Mallala honours air force centenary

This year marked the centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in Australia, March 31, with the Adelaide Plains township of Mallala playing a significant role in its history.

In support, a special Mallala Commemorative service will be held on Tuesday, September 7, in the town to honour those who served and in particular, died while in service.

Impressively, it is the second oldest Air Force to be set up in the world.

During WWII 1939-45, the No. 6 Service Flying Training School of the RAAF was based at Mallala.

Opened in 1941, the site was chosen for its close proximity to Adelaide, the relatively dry terrain and nearby railway line which was used to transport goods and personnel.

In mid-September of that era, the first Avro Ansons arrived at Mallala.

Australian and overseas pilots were trained in relatively short periods of time.

The large base was home to over 1300 personnel and at its peak had dozens of buildings including 15 hangars with 140 aircraft.

By the time 6SFTS closed at the end of 1945, more than 2250 pilots had graduated from the school.

As well as the Ansons, pilots were trained on Airspeed Oxford, Moth Minors and Tiger Moths.

When WWII ended, the total number of Australians serving in the RAAF was 154,511, of whom 137,208 were serving in the South West Pacific theatre.

During WWII, sadly, the service reported 6200 personnel killed in action. Furthermore, there were many serious accidents involving aircraft from 6SFTS, which took the lives of 39 airmen, including 12 who are buried at Mallala.

The Mallala War Cemetery contains these war graves.

By the late 1950s, Edinburgh air base became established and the land at Mallala was sold off in the early 1960s and is now the site of the Mallala Motorsport Park.

The commemorative service in September is being run in conjunction with the Mallala RSL, the Mallala Museum, RAAF and the Adelaide Plains Council.

The day will begin with a VIP service at the war graves at 10am.

Invited guests will be asked to place tributes of rosemary at each grave.

A chaplain will offer prayers to the fallen, this will be followed by a minute’s silence and the last post.

A Catafalque Party will be in attendance.

The party will then move on to the town where another service will begin at 11am. This will be held at the memorial outside the museum.

After a welcome to country and the mounting of the Catafalque Party, there will be prayers and addresses by various invited guests and speakers.

Guests will then be invited to lay wreaths at the memorial. The Last Post ceremony will be followed by the National Anthem and the dismounting of the Catafalque Party.

At noon there will be a fly past of three vintage aircraft. The planes – Tiger Moths and Moth Minors will come in low over the town along the Gawler Road.

They will then pass over the Motorsport Park to mark the site as one of significance and then come back over the town and head out towards the War Graves as a mark of respect.

The service will then be followed by a light lunch at the RSL hall.

The museum will also be open for anyone wishing to see the extensive RAAF displays held there.

All events are subject to current COVID-19 restrictions.

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