Since the end of WW11, the RAAF Base in East Sale, Victoria, has been a post-graduate flight training base. The Base’s Central Flying School also trains the formation aerobatic team known as ‘The Roulettes’, which show off the high skill levels of military pilots at their many public performances.
One of the most commonly asked questions at Sale’s Visitor Info Centre is if you can visit the RAAF Base…..you can, but a group visit has to be arranged! Some years ago, Amy Szokolik, then manager of the VIC, mentioned this interest in the RAAF to the Wellington Shire Council and to the local RSL. She found that everyone seemed to know of someone who either had great knowledge or a wonderful collection of military memorabilia!
The end result, five years ago, was the birth of an idea – the Gippsland Armed Forces Museum. A committee was formed and Warrant Officer Neville Gibbins from the RAAF Base has been a driving force rallying 18 very loyal volunteers to preserve Gippsland’s Defence Force heritage.
In 2003 Sale’s historic Drill Hall of the 4/19 Prince of Wales Lighthorse Regiment became available – on a temporary basis, – as TAFE has its eye on the land. The Museum Committee decided to go for it and Wellington Council was very supportive.
The museum is extensive with rooms dedicated to different aspects /different wars from the Boer war until present, with a particular focus on contributions made by Gippslanders. Exhibits range from large military vehicles to documents and there is also a wonderful display of model aircraft. A key exhibit is the award-winning Auchterlonie family’s photographic record plus the very camera that filmed the unloading of cavalry horses on the beaches at Gallipolli.
A teacher/volunteer has written a program to guide children through the exhibits and Amy says the volunteers manning the museum keep a box of tissues on hand as many visitors find some items very moving….one elderly lady found herself looking at a photo she had not seen before…of a lost brother.
The enthusiastic brigade of volunteers agree the museum is filling a need in the community – they are regularly asked about medals found in a tin in an elderly relative’s shed. They also use their networks to try and answer visitors’ questions.
The Museum is open from Monday to Friday 10 -4 pm or by appointment. They cater for schools and coaches and have had well over 3000 visitors in a little over one year.