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Transcribing RAAF History Card

I’ve just finished transcribing the E/E.88 Aircraft History Card for A17-370.  It’s all hand-written and the quality of the scan I have is very poor, but it allowed me to put together a concise timeline of where it was throughout the war.

Starting from the top.

A17-370 was built by de Havilland Aircraft Pty Ltd.  It was delivered to No. 2 Aircraft Depot on 5/24/1941 with Engine Number 193, at RAAF Base Richmond, N.S.W.  A month later it was sent to Canberra for storage.  It was finally assigned to No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School on 9/6/1941 located at Parafield Aerodrome near Adelaide, South Australia.

It was received in early September of 1941 and flew off its first 240 hour maintenance period in about three months.  Now unfortunately the meanings of many of the abbreviations and status codes use on this document have been lost, but if I’m reading this right it accumulated about 2400 flying hours total with No. 1 E.F.T.S.

By the end of its second maintenance period they noted that the engine was U/S, which means unserviceable.  However, I’m a bit puzzled because it kept being put back on the flight line.  They made that note three times over a year of flying.  I don’t know if they were replacing or servicing the engine each time, or what.  The duration of each maintenance period was always exactly 7 days, like clockwork.

As soon as they fixed the engine problem (presumably by installing the engine currently in the airplane, a British-built Gipsy Major from 1939), the wings were damaged and then repaired.  This brings us to the end of 1942.

In mid-1943 it was shipped to Victorian & Interstate Airways, a civilian contractor, for a complete overhaul.  By my math this was about 1800 hours, give or take… very close to the 2000 hour mark.  At V.I.A. it was completely rebuilt, re-covered and test flown.  This process took 49 days at Essendon, near Melbourne.  After all that work, A17-370 should have had another smooth 2000 hours ahead, more than enough to finish out the war.  But it wasn’t to be.

On February 28, 1944, a visiting Tiger Moth (A17-695) taxiied nose-first into A17-370.  The damage was noted in its history card but most of the handwriting is impossible to read.  I know that the interplane struts are mentioned, but that’s about it.  It was recommended to be repaired at Parafield by the line mechanics of 1 E.F.T.S., rather than sending it off to a depot.  I suspect this is when a lot of the damage to the cowling was done, and why it was roughly welded back together.  They worked fast, and she was back in the air only a week after the incident.

At this point No. 1 E.F.T.S. was relocated to Tamworth, N.S.W. and was gradually being phased out.  A17-370 only accumulated about 500 hours since her major overhaul at V.I.A. before the war ended for her.  On September 15, 1944, No. 1 E.F.T.S. was shut down, and by December it had been gutted and the aircraft remained behind in the care of a Care and Maintenance Unit at Tamworth.

A17-370 was stored until June 7, 1946 (less cylinder heads, apparently) when she was offered for sale.  She was sold to the Associated Aero Clubs of Australia for £100 among a whole batch of other Tiger Moths.  Unlike most of those, however, she was never civil-registered in Australia, instead remaining in storage until being shipped to India in 1949.

So that’s the narrative version, here’s the direct transcription, along with my own translations of each line and the location where it would have been at that point.

