Historic Bellman Hangar at Evans Head Undergoes Refit for F-111

There were 17 Bellman Hangars at the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome during World War II.  Only one remains (gray box outline)

There were 17 Bellman Hangars at the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome during World War II. Only one remains (gray box outline) and it is being restored to accommodate an F-111

More than 5,500 personnel trained at No. 1 Bombing and Gunnery School and No. 1 Air Observers School at Evans Head during World War II under the Empire Air Training Scheme.  17 Bellman Hangars were built at the time to accommodate a large aircraft fleet for repair and maintenance  but only one now remains.  The RAAF Station operated 7 days a week 24 hours a day during the War.

Because of the importance of the facility in World War II and the contribution it made to the war effort the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome was listed on the NSW State Heritage Register in November 2002 following an application from the community-based Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Committee Inc.  The listing had wide support from the Australian community.

Despite the Heritage Listing of the site the hangar has been left to deteriorate by Richmond Valley Council since it was turned over by the Federal Government in 1992.

The picture below shows the hangar as it was in 1993.

Northern side of the Bellman Hangar in 1992.  Photograph courtesy John Davies

Northern side of the Bellman Hangar in 1992. Photograph courtesy John Davies

The hangar as it was from the inside in 2013

The northern end of the Bellman Hangar from the inside showing the deteriorated state of the hangar doors and missing panels.  Despite the state of the hangar and the recent 'cyclonic' weather conditions the hangar is still standing more than 70 years after it was built

The northern end of the Bellman Hangar from the inside showing the deteriorated state of the northern hangar doors and missing panels. Despite the state of the hangar and the recent ‘cyclonic’ weather conditions the hangar is still standing more than 70 years after it was built

The hangar is now being taken down for restoration work to be reassembled on the same spot as soon as the rehabilitation of the materials has been completed.

The following photographs show the progress of the work over the past couple of weeks:

The cladding on the western side of the hangar was removed first

The cladding on the western side of the hangar was removed first

Part of the roof was then removed on the western side of the hangar.  Various parts of the hangar structure were retained for restoration work.

Part of the roof was then removed on the western side of the hangar. Various parts of the hangar structure were retained for restoration work.

Roof partially removed and southern panels being taken down

Roof partially removed and southern panels being taken down

The northern and southern doors were then removed along with paneling and part of the roof on the eastern side.  The Men's Shed on the eastern side of the hangar was retained and  isolated from the hangar by a firewall.

The northern and southern doors were then removed along with paneling and part of the roof on the eastern side. The Men’s Shed on the eastern side of the hangar was retained and isolated from the hangar by a firewall.

Skeleton of the Mechano-like hangar with some of the roof cladding intact.

Bellman Hangar in the background as at ANZAC Day 2013.

Bellman Hangar in the background as at ANZAC Day 2013.  Foreground shows annual ANZAC service at the Aerodrome’s Memorial Garden.  This year’s service was attended by World War II  WAAAF and RAAF who trained at Evans Head and active RAAF personnel

Whole sections of the roof being removed by crane

Whole sections of the roof being removed by crane after ANZAC Day

Getting ready to remove another roof section with crane

Getting ready to remove another roof section with crane

The roof is off

The roof is off

uprights on western side are to be taken down and refurbished

Uprights on western side are to be taken down and refurbished

Whole roof panels on the ground beside the hangar, some in pretty poor condition but not unexpected from a structure that's more than 70 years old and exposed to weather with virtually no maintenance

Whole roof panels on the ground beside the hangar, some in pretty poor condition but not unexpected from a structure that’s more than 70 years old and exposed to weather with virtually no maintenance

Extensive rust was found in some sections.  It was only a matter of time before some panels would fail

Extensive rust was found in some sections. It was only a matter of time before some sections would fail

failed roof section

Failed roof section

Detail of roof section joint

Detail of roof section joint

The Bellman Hangar is being restored to accommodate an F-111.  The Australian Government has assigned 6 retired F-111’s to various museums around Australia.  Evans Head is one of those six facilities.

Senior RAAF Officer at 2012 announcement of the F-111 for Evans Head

Senior RAAF Officer with F-111 model at 2012 announcement of the F-111 for Evans Head.  Proposed Museum for Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome shown in the background

It is anticipated that the F-111 will be delivered in August 2013 with an official opening of the facility at around that time.   The F-111 is a real coup for the community and is part of the continuing history of the RAAF at Evans Head of more than 70 years.  The Weapons Range at Evans Head has been used extensively by F-111’s for training purposes.

 

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