RAAF No. 6 Service Flight Training School
|Type of organisation:||Government|
|Also known as:||No 6 SFTS, 6 SFTS Mallala|
|Street number:||Section 262|
|Street suffix:||Hundred of Grace|
|Town or locality:||Mallala|
|Business or purpose:||Service Flight Training School|
In 1939 the Federal Government purchased a flat area of farming land 1 mile north of Mallala township on which to build an aerodrome suitable for training pilots. Jim East recalls the establishment of the aerodrome, and the day a long goods train arrived at the Mallala Station with many wagons carrying large earth moving and road making equipment, and items to build hangars and living quarters. Ray Earl remembers when a timber yard was established in the precinct of the railway yards to supply lengths of timber for construction work at the air base. Mallala was the largest RAAF base in South Australia, with 19 Bellman hangars at its peak.
In 1941, No. 6 Service Flying Training School was formed with a strength of 15 officers, four warrant-officers and 184 other ranks under the command of Wing Cdr R.N. Brearley DSO, MC, AFC. Accommodation for the Officers and their families was sought in the town and the surrounding district. This was a medium-proficiency school where aircrew who had already learned elementary flying at a base such as Parafield increased their experience before moving on to a specialist school such as Port Pirie or Mount Gambier.
The young men spent countless hours learning to take off, circle the airfield and then land. This procedure was repeated endlessly, until they moved on to navigational skills, followed by night time maneuvers.
When considered proficient in these basic skills the men were sent to other training bases for more complex tuition. By 1942 personnel numbered 1,927 including 285 trainees, who learned to fly Ansons, Oxfords, Moth Minors and Tiger Moths. The Mallala railway platform was lengthened to accommodate the increased number of carriages for the trains which carried the air force personnel on leave.
Local businessmen were able to supply goods and labour to the base. Of an evening the pies and pasties from Algar's Bakery Shop were hot favourites when sold at the main gates. Keith Reid supplied fresh fruit and vegetables to the base.
Many community events were attended by service personnel and their uniforms featured prominently at Sunday evening Methodist Church Services and Socials.
On Saturday night there were either balls or 'flicks' at the Institute, which offered a popular diversion from their barrack life.
A total of 2,257 trainees passed out before the unit ceased to function as No. 6 SFTS on 31 December 1945.
The base continued as an RAAF facility until 1960.
- Mallala Museum research notes