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The Wheel has Landed

As you drive through Inverleigh, visitors and locals are constantly reminded of the contribution and sacrifice local families have made to conflicts and peacekeeping operations for over a century – the memorials at the western end of town, the avenue of honour and the RSL building next to the hall.

Until recently only two of the three services were represented outside the front of the RSL – the Navy depicted by a WW2 mine and the Army represented by a 25 pounder field artillary piece. Now the Air Force is represented by a B-24 Liberator wheel assembly.

Although one might think it has fallen from a passing aircraft, in fact it’s acquisition followed an application for a part from an aircraft from Inverleigh RSL to the B-24 Liberator Memorial at the Aviation Museum, Werribee.

Sunday 5th June saw the official hand-over of the wheel by David Miller from the B-24 Liberator Memorial at Werribee. 

We were also delighted to have 90 year old Nat Eichler visiting from the Liberator Museum. During WW2 Nat flew in a Liberator as a wireless operator/gunner and has been a driving force in the establishment and operation of the museum for many years.

Local RSL ladies provided those present with a sumptious morning tea which served as lunch for most of those present while they shared stories of years gone by and hope for the years ahead. As time goes by there is an urgent need for a younger generation to take on an active role in the branch to ensure it's continued presence in the district.

Having a wheel assembly display is rather unique as most memorials consist of a propeller or aircraft frame of some type so this new display has created much interest and attention from the local community and travellers passing through the township and it now stands as a monument to the RAAF personnel who served in times of conflict alongside our Army and Navy counterparts.

Many thanks to Ralph, John, Scotty and various other locals as well as the team who went to Werribee to pick it up and getting it to Ralph and Linda’s for storage. Also a huge thank you to Rhys of RJW Engineering who, for no cost, constructed the steel fabrication to house the assembly.

The B-24 Liberator Memorial group in Werribee was formed in 1988 with the stated purpose of "Restoring a Liberator aircraft as a memorial to the 20,000 R.A.A.F. personnel who flew and serviced them during WWII".

Time passed and it wasn't until 1992 that they discovered a Liberator, Serial No. A-72 176's fuselage was located on a farm in Gippsland. It had been used as a residence for 7 years since purchased in 1947. It was in a sorry state with corrosion, missing parts, trees and shrubs growing internally and blocking access.

However this group had a vision that this aircraft would  "Become live again" and serve as that Memorial. Today that vision is approaching 95% complete.

A search was commenced for the rest of the aircraft components, wings, engines, instruments etc.

The undercarriage leg donated to the Inverleigh RSL was found in a lake at Tocumwal, the main training base for Liberator crews during the war. 

The wings and fuselage were transported to a hangar near Werribee, generously leased to us by Melbourne Water.

The group then began recruiting hangar volunteers, members, sponsors, technical advisers etc. This has resulted in a current membership of about 400 with 35 regular hangar volunteers attending 2 - 3 days a week.

In addition to the Liberator we have a partly restored C.A.C. Boomerang and a replica Airspeed Oxford being actively manufactured.

The project is unique insofar it is in continual restoration work and the hangar volunteers are only too pleased to show visitors their work and discuss their part in the project.  

The Hangar was built in 1942 and reflects the atmosphere of that time

The hangar is located on the Princes Highway and the corner of Farm Road, Werribee. We are open Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 9.30am until 3.30pm.

Entry is by $5 donation (all our funding is by donations).

Groups of 20 plus can be catered for outside these hours by contacting the Secretary, Mrs Judith Gilbert, Phone No. 03 9734 0094 or Hangar Phone 03 9731 1263.