Post by Dave Homewood on May 2, 2020 21:39:37 GMT 12
My friend Chris has sent me these photos and give me permission to share them here. They were owned by his now later neighbour he had growing up, Marjorie Graham, who packed parachutes and also refuelled aeroplanes in the RAAF, or WRAAF, at No. 8 Operational Training Unit at Parkes. She gave Chris these when she was dying, as he'd always enjoyed her WWII stories. I think they are marvellous. Chris would love to find out more about Marjorie's service in the WRAAF. I looked up her service record for him but it is not online yet so he is going to request it.
First up is the fid, which is an actual tool used when packing parachutes. You use it to stuff the material into the pack but in a way that does not damage it. I used one daily when I packed parachutes in the RNZAF but this it the first one I have seen since. I'm really interested to learn more about the company, Dominion Parachutes of Sydney. I never knew Australia produced parachutes in WWII.
And secondly is this extraordinary leather apron that has been specially painted up for the Parkes Sgt's Mess with a pink elephant and some gremlins delivering the beer. I absolutely love this historic treasure from the social side of the RAAF.
Did Australia REALLY produce parachutes during WW2? I am fairly certain that they produced their own versions of Mae Wests, but parachutes? It is possible, but do we have any proof? I am however intrigued by the reference to "Roo Club" as marked on the "Fid", along with the two parachute "users clubs" associated with the well-known British manufacturers of chutes, Irving (Irvine) and GQ. Parachute manufacture was a very specialised industry, with only a very small number in the game, even now, although modern skydiving chutes are practically a separate industry from "traditional" manufacturers of emergency chutes (aren't they?) Australia was the only country in the world to manufacture RR Merlins in WW2 apart from four factories in UK and one in USA, so they had a hell of a lot more industrial muscle than little NZ; Canada, much more industrial than OZ at the time, did not attempt to manufacture even the smallest of aero engines during WW2 (no doubt due to proximity of USA and all its factories). Is it possible that "Dominion Parachutes" of Sydney acted as a civilian contractor to RAAF for cleaning and repair/modification of service parachutes, and leaving routine repacking to the WAAAFs and RAAF male packers? David D
Have also been trying to chase down proof of parachute manufacture in Australia, which apparently commenced in latter part of 1941, but no particular manufacturer mentioned. The fabric (silk to begin with, then Rayon) was also by this time manufactured in Australia, along with aircraft fabric. Quite a job wending your way through the showers of commercial sites for modern aerial sports paraphernalia. I get the sense that perhaps just one company produced emergency parachutes through the war and perhaps into the 1960s or 70s for the RAAF. Anyway, it seems that "Dominion" was simply a trade mark adopted by Light Aircraft Pty Ltd. Thanks to Dave H for finding undeniable proof of Australia's achievements in the production of parachutes. Dave D
Post by Dave Homewood on May 3, 2020 15:35:59 GMT 12
Here's an article David, from The Argus on the 16th of May 1940:
OUR OWN PARACHUTES Parachutcs almost entirely Australian in material and manufacture are being made in Sydney for the RAAF. Output is increasing and it is expected that the factory will soon be able to meet all Australian requirements, and have a surplus to meet Allied orders. The only part at present imported is the harness from England but it is expected that this part also will soon be made here.
I am looking for any members, descendants of members, or anyone with information, of the Roo Club.
Admission to the club (which was formed in 1940) was only gained by making a forced parachute jump during an aircraft emergency whilst using a Dominion parachute. Members were presented with a gold kangaroo tie pin and a silver plaque with the recipients rank, name and date of incident engraved on the rear, and an a kangaroo with a parachute on the front.
Dominion parachutes were manufactured by Light Aircraft Pty. Ltd. at Broadway in Sydney, and were supplied to the RAAF, and possibly other allied air forces such as the RNZAF and RAF, during and after World War II.
The company was founded by my gg uncle, George Newnham MILLS (1885-1969) who married Mabel de Laune FAUNCE (1891-1979).
I am also interested in hearing from anyone who worked for Light Aircraft Pty. Ltd. prior to 1969, anyone who knew George MILLS or anyone who is researching, or has a connection with, the FAUNCE family.
Laurie Coleman later received a letter from The Roo Club advising he was eligible for membership. The Roo Club was established by the Light Aircraft Pty Ltd, a Sydney company that made the Dominion Parachutes the men had used to bail out of the Beaufighter. The letter stated:
"You are the 83rd Member - the only class of membership is life, and the sole privilege, its continued enjoyment."
Laurie Coleman has done just that. "
"AIRMEN NEED SILK MORE THAN WOMEN Parachute Equipment CANBERRA, Sun: Australia's 'Roo Club strictly limits its membership to Australian airmen who have jumped for life in Australian-built parachutes. It is the Australian counterpart of the famous Cater- pillar Club, which is exclusive to air- men who have made a compulsory jump with the Irving parachute. The 'Roo Club was launched more than a year ago when Flying-Officer (then Flb-Sgt) Fuller, DFC, made a pick-a-back landing of 2 planes at Wagga, and 3 members of the crew baled out with Dominion parachutes. This parachute, built by Light Air- craft .Pty Ltd, of Sydney, is now standard equipment for the RAAF. The company's trade mark is a kan- garoo suspended from a parachute, with the inscription, "I Jump to Xive." Establishment .of the Australian parachute industry is one reason why the Government has had to freeze silk, and why women find it diffi- cult to get silk stockings."
Last Edit: May 3, 2020 15:52:10 GMT 12 by AussieBob: added last entry