Subject:     Townsville
Date:              Thu, 23 Nov 2000 14:58:13 EST

Hello Peter,

I was quite interested in your website. Visiting Townsville is one of my happier memories when in the military.

I was on temporary duty in Townsville during the 1960s while serving as a flight officer in the U S Navy. I was flying in a transport squadron (VR-21) which was involved in providing logistic support for aerial photo recon evidence of Indonesian incursions in New Guinea.

Sukarno was making lots of threats, and lots of funny stuff was happening then along the West Irian border. We even got to visit lovely downtown Port Moresby a couple of times.

We transported photographic equipment and other supplies to Townsville, where one of our aerial recon squadrons (VAP-61, I believe) had established a detachment. Much of the stuff we were doing was classified at the time.

Each time we returned to Hawaii (where we were based), some RAAF chaps would slap a large Aussie kangaroo roundel on our fuselage, for all the world to see! Our Commanding Officer would rant and rave, and make us remove the roos upon our return. We always claimed that we had no idea how they mysteriously appeared on each plane, right under the cockpit!

On one return trip I specifically asked that the "roo" be equipped with a pair of bright green balls, so that it would stand out from all the other roos we had collected and hung on our ready-room wall. My request was granted, and somewhere in my archives I still have a photo of that well-hung, green-balled, roo!

As I recall, we usually stayed at Buchanan's Hotel, or sometimes a place called the Townsville(?) Hotel while we were there. My memory is a bit hazy on that! We always were well received there.

I returned, with my wife, to Townsville 3 years ago, while on a holiday trip from Cairns to Melbourne. I was saddened to see the Garbutt airbase was now primarily an Army helicopter base. I even stopped in at the Townsville Historical Society to seek pictures from that time period, but was unable to find any that brought back memories.

By then all those old hotels were gone. Replaced by modern Townsville [including a McDonald's] I suppose! Unfortunately, we were only in Townsville for a couple of days, although we did have time to go up on the mountain and get a great panoramic view of the area.

I fondly remember having wonderful impromptu parties on Magnetic Island, and having fun with the guys from RAAF 10 Squadron who were at Townsville. We loved to go fishing with them, although they used to terrify us with tales of shark attacks and such.

We in turn, showed them how to BBQ a pig in the beach sand, Hawaiian style (Luau if you prefer). Some of those guys eventually came up and partied with us in Hawaii, when they were involved in cross-training with various U S Navy ASW patrol squadrons.

Anyhow, keep up your great Townsville website! Quite a few of us Yanks were there from WWII on!

Tor Welch
(a VR-21 survivor)


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This page first produced 26 November 2000

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