffee gatherings are open to all veterans, both local or just passing through, and help grow camaraderie and support amongst members and families,” said John.

Also presented on the day was the winning prize in the sub-Branch’s ANZAC Day Appeal.

“Over the last five-plus years we have been very fortunate to be the beneficiary of the donation of a handmade ANZAC quilt made by our very loyal supporter, Wendy Riitano from Sydney.”

Each year the prize is much admired and keenly sought-after.

“Margie Hawtin was our delighted winner,” he said.

Proceeds from the raffle go towards servicing Coffs Coast veterans’ welfare needs including visitations to local aged care centres, emergency accommodation as well as support for commemoration events, including the inaugural Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) Commemoration being held on Thursday 11 July at Coffs Harbour’s Vernon Street Cenotaph.


Margie Hawtin, the winner of the Coffs Harbour RSL sub-Branch 2024 ANZAC Day Appeal, with sub-Branch members.

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