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March 6, 2021

Push for national listing of aerodrome

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World War II veteran Jack Bell is pushing for national listing of the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome.
World War II veteran Jack Bell is pushing for national listing of the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome.

Richard Gates

A 95-year-old World War II veteran has called for the Heritage Listing of the historic Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome at the national level.

Dr Jack Bell made the call at the official unveiling of the F-111 and refurbished Bellman Hangar at the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome last weekend,

Jack Bell trained at No 1 Bombing and Gunnery School at Evans Head in 1940 under the Empire Air Training Scheme and served in north Africa with the RAAF.

Mr Bell was badly wounded and burnt when his plane was shot down and he spent three years in a POW camp in Germany in very difficult conditions on starvation rations.

More than 1,000 of his comrades-in-arms who trained at Evans Head were killed during the war.

An emotional Mr Bell said that the work of the Evans Head Living Museum in preserving the history of Evans Head during World War II, particularly with regard to the records of those who served in Bomber Command, which had a very high mortality rate, was very important to veterans.

At the end of his address Mr Bell was given a standing ovation by an emotionally engaged audience.

Mr Bell spoke with Dr Brendan Nelson, director of the Australian War Memorial, at the unveiling ceremony and gave his strong support for the work being done at Evans Head.

The Evans Head Living Museum has established a connection with Bomber Command in Hendon, England, which Mr Bell visited recently.

Hendon has records of RAAF personnel who served in RAF squadrons during the war.

Established in 2003, the Evans Museum has as one of its major themes the World War II history of Evans Head and has published the volume Wings at War: The RAAF at Evans Head 1939–1945.

The Aerodrome was listed on the NSW State Heritage Register in November 2002 following a NSW state government cabinet meeting at Evans Head.

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  1. Great work Jack,
    A very emotional time for you reliving your past for all of us, but it showed the true character and strength of all of our diggers who fought for our freedom.
    While no-one likes wars and conflict it is a part of life and history, and should be recognised.
    As Dr Nelson said at the opening history is an important part of our lives, the present is where we remember it, and the future is to teach in time generations about it. Dr Nelson put it quite clearly….if we do not remember our history now it will be lost to future generations….
    Halden Boyd – Evans Head

  2. I fully support Jack Bell in his call to heritage list Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome on a national basis. Perhaps this could be the saving grace for the aerodrome from falling into the hands of a private developer?

    The Transfer Deed of 1992 from the Federal Government to the local Council stated the aerodrome had to be kept open for public use on a permanent basis and could not be sold without the approval of the Minister.

    I am extremely concerned at the way the aerodrome has been “sold” by the Richmond Valley Council, by the backdoor, without going to official tender, and without Ministerial approval.

    I am also concerned at the way the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Heritage Aviation Association is progressively attempting to take over the Evans Head Living Museum.

    EHMAHAA was registered in November 2011 and it had nothing – no artefacts – no museum – no collection of memorabilia – no WW2 history – no premises – no nothing, yet it managed to persuade the authorities that it had “a museum” and was worthy of getting a F-111.

    Thanks to an approach by Janelle Saffin MP, it ended up getting a F-111 for $1 per year, and the Bellman hangar to put it in for another $1 per year. Now you can have your photo taken in the flying pig for a cool $25 per shot!

    At the AGM on 7th April 2013, the treasurer’s report was read out and the association had $640 in the bank account. Surprisingly, the treasurer also happens to be the developer/purchaser of the aerodrome!

    I invite you to visit the website http://www.ehmahaa.org.au and you will see there is a claim that the Evans Head Living Museum is “our museum”, meaning EHMAHAAs. Maybe Mr Kinnish can substantiate this takeover?

    Kevin Hogan has now entered the fray with a promise of $185,000, which quite frankly would be better spent on our severely depleted hospital system, or removing the many potholes from our roads. It never ceases to amaze me how wannabe politicians make radical promises to gain the votes!

    Dr Richard Gates was the founding president of the Evans Head Living Museum which he was instrumental in setting up and opening some ten years ago.

    I joined EHMAHAA at the Great Eastern Fly In in January 2013. Despite being a member of the EHMAHAA, I was not allowed to attend the opening ceremony where Jack Bell spoke. I was told by email that I could only visit the museum between 9am and 12am on Sunday morning, and would be required to make a $5 donation for the viewing. I’ve still got my $5!

    Why any one would want to join EHMAHAA is beyond me, as it appears to be a front for the developer/purchaser to use as a marketing tool to sell his airpark lots.

    I believe there should be an investigation into why, and the terms on which, Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome has been sold.

    Margaret Howes
    320 Moylans Lane
    Empire Vale NSW 2478


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