Type: Tiger Moth
No. A17-370
Engine Fitted: Gipsy Major No. 193
Order No. 74221
Received from: de Havilland Aircraft P/L
Date Received: 24.5.41
Date Details Authority Translation Location
5/24/1941 Rec 2 AD ex DH with (193) 2Q218 24/5 Received at No. 2 Aircraft Depot from de Havilland with engine number 193 RAAF Base Richmond, N.S.W.
6/25/1941 Trans Canberra for storage 2Q708 25/6 Sent to Canberra for storage Canberra, N.S.W.
8/23/1941 F at Canberra CQ508 23/8 Inspection at Canberra Canberra
9/6/1941 Allotted 1 E.F.T.S. ex Canberra 4Q131 6/9 Assigned to No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School Canberra
9/8/1941 Issued 1 E.F.T.S. ex Canberra CQ599 8/9 Shipped to No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School Parafield Aerodrome, near Adelaide, S.A.
12/6/1941 E at 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q397 6/12 240-hour maintenance Parafield
12/13/1941 C at 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q414 13/12 Parafield
2/16/1942 E Star at 1 E.F.T.S. (with similarly U/S eng) 1Q126 16/2 240-hour maintenance (unservicable engine) Parafield
2/23/1942 C at 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q153 23/2 Parafield
3/23/1942 E at 1 E.F.T.S. (with similarly U/S eng) 1Q379 23/3 240-hour maintenance (unservicable engine) Parafield
3/30/1942 C at 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q422 30/3 Parafield
4/13/1942 E at 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q494 13/4 240-hour maintenance Parafield
4/20/1942 C at 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q512 20/4 Parafield
6/1/1942 E Star at 1 E.F.T.S. (with similarly U/S engine) 1Q65 1/6 240-hour maintenance (unservicable engine) Parafield
6/8/1942 C at 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q690 8/6 Parafield
12/14/1942 E at 1 E.F.T.S. (M/P’s dam.) 1Q335 14/12 240-hour maintenance (wings damaged) Parafield
12/21/1942 C at 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q353 21/12 Parafield
1/18/1943 E at 1 E.F.T.S. (240 hourly) 1Q39 18/1 240-hour maintenance Parafield
2/1/1943 C at 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q59 1/2 Parafield
4/12/1943 E Star at 1 E.F.T.S. (240 hly) 1Q214 12/4 240-hour maintenance Parafield
4/19/1943 C at 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q226 19/4 Parafield
7/28/1943 Allotted G?????? A/Wys. Ex 1 E.F.T.S. (for complete overhaul) 4MGQ112 28/7 Assigned to a civilian contractor for a complete overhaul Parafield
8/2/1943 Issued G?????? A/Wys. Ex 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q537 2/8 Shipped to civilian contractor
8/19/1943 Above allotment cancelled 4MGQ314 19/8 Cancelled
8/19/1943 Allotted V.I.A. ex 1 E.F.T.S. for complete overhaul 4MGQ314 19/8 Assigned to Victorian & Interstate Airways for complete overhaul
8/23/1943 Issued V.I.A. ex 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q605 23/8 Shipped to Victorian & Interstate Airways Essendon, Melbourne, Victoria
8/27/1943 Being ?????????? ????????? AID 27/8 Being worked on Essendon
9/10/1943 Fuselage ready for covering AID 10/9 Fuselage complete Essendon
10/8/1943 ??????? ???????????? AID 8/10 Being worked on Essendon
10/15/1943 B???g ?????? For test flights AID 15/10 Being prepared for test flights Essendon
10/25/1943 Received 1 AD ex V.I.A. 1Q860 25/10 Received at No. 1 Aircraft Depot RAAF Base Laverton, Melbourne, Victoria
10/25/1943 Allotted 1 E.F.T.S. ex 1 AD ??T644 25/10 Assigned to No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School Laverton
10/27/1943 Issued 1 E.F.T.S. ex 1 AD 1Q405?? 27/10 Shipped to No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School Parafield
11/1/1943 Received 1 E.F.T.S. ex 1 AD 1Q798 1/11 Received by No. 1 Elemtary Flying Training School Parafield
2/14/1944 E Star at 1 E.F.T.S. (240 hourly) 1Q119 14/2 240-hour maintenance Parafield
2/21/1944 C at 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q14? 21/2 Parafield
2/28/1944 ??????? Parafield aerodrome.  M/P ?? ????? 150% (-M/M/P ?? Upper 10%(M) O/S long’s (W) front interplane strut ?? ?? ???? Recommend A/F be repaired at unit 1Q175 28/2 A visiting Tiger Moth (A17-695) taxied head-on into A17-370.  There was damage to A17-370, but it’s difficult to make out the specifics.  They decided to repair it at 1 E.F.T.S. rather than send it to a depot. Parafield
2/28/1944 ?? ????? ????? ????? Rear 150% ?S An additional note on damage? Parafield
3/6/1944 C at 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q196 6/3 Parafield
6/26/1944 E Star at 1 E.F.T.S. (240 hourly) 1Q101 26/6 240-hour maintenance Tamworth, N.S.W.
7/3/1944 C at 1 E.F.T.S. 1Q138 3/7 Tamworth
10/7/1944 Transferred Storage Tamworth ex 1 E.F.T.S. QT814 7/10 No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School was closed on 15 September, 1944 having trained a total of 1,991 students.  It was converted into a Care and Maintenance unit on 12 December, 1944. Tamworth
4/2/1945 G at Tam. Storage T??160 Tamworth
2/25/1946 G at Tam. Storage ?????????? Tamworth
2/20/1946 U/S and stored as CMU Tamworth under Cat. D. (less cylinder head) CMU Tam. Unserviceable and stored at Care and Maintenance Unit Tamworth Tamworth
6/7/1946 Offered for Disposal ???? 2080 Tamworth
Sold by C.D.C. Ao Aust. Ass. Aero Clubs, 160 Castlereach St. Sydney – £100 ?990 922 / G(VIC) 922 Sold by the Commonwealth Disposal Commission to the Associated Aero Clubs of Australia for £100 (with a gaggle of others) Tamworth
10/23/1946 Issued to above Q101 Shipped to the Associated Aero Clubs of Australia

Identity Crisis

A17-307 on the rear side of the firewallCommitting to the purchase of the Tiger Moth was step 1.  But exactly “who” is this airplane I’m going to spend several years restoring?  The owner refers to it as A17-307, that was the serial number painted on its firewall (we don’t know when) and also the serial number noted in its logbooks from India.  Did I mention it was found in India?  More on that in a bit.

So, I look up A17-307 online.  There are about 4 good manufacturing/production lists for Australian Tiger Moths on the internet, and none of them entirely agree on, well, pretty much anything.  But one of them was quite certain that A17-307 had been wrecked and written off in 1947.  The others, while not making note of the crash, at least showed that to the best of their knowledge it vanished without a trace, never to reappear.

