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60th anniversary VP day air pageant and ceremony, Canberra 2005.

Canberra, the national capital, was the centre of Australian VP Day 60th Anniversary commemorations over the weekend of Saturday 13 August to Monday 15 August. The key feature of this once-in-a-lifetime event was the rolling air pageant of historic and serving military aircraft over each of the three days.

Over the weekend, the parkland gardens of the northern shore of Lake Burley Griffin, close by the City Centre, were the centrepiece of the free public events. Public transport was also provided free, thanks to cooperation between the Federal and ACT governments. Saturday and Sunday included displays of vintage and current military vehicles, parachuting, numerous bands and an astonishingly rich series of flypasts on each day. The final event was Monday's VP Day Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial Parade Ground on Anzac Parade, Campbell.

Air Pageant Sunday 14 August

The day was sunny and cool, a typical early Spring day for Canberra. From mid-afternoon the audience gathered in expectation of the day's grand finale, a big fireworks display with an F111 pair doing the flaming "dump and burn" routine in a low flypast over the water. The afternoon highlight was the packed two-hour air display, opening with the Chinook precision drop of the Australian and NZ para teams. The pageant then moved into a historic review.

World War II aircraft were centre stage for the next 30 minutes. First came a fighter trio: three passes, low and slow, low and fast, by Curtiss P40N Kittyhawk, Spitfire Mark VIII and CAC CA18 Mk 23 Mustang.

As the fighters exited the clockwise circuit, a menacing black Catalina and a purposeful grey Dakota approached from the West, droning low over Commonwealth Avenue bridge, to be wrung around the curving Lakeside circuit with multiple passes in fine style.

The Hudson came next, bellowing along solo, again in multiple slow and fast low passes. During their display, each formation of WWII aircraft was greeted with crackling volleys of "AA Fire" from the pyrotechnics barges moored in the Lake.

The World War II contingent, mostly dressed in appropriate South West Pacific theatre colours, was warmly received by the crowd.

The pageant then moved forward into the Korean War period with the roaring whistle and menacing moan of Vampire and Meteor overhead in multiple close-concert passes, completed by a single high-speed blue-note pass from the Meteor.

The Vietnam War era was represented by a formation flypast of Iroquois helicopter, a Cessna O-2 and a Caribou, in multiple passes featuring tight turns and return passes over the Lake.

The veteran element of the show was rounded out with the appearance of a lone Canberra bomber, almost silent on approach but blistering by in the last passes of the afternoon for this observer.

As I walked back toward the city, a lone RAAF F/A-18 Hornet in commemorative colours appeared, to split the air thunderously in a combination of low, slow, fast and high-power manoeuvres.

The air pageant carried on late into the afternoon. A Hudson, Canberra and F111 formation; a mock Orion, Seasprite and clearance diver operation in the Lake; a span-the-ages fighter formation (Spitfire, Kittyhawk, Mustang, Meteor, and Hornet); and finally a mass helicopter flypast to end the afternoon display.

The evening event started towards sunset, with a Roulettes display followed by another cavalcade of air power, leading to the final fireworks accompanied by Army Howitzer volleys from across the Lake, concluding with The Ode. The grand finale: a final burst of fireworks and the F 111 "dump and burn" spectacle.

About 100,000 people attended the Sunday afternoon and evening events, many rugged up for the after-sunset chill. Locals, veterans and many other visitors crowded the shoreline from Regatta Point to Rondo Terrace and King's Park, in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Final VP Day Ceremony Monday 15 August

The final event of the weekend of commemoration was the 60th Anniversary VP Day Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial. 60 years ago, a then infant Canberra held a similar service, attended by what was then a fair crowd on just such a bright, chill and blustery Spring day. On 15 August 2005 there were many more people than 60 years before, perhaps as many as 5,000 on a work-a-day Monday.

The mid-morning Service was graced with the presence of the Federation Guard, Australia's tri-service ceremonial unit, who gave a cracking drill display to the music of the RMC Duntroon Band and RAN Band in front of a receptive and appreciative audience of veterans and friends alike.

The Prime Minister, the Hon John Howard and the Governor General Michael Jeffery AC CVO MC were in attendance. Pacific Theatre allies were represented by their diplomatic corps. A modest amount of speechifying, prayers, familiar and traditional hymns, the solemn mounting of the Catafalque Party, reading of the Ode, the laying of flowers, the Last Post and a minute's silence made up the service. For the first time in 60 years, the Ambassador for Japan paid his respects in the wreath-laying ceremony.

The highlight of the service was the closing flypast. Over strains of the National Anthem, the WWII fighter trio of Curtiss P40N Kittyhawk, Spitfire Mark VIII and CAC CA 18 Mustang were the first to arrive in a low climbing pass, shortly followed by a pair of RAAF F/A-18 Hornets in a high speed pass and climb, and finally the RAAF PC-9/A Roulettes with an elegant upward starburst for six, just short of the parade ground.

