RAAF Base Mawson – Antarctic Flight

Role: Expeditions and Rescue

They were simply called Antarctic Flight. Not No. 1 Antarctic Flight or 1 AF as is traditional with the naming of Air Force units. The Air Force use No’s and acronyms for most of their units but 1 AF is an acronym for something else on the RAAF acronym list.

The base opened at the same time as Mawson Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition or ANARE station commenced. Two Auster aircraft, A11-200 and A11-201 were taken to Mawson on the Kista Dan, They were used as support aircraft to guide the Kista Dan into and out of Horse Shoe Harbour, or Horse Shoe Bay as it was called then. The aircraft also did inland and coastal surveying, mapping, photography and scientific flights in support of the ANARE expedition.

On the 13th of February 1954, Phillip Law proclaimed Mawson for Australia. Claiming territory depended on certain formalities, including building a rock cairn, raising a flag and reading a proclamation. It was significant our military were present for this ceremony, even though they were not performing a military function.

Proclamation Ceremony – Phillip Law proclaims Mawson for Australia

L to R
Sgt. Frank Morgan (airframe fitter), Sgt. Ken W Duffell (Engines), Flt Lt Doug W Leckie (Commanding Officer)
and Flt Sgt. R Seaver 2nd Pilot – February 1954
Taken from ANARE negative no 3228

The Air Force also held an opening ceremony for the RAAF Base. Leckie was the Officer in charge of the Flight.

The aircraft were only used for the summer operation and returned with the Kista Dan to Australia Arriving 31st March 1954. During the return journey, A11-200 was lost over the side of a ship.

Two summers later, two aircraft were taken south again. The one surviving Auster (A11-201) and a Beaver aircraft (A95-201). Squadron Leader Doug W Leckie was again to lead this Flight along with Fly Off. John Seaton (2nd pilot to Leckie), Sgt. Gerry Sundberg (airframes) and Sgt. Geoff Johansen (engines). F/L Peter Clemence was also on board but returned to Australia with the ship. The Mawson changeover was completed on the 4th of March 1956 and the Flight then began constructing Mawson’s hanger. This was completed before winter and gave them the ability to complete winter flying operations. This was the start of the permanent presence of RAAF Base Mawson. Flying commenced on 5 January 1956 and a total of 548 hours were flown in 301 sorties. (Alfresco Flight.) The airmen did not sleep in the hanger, they slept in the ANARE village and worked in the hanger.

Peter Jones presented John with letters and certificates from those who represent the people, starting with the local member for Bancroft, Chris Whiting MP, and working his way up the “food chain”: Hon Luke Howarth MP, Federal Member for Petrie; Councillor Peter Flannery, Mayor of Moreton Bay Regional Council; Annastacia Palaszczuk, Premier of Queensland; His Excellency The Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Governor of Queensland; Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia; General David Hurley, Governor-General of Australia – all the way to the top: Elizabeth, to which John commented, “She won’t be very long after me”.