RAAF Catalina

Rathmines, just south of Newcastle was the site of the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) main flying boat base during World War II and the early 1950s.
The Catalina flying boat was one of the most versatile aircraft of the Second World War and was operated by virtually every Allied nation in anti-submarine, air-sea rescue, patrol and minelaying/bombing roles.

The RAAF used more than 150 Catalinas between 1941 and 1945. During World War II, aircraft based at Rathmines conducted anti-submarine patrols along the Australian east coast and the base was home to the RAAF’s main seaplane training units.

Catalina Flying Boats moored at the RAAF Base at Rathmines, Lake Macquarrie.


Port Stephens

As part of these operations RAAF Catalinas trained at Port Stephens some 80km to the north.

On 24th May 1943, RAAF Catalina A24-384 of 3 Operational Training Unit Rathmines, piloted by Flight Lieutenant Brian Hartley Higgins, struck an unusual wave and crashed while practising circuits and landings on the water at Port Stephens.

Seven of the crew were killed:

• Flight Lieutenant Brian Hartley Higgins 400620, DFC (Captain)

• Pilot Officer Max Alexander Larkan 409842 (Co-pilot)

• Sergeant Alan Fullerton Craddock 408799 (2nd Co-pilot)

• Flying Officer Norman John Brown 411992 (Wireless Operator)

• Corporal Thomas Henry Poole 19812 (Fitter 2E)

• Corporal Joffre David James 8164

• Leading Aircraftsman Henry George Lovett 21419

Sergeant J. Johnson 411710 (W.A. Gunner) and AC1 K.C. Stow 72521 (Armourer) survived
the crash.

Personnel from HMAS Assault assisted after the crash.

This was the only war-time loss of a Catalina at Rathmines during training exercises.