51DXuY3ZlDL._SX378_BO1,204,203,200_Next, I did what I’ve learnt is always the best course of action when researching a new and esoteric topic… I asked the experts for help.  One plea went to Stuart McKay, the world’s leading authority on the Tiger Moth aircraft (and the man who literally wrote the book on them… several times over).  I also reached out to the head of the US branch of the de Havilland Moth Club, Ian Grace, who happens to be local to me.  On top of that, during my searches online I had found a few other folks who each had done extensive research into the histories of de Havilland aircraft, so they got an email as well.  Finally, I asked the internet at large by way of the Key Publishing forum, which in my opinion is the single greatest collection of aviation and historical knowledge ANYWHERE on the planet.  They ALL stepped up to help, each one contributing new evidence to help put the pieces of my puzzle together.  I just can’t say enough wonderful things about this community of de Havilland aircraft enthusiasts.  And the results are in…

The aircraft I will be restoring is in fact A17-370.  A simple typo, which undoubtedly occurred during her time in India, had me chasing the wrong airplane for a good week.

P02881.009A17-370 was built at the Mascot factory of de Havilland Australia in early 1941.  She was taken on charge with the RAAF on May 24, 1941, when she was immediately sent to storage in Canberra.  It was only briefly however, and on September 6, 1941 she was allocated to 1 E.F.T.S. (Elementary Flying Training Squadron) at Parfield Aerodrome, in South Australia near the city of Adelaide.

P028012_001.sizedAt Parfield she was used as a primary trainer for young Australian pilots expecting to face a Japanese invasion soon.  The pace of operations must have been frantic, and she was sent in for a major overhaul at 1 E.F.T.S. only two years later, on July 28, 1943.  Either they were too busy or lacked the needed resources, but a month later they canceled that plan and sent her instead to Victorian & Interstate Airways, Ltd. for the overhaul.  She arrived there on August 23, 1943.

a53169Victorian & Interstate Airways was, at this time, playing the same kind of role that was played in the U.S. by Grand Central Aircraft Manufacturing Co.  These were civilian maintenance operations contracted to the military to maintain, overhaul and upgrade service aircraft.  After the war, both companies went into the business of de-militarizing the same aircraft and selling them into new civilian lives.  Grand Central were responsible for the 1953 overhaul of the DC-3 belonging to Historic Flight Foundation, on which I cut my teeth as a historical researcher.

IMG_0144 cropped

IMG_0145 cropped high contrastIn their post-war role, V.I.A. touched nearly every Australian Tiger Moth there ever was, so nobody was surprised that I found one of their data plates on the tail of my aircraft.  What was surprising, however, was the date.  September 27, 1943.  Although nothing else on the data plates can be tied to a specific aircraft, that date alone is very convincing evidence that we are indeed looking at the right airplane.  A17-370 was fully overhauled and completely re-covered and returned to service on October 28, 1943.

TIGER_MOTH_A17-370_Page_2-cropFresh from the overhaul, A17-370 went back to 1 E.F.T.S. and resumed the job of training young men to fly and fight.  Then, disaster!  On February 28, 1944, another Tiger Moth (A17-695) taxied into her nose-first.  There was damage to her nose, prop, cowlings and interplane struts.  Typically after damage of that kind the aircraft would be sent off to a depot or contractor (like V.I.A.) to be rebuilt.  According to the records however, she was ordered to be repaired by the line mechanics of 1 E.F.T.S.  Presumably short on spare parts and time, they seem to have done their best to bash her panels back into shape, simply welding shut the huge gashes or adding patches where too much material was missing.  This again points to evidence on the aircraft itself, which still bears the scars of that 1944 collision.

Tough as a trooper, A17-370 kept flying and training until finally retired to storage on April 2, 1945.  After the war the RAAF sold off their surplus of aircraft, and most were bought up by the Associated Aero Clubs of Australia.  This was a joint venture of pooled resources by clubs all across the country to secure as many aircraft as possible.  Most of these aircraft were converted for civilian use and put to work in civilian flight schools, but not A17-370.  It went back into storage, the surplus of the surplus.

VT-DOXThe next blip on the radar by A17-370 came in June of 1949.  She was issued a civilian registration in India as VT-CUO and exported there by ship.  She flew for the government of India for 5 years performing various odd jobs, and then was sold to the Air Technical Training Institute on November 11, 1955.  They were a flight and technical school based out of what was then known as Dum Dum Airport.  They kept flying her until 1973 with no records of any crashes or other incidents.  A VERY lucky little Tiger Moth.

Capture 1Dum Dum was one of the key terminus airports for the U.S. Army Air Corps flying ‘the Hump’ during WWII and had many large abandoned hangars from that time.  Today it is called Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport.  The Air Technical Training Institute is still there, and it was in the back corner of one of those WWII hangars that her Canadian benefactor located A17-370 in the late 1990s.  This began several years of negotiations and bargaining before he could finally buy her and bring her to Canada.  His hope was to restore the aircraft himself, with the help of an A&P mechanic, but sometimes life throws curve balls and it never ended up happening.

So now, 75 years old, A17-370 has another chance to return to the skies.  It will be an honor to continue this story and share the history that this aircraft can tell.

(You may have noticed that none of these historical images are of A17-370.  I’m still looking!  If you have any leads on images, please let me know!)