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The early days of RAAF Marine boats can be traced back to the early days of the Australian Flying Corps at the Central Flying School at Point Cook in Victoria prior to the RAAF being formed. Boats were used to assist in mooring and removing the early seaplanes such as the Fairey IIID from the water every night.

On 28 February 1938 the RAAF received approval to purchase the 01 Class of Target Boats from England. When the war in Europe started the RAAF placed orders for many new marine craft. The RAAF had not finalised its expansion program for its Marine Section when the war in the Pacific started on 7 December 1941. A massive building program commenced with boats coming from the following suppliers:-

As part of the catch-up the RAAF even started to build some small boats at Rathmines. In addition numerous boats were requisitioned from civilians. This was usually achieved by loan, secondment or contract. Boats in Australia became a rarity as the RAN, Australian Army, US Army were also acquiring as many civilian boats as they could. Some of the boats that RAAF Marine Section acquired were:-

At the peak of its activities, RAAF Marine Section had a fleet of over 600 powered craft and over 700 un-powered craft.

The Royal Australian Navy was initially responsible for air-sea rescue services in the northern area of Australian waters using acquired craft and Fairmile launches. From 1942, RAAF Marine Section took over this role in partnership with the Air-Sea Rescue Units of the United States 5th Air Force.

As the Allies pushed the Japanese further north, RAAF Marine Section were left to continue air-sea rescues in northern waters. RAAF Marine Section obtained more boats and also took over morring assistance, supply and refuelling for flying boats and carrying of stores to isolated units such as remote coastal radar units by sea.

Most RAAF Marine Section crews were trained at Rathmines. The roles of Marine Section crews could be quite dangerous at times. RAAF Stores vessel Wanaka sank during a cyclone on 16 December 1941 with the loss of 10 lives. Catalina A24-206 and bomb scow 010-12 were both destroyed on 20 June 1945 when depth charges on the bomb scow suddenly exploded.

After the war, the RAAF disposed of as many boats as they could as soon as they could. In some cases this was not quick enough, resulting in some boats sinking at their moorings. RAAF Marine Section retained only 65 powered craft and 42 un-powered craft after the war.


RAAF Marine Section Adelaide RAAF Marine Section Bowen RAAF Marine Section Brisbane
RAAF Marine Section Bundaberg RAAF Marine Section Cairns RAAF Marine Section Cockatoo Island
("She Cat")
RAAF Marine Section Doctor's Gully, Darwin RAAF Marine Section East Arm, Darwin RAAF Marine Section Evans Head
RAAF Marine Section Fremantle RAAF Marine Section Geraldton RAAF Marine Section Groote Island
RAAF Marine Section Jervis Bay RAAF Marine Section Karumba RAAF Marine Section Lake Boga
RAAF Marine Section Melbourne RAAF Marine Section Melville Bay RAAF Marine Section Melville Island
RAAF Marine Section Millingimbi RAAF Marine Section Newcastle RAAF Marine Section Paynesville, VIC
RAAF Marine Section Perth RAAF Marine Section Point Cook RAAF Marine Section Potshot, Exmouth Gulf
RAAF Marine Section Rathmines RAAF Marine Section St. George's Basin RAAF Marine Section Sydney
RAAF Marine Section Thursday Island RAAF Marine Section Townsville RAAF Marine Section West Bay



“Marine Section - the Forgotten Era of Men & Vessels"
By Leslie R. Jubbs

"Units of the Royal Australian Air Force, a Concise History"
"Volume 1 - Introduction, Bases, Supporting Organisations"
Compiled by the RAAF Historical Section

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©  Peter Dunn 2003


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This page first produced 20 September 2004

This page last updated 24 September 2004