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 RAAF Oral Histories

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Oral History Program

The Office of Air Force History conducts an oral history program aimed at capturing the experience of serving and retired members of the RAAF for applied history purposes. 

Subjects interviewed under the program include: 

  • senior figures and leaders, such as ex-Chiefs of Air Force
  • personnel returned from recent operational deployments overseas, to collect notable experiences and lessons learnt
  • representative members with knowledge of events and developments within specialised areas of RAAF activity, such as engineers, or simulation 

To alert serious researchers to the scale and diversity of material available as products of the oral history program, Snippets (edited extracts from selected interviews) and historical summaries are presented below. 

For further information about any items appearing in these documents, please contact the OAFH.


The intention of ‘Snippets’ is to highlight areas of the Oral History resource in order to foster use in personal and organisational education and suggest future research and analysis. Access to the Oral History collection is controlled by the RAAF Historian.

1. Recent Operational Deployments

  • A series of interviews with about 40 LAC’s to WOFF’s who have been on recent operational deployments to ascertain their experiences, impressions and opinions on what the Air Force might learn to better achieve its Mission.

2. RAAF Participation in Medical Activities on US Navy Ships Comfort and Mercy

  • Members of the RAAF (and ADF) medical and health staff have been amongst those undertaking deployments over recent years. Many of these staff have been assigned to multiple deployments in both operational, peacekeeping and humanitarian circumstances. The regular deployment to the United States Naval Ships (USNS) Mercy & Comfort has offered a range of unique and satisfying professional experiences.

3. Warrant Officer of the Air Force

  • The position of ‘Warrant Officer of the RAAF’ was instituted on 15 February 1993 by the then Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal I.B. (‘Barry’) Gration, to provide a key conduit between Air Force’s senior leadership and the airman ranks. As the Service’s senior airman, the holder of this singular appointment has been required to regularly visit all RAAF commands, bases and units; to keep abreast of and gain insight into the views, issues and concerns of airmen; and to communicate these frankly to the Chief of Air Force and other commanders.

4. RAAF Participation in Somalia 1992-96

  • The first personnel that would eventually form part of a 30-strong Movement Control Unit supplied from the Australian Defence Force (including eight RAAF members) arrived in Mogadishu on 28 October 1992 to begin support for the peacekeeping force known as United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM).

5. RAAF Participation in Operation Gateway

  • On 21 February 1982 the crew of a RAAF P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft from No 10 Squadron commenced the first ‘prosecution’ of a Soviet Echo II class submarine transiting from the South China Sea through the Strait of Malacca to the Indian Ocean. This episode was the first of many conducted under Operation Gateway that was in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

6. RAAF Participation in the Sinai 1976-79 and 1982-86

  • On 10 June 1976 a 16-man forward party left Canberra to prepare for the arrival at Ismailia, Egypt, of an air unit committed by Australia to the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in Sinai that was established the previous year. The peacekeeping force was established in the Sinai peninsula to supervise the redeployment of Egyptian and Israeli forces and to man and control the buffer zones established under those agreements.

7. Senior Command Within the RAAF

  • A brief history of senior leadership figures within the RAAF from Sir Richard Williams in 1922 to Air Marshal Geoff Brown in 2011.

8. RAAF Participation in United Nations Transitional Authority, Cambodia 1992-93 (and Subsequent Activities 1997)

  • In 1992, a 30-strong Movement Control Group (MCG) from the Australian Defence Force, including seven RAAF members, joined the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).

9. Air Base Butterworth Malaysia

  • Since its formation in 1921, the RAAF has frequently had units based overseas on operational deployments, however only once has the RAAF operated a permanent major air base outside Australia. This was at Butterworth, on the north-west coast of the Malayan peninsula opposite the island of Penang.

10. Central Flying School and RAAF Base East Sale

  • On 7 March 1913 the Australian Government announced the formation of the Central Flying School (CFS) at Point Cook, Victoria. Consequently, the CFS is the oldest military aviation unit in Australia and one of the oldest in the world. It is possible to trace the beginnings of CFS back to 1909, when the Department of Defence began to recognise the potential of developing aviation as an instrument of war.

11. RAAF Participation in Operation Pelican: the Berlin Airlift 1948-49 

  • In 1948 Britain, France and the United States of America found themselves opposed to their former wartime ally, the Soviet Union, over matters regarding control of Berlin, the capital of the defeated Nazi German regime. When the Soviets imposed a blockade of the city, the Allies had no option but to begin flying in the necessities of life for the two million inhabitants of the zones under their administration. Thus began the first large-scale humanitarian airlift in history.

12. No 79 Squadron: Ubon Thailand 

  • On 1 June 1962, No 79 Squadron flew into a Royal Thai Air Force base at Ubon, 80 kilometres from the Laotian border, as part of a South-East Asia Treaty Organisation plan to defend north-east Thailand against an expected communist invasion.

13. RAAF Participation in the Defence of the Middle East: Malta 1952-54 

  • When asked by Britain to assist in the defence of the Middle East, Australia agreed in March 1952 to contribute a fighter wing to the garrison of the Mediterranean island of Malta. On 4 July 1952, the RAAF dispatched 260 personnel of No 78 Wing (comprising Nos 75 and 76 Fighter Squadron, both at half-strength; No 478 Maintenance Squadron; and No 378 Base Squadron) to Valletta on board the liner Asturias.

14. United Nations Missions in Sudan 

  • Australian forces first served in the Sudan, under British Imperial command, during the 1880s. Positioned adjacent to the maritime trade route from Europe and North Africa to Australia, the security of the Sudan region is important for our national interest as well as for international humanitarian reasons. This century, the Australian Defence Force and the RAAF in particular has had an ongoing involvement with the Sudan region since 2005.

15. Australian Army Training Team: Iraq Rotation 8 

  • The Australian Army Training Team in Iraq (AATT-I) was established in October 2004 to train Iraq Army personnel as part of Australian Defence Force Operation Catalyst. Despite being designated ‘Army’, it is not widely known that there also have been many RAAF personnel deployed with the AATT-I.

Historical Summaries

The Search for Saddam's Weapons: RAAF inspectors with UNSCOM in the 1990s

Helping Rwanda Recover From Genocide: RAAF medics serving with UNAMIR in 1994-95

Flight Simulators in the RAAF

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