Conservation project Beaufort

History and research

To support the preservation effort for Beaufort A9-557, and its eventual display, the Memorial is undertaking an intensive research program.

Much of this important work is being carried out by volunteers, with the support of veterans and members of the public.

It is planned, in time, to fully document the construction program, the efforts of thousands of civilian workers, the significant contribution of the Beaufort to the Pacific war, and the individual experiences of the men who maintained and flew the Beaufort in action.

Conservation progress report - November 2002

Conservation work on the Australian War Memorial's Beaufort – A9-557 – began in 1996 with a contract to rebuild the tailplane. Since then the project has steadily gained momentum, and over the last year significant progress has been made. All major sections of A9-557 have been examined and repaired, where necessary, to ensure structural integrity while retaining as much original material as possible. Contractors in Sydney and Brisbane carried out most of this work.

While work on these sections took place, the Memorial team concentrated on refurbishing the many smaller detail parts that will be used to fit out A9-557.

Work has now commenced on the trial-fitting of the major sections. Once it has been established that this will be possible, fitting of detail parts, as well as final painting, will follow. The major sections will be rotated through the spray booth to receive their camouflage paint. Where possible, original paint surfaces will be retained and lightly polished to remove any oxidation. New paint, which has been matched to the original colours, will be applied to the new skins on the wings, stern frame and areas of the fuselage.

Major fuselage sections being trial-fitted together

Major fuselage sections being trial-fitted together

Pallets of refurbished parts waiting to be fitted to the major sections

Pallets of refurbished parts waiting to be fitted to the major sections

Sheet metal worker Stuart Attenborough fitting the navigator's cupola frame to the cockpit section

Sheet metal worker Stuart Attenborough fitting the navigator's cupola frame to the cockpit section

Sheet metal worker Lee Davies fitting out the leading edge of the centre wing section

Sheet metal worker Lee Davies fitting out the leading edge of the centre wing section

Airframe fitter Jamie Croker fitting the bomb bay side walls to the centre wing section

Airframe fitter Jamie Croker fitting the bomb bay side walls to the centre wing section

Beauforts for Australia

In the late 1930s Australia began an ambitious program to mass-produce bomber aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The chosen design was the British Bristol Beaufort, a twin-engined machine with a crew of four that could carry either a torpedo or bombs. A fleet of Beauforts would patrol Australian's vast coastline, and fly far out to sea to strike at an invasion fleet. Seven hundred bombers were constructed between 1941 and September 1944.

Making the Beaufort was an enormous effort for Australia. Each bomber needed 39,000 carefully manufactured parts. Drawing on a tiny industrial base and few skilled workers, the Beaufort Division of the Department of Aircraft Production (DAP) grew until it occupied seven large factories in three states. DAP had 8,500 employees, of which one-third were women. Tens of thousands more people worked for the 600 private subcontractors.

 

Construction of a Beaufort aircraft, c. 1944.

 

Into service

From 1941 the Beaufort was pressed into service to counter the Japanese threat, with new aircraft being flown direct to the New Guinea battlefronts and northern Australia. The Beaufort rapidly became the RAAF's main bomber type in the Pacific war, being used by 19 front-line squadrons, of which nine were all-Beaufort equipped. Other machines were sent to patrol the coasts, escort ship convoys, or fly with Operational Training Units (OTUs) in NSW and Victoria.

A group of 100 Squadron aircrew and ground staff beside DAP Beaufort A9-557, Tadji, New Guinea, c. 1944.

The DAP Beaufort Mk VIII

Manufacturer: Department of Aircraft Production, Australia
Theatre of war: Second World War (Pacific)
Wingspan: 17.63 m
Length: 13.49 m
Engine: 2 x Pratt and Whitney R-1830 S3C4G
Armament: 8 x .303-in machine guns, one torpedo or a 2,000-lb [900-kg] (max.) bomb load

DAP Beaufort Mk VIII A9-557

A9-557 was received by the RAAF in the first week of January 1944, and was delivered to 100 Squadron in July. It spent its entire operational career in New Guinea, operating from a number of airstrips, including Vivigani (Goodenough Island) and Tadji (near Aitape).

The Memorial's Beaufort carried out its first combat sortie, a bombing raid on Yakamul, on 10 July 1944. During seven months of operational flying the aircraft completed over 103 missions, and dropped 146,000 pounds [66,225 kilograms] of bombs. It was flown by 19 different crews.

On 20 January 1945 the aircraft was wrecked in a spectacular crash landing at Tadji. Returning from a raid on a village at Elimi with shell-hole damage and a live bomb jammed in the bomb bay, it ran off the runway and collided with parked vehicles as well as a nearby building. The damaged Beaufort was removed, carefully stripped of useful parts by a Repair and Salvage Unit, and dumped. It lay in the jungle at Tadji for 29 years.

A badly-damaged Australian army jeep under the tail of A9-557 after its crash landing at Tadji, New Guinea, on 21 January 1945.

Beaufort A9-557 was acquired by the Memorial in 1992. Reconstruction of the aircraft is proceeding with the aid of parts found across Australia, and sections recovered from the USA and Papua New Guinea.