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RAAF flying boat Centaurus A18-10 (ex Imperial Airways)


The arrival of the 27th Bomb Group and the 24th Pursuit Group pilots of the USAAF in Brisbane in the Imperial Airways flying boat  Centaurus was commemorated on 15 August 1998 when a Memorial was unveiled at Bretts Wharf Seafood Restaurant, Bretts Wharf, Hamilton.  Historian Noel Tunny erected the memorial and organised a "Gateway to Victory" luncheon at Bretts Wharf.  Brigadier General William G. Hipps (retired) unveiled the memorial which commemorated the joint operations of the RAAF, QANTAS and the USAAF.


Photo: Richard Gibbons

"Gateway to Victory" Memorial


Photo: Richard Gibbons

"Gateway to Victory" Plaque

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Brigadier General William G. Hipps, USAAF (retired) and Flight Lieutenant Green RAAF at the unveiling of the memorial stone at Bretts Wharf on 15 August 1998.

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Brigadier General William G. Hipps, USAAF (retired) and Flight Lieutenant Green RAAF

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Brigadier General William G. Hipps, USAAF (retired)

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Official Invitation to the "Gateway to Victory" function


On 24 November 1939, the British Government merged Imperial Airways Ltd with British Airways Ltd to form the wholly government owned British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC).

On 14 February 1942 a number of BOAC flying boats were in operation on the Australian end of the route to the UK and could not be flown back to the UK. Centaurus was one of these.  BOAC then placed these aircraft at the disposal of Qantas and the Australian authorities. Centaurus was impressed by the RAAF as A18-10.


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Empire Flying Boat "Centaurus" in the Brisbane River, 21 December 1937.


Photo Frank Paltridge: - via Robert Blaikie

Imperial Airways Centaurus G-ADUT moored on the Brisbane River at the Domain on 21
Dec 1937. You can be see the spire of the South Brisbane Municipal Chambers (sometimes
known as the South Brisbane Town Hall) in the background. It is believed that the above
photo was taken by Robert Blaikie's uncle, Frank Paltridge.


Photo: via Kevin Burnett

Flying Boat landing on Brisbane River near Bulimba in 1938
(possibly Imperial Airways Centaurus G-ADUT) Note the old vehicle
ferry travelling from Bulimba to New Farm at the left of the photo.


Photo:- Ernie Williams via Peter Kolkka who
found this photo on a glass slide in his garage

An amazing photo of Centaurus on
the Brisbane River near Parliament House


Photo:- Ernie Williams via Peter Kolkka who
found this photo on a glass slide in his garage

This is a cropped version of the above photograph. Note Parliament House to the right of the photo and City Hall at top left.


The Empire Flying Boat, Short S23 C-Class, S.811 Centaurus was later impressed by the RAAF and was sunk at her moorings during a Japanese air raid on Broome on 3 March 1942 as A18-10. There is another plaque that was unveiled by the former Lord Mayor of Brisbane Sally-Anne Atkinson at the Maritime Museum to remember the 1937 landing of Centaurus.

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B-18 of Transport Command arriving at Eagle Farm air base in Brisbane.  This aircraft was one of the B-18's used by the 27th Bomb Group when they fled from Clark Field in the Philippines.

The 27th Bomb Group was initially equipped with B-18's.  They escaped in these B-18's from Clark Field in the Philippines through Tarakan to Darwin arriving on 22 December 1941, the same day that the Pensacola Convoy arrived in Brisbane.

The Pensacola Convoy bound for the Philippines was diverted to Brisbane on 13 December 1941. 

Pilots of the 27th Bomb Group and the 24th Pursuit Group (see table below) landed on the Hamilton Reach of the Brisbane River near the ships of the Pensacola Convoy.  They had departed Darwin on 23 December 1941 in RAAF Short Empire flying boat which travelled to Brisbane via Groote Eylant, Townsville, Rockhampton, arriving at the Hamilton Reach of the Brisbane River on 24 December 1941.


Maj. Davies HQ
Cpt. Backus HQ
Hubbard HQ
Birnn HQ
Schwartz HQ
Ruegg 16th
Schmidt 16th
Rose 16th
Doan 16th
Lowerey 17th
Mangan 17th
Talley 17th
West 17th
Townsend 17th
Tubb 17th
Walker 17th
Galusha 91st
Smith 91st
Summers 91st
Hambaugh 91st
Wienert 91st
Wesley E/M
Mahoney 24th PG
Strauss 24th PG
Kennan 24th PG
McCallum 24th PG

They arrived expecting to ferry the A24's and P-40's off the ship USAT Meigs to the Philippines.  Colonel James Hubert Davies and the pilots of the 27th Bomb Group were quartered at Lennons Hotel in the city.  During their stay in Brisbane they ran a dive bombing school for the incoming pilots.  They also recruited some mechanics from the 7th Bomb Group as gunners and line crews for the 27th Bomb Group.


Note:- I have obtained a copy of an Order signed by Lt. Col. G.H. Caldwell, Acting Adjutant General, Headquarters, United States Forces in Far East (Darwin, NT) dated 3 January 1942 indicating the following Officers and Enlisted Men were to proceed to Brisbane, Australia on or about 17 December 1941. Travel was to be performed by United States and other Military aircraft (under Section 2, War Department Circular Number 128, dated November 4, 1940). "The duties to be performed at their destination are exceptional and may require a stay of more than 72 hours away from the territorial limits of the United States."

Major James H. Davies, (0-17999) AC,
Captain Edward N. Backus (0-303125), AC
1st Lt. Ronald D. Hubbard (0-371850), AC
1st Lt. Robert C. Ruegg (0-378042), AC
1st Lt. Herman F. Lowery (0-21622), AC
1st Lt. Harry L. Galusha (0-373895), AC
1st Lt. James R. Smith (0-393156), AC
1st Lt. Julius B. Summer (0-23271), AC
1st Lt. G.M. Keenan (0-388608), AC
1st Lt. Grant Mahony (0-388626), AC
1st Lt. A.W. Strauss (0-388826), AC
1st Lt. Frederick G. Hoffman (0-383720), AC
2nd Lt. Richard R. Birnn (0-403701), AC
2nd Lt. Henry J. Rose (0-403809), AC
2nd Lt. Howard B. West (0-404104), AC
2nd Lt. Robert F. Hambaugh (0-421691), AC
2nd Lt. Oliver C. Doan (0-421732), AC
2nd Lt. James H. Mangan (0-423821), AC
2nd Lt. Thomas Talley (0-403948), AC
2nd Lt. Edwin C. Townsend (0-388196), AC
2nd Lt. Douglas B. Tubb (0-421633), AC
2nd Lt. Leland A. Walker, Jr. (0-404097), AC
S/Sgt. John M. Flynn (6550823), AC

There are a few variations when comparing this list with the one in the table above.


Reference Books:

"Gateway to Victory" by Noel Tunny
"Fight Back from the North" by Noel Tunny



I'd like to thank Peter Kolkka, Robert Blaikie and Kev Burnett for their assistance with this home page.


Can anyone help me with more information?


"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products

I need your help


 Peter Dunn OAM 2020


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This page first produced 19 April 1999

This page last updated 21 February 2020