Aircraft attending Sunday August 14 2005 VP Day Air Pageant, Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra

Temora Aviation Museum:

A strong contingent (Spitfire, Hudson, Tiger Moth, Meteor, Vampire, Canberra, and Cessna O-2A) from Temora Aviation Museum displayed with elan during the Air Pageant in consort with other aircraft. The Spitfire also took part in the final VP Day Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIII VH-HET S/N A58-758

The last RAAF Spitfire delivered, ex Col Pay collection, and now painted as A58-602 RG-V of W-Cdr R.H. "Bobby" Gibbes DSO DFC and Bar 457 Squadron RAAF at Darwin

Lockheed Hudson VH-KOY S/N A16-112

Now repainted as Hudson III A16-211 of No. 6 Squadron RAAF (serving in the Battle for Milne Bay and later with No. 2 Squadron RAAF. This aircraft is the only flying Hudson in the world.

de Havilland Vampire T.35 VH-VAM c/n 4139, S/N A79-617

Ex No. 1 Advance Flying Training School, RAAF Pearce in Western Australia. Exported to USA, and returned to Australia in 1998.

Gloster Meteor F.8 VH-MBX S/N VZ467

Now in 77 Squadron RAAF colours. Ex RAF, serving until 1982 as a target tug. Passed into private ownership in the UK, later purchased and brought to Australia, flying here from 2001. This aircraft is the only flying single-seat Meteor in the world.

English Electric Canberra TT.18 VH-ZSQ S/N WJ680

Now in 2 Squadron RAAF colours. Retired from service with 100 Squadron RAF December 1991. Passed into private ownership as G-BURM and purchased by Temora Aviation Museum 2001.

Cessna 0-2A "Oscar Deuce" VH-OII S/N 67-21407

DH82A Tiger Moth VH-UVZ Military S/N: A17-691

Historic Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS):

HARS of Albion Park, Wollongong sent the matt-black Catalina and a Dakota.

Consolidated PBY-6A Catalina-VH-PBZ c/n 2043 painted as OX-V A24-362 of 43 Sqn RAAF.

Originally, the two HARS Dakotas were scheduled: Douglas C47 Dakota A65-94 VH-EAF (of 38 Squadron RAAF and later ARDU) and A65-95 VH-EAE (of ARDU). Only one was present on the Sunday, and I omitted to record which.

Other historic military aircraft attending

In addition, appearing in WWII Fighter formation with Temora's Mark VIII Spitfire were:

P40N Kittyhawk

Murray Griffith's Precision Aerospace Pacific Fighters Museum at Wangaratta, Victoria, sent P40N 5-CU "Little Jeanne" Serial Number 42-105915 of 49th FG, 7th FS aka VH-KTI. The Kittyhawk also took part in the final VP Day Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.

CAC CA-18 Mk 23 Mustang A68-170

From the RAAF Museum Point Cook, flown as A68-750 G-AM which served in Japan with 77 Squadron RAAF. The Mustang also took part in the final VP Day Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial. These were the last display flights of the RAAF Museum Mustang.

Serving Australian Defence Forces aircraft

Attended in strength and displayed with great elan.


DHC6 Caribou, No. 38 squadron,

F/A-18 Hornet No. 75 Squadron.

1 x AP-3C Orion These aircraft serve with 10 Squadron RAAF and 11 Squadron RAAF.

2 x F111C Aircraft No. 26 Squadron (closing fireworks display, Sunday)

Army helicopters:

CH47-D Chinook, 5th Aviation Regiment, C Sqn (dropping Australian Army Red Berets and NZ Army Kiwi Blue para teams)

A 17 Kiowa

A25 Sikorsky S-70A Black Hawk

A2/N9 Bell UH-1 Iroquois

RAN helicopters:

2x N22 Aerospatiale AS350B Squirrel, 723 Squadron RAN

1 x N16 Westland Mk.50A Sea King 817 Squadron RAN

1 x N29 Kaman SH-2G(A) Super Sea Sprite 805 Squadron RAN http :// fault.htm

Final flypast Mon 15 August:

VP Day Ceremony Australian War Memorial Parade Ground, Anzac Parade, Canberra

Supermarine Spitfire Mk VIII A58-758 "A58-602 RG-V" (Temora)

Curtiss P40N 5-CU Kittyhawk "Little Jeanne" (Murray Griffith)

CAC CA-18 Mk 23 Mustang A68-170 "A68-750 G-AM" (RAAF Museum)

2x F/A-18 Hornet RAAF No. 75 Squadron

6xPilatus PC-9/A RAAF Roulettes

DoD/RAAF VP Day images:

Organisers and participants are to be congratulated on a fine, varied and rich display of historic and serving defence forces aircraft, over three highly charged days recognising the 60th anniversary of VP day.
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Author:Clark, Don
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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