If you live on or around Bradfield Rd in Lindfield you may know that the area holds particular national significance. The Royal Australian Air Force had a station here which was known as RAAF Bradfield Park. During the Second World War, thousands of RAAF recruits trained here before being funneled into roles such as pilots, navigators, wireless operators and gunners.
In August 1942, 26 year-old Len Marjason began training at RAAF Bradfield Park. The course included navigation, Morse code, aircraft recognition, air control, meteorology and coordination tests. The men were free from Saturday afternoons to Monday mornings allowing them to spend time with their families.
In February 1943 Len was ordered to depart for pilot training in Canada as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme. The men were moved so quickly that many were unable to contact their families before they sailed. Len did not see his wife again for almost three years.
Len flew 30 missions as a B-24 Liberator bomber pilot, with many close scrapes. His most rewarding mission was flying Allied Prisoners of War back to England after years of captivity.
Serendipitous reunions: Early in 1944 Len bumped into his brother Ken in London outside the Boomerang Club (provided for Australia’s forces during the war). Ken was a Lieutenant in the Navy and they had not seen each other for over a year. Later that year, during a week’s leave in Alexandria, Egypt, Len bumped into his brother again, this time along with Ken’s Navy comrade and fellow Lieutenant the future Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Before the war Bradfield Park was the setting for the 1938 Australasian Scout Jamboree, with 10,000 boys from sixteen countries in attendance. A memorial stone commemorating the event can be found in the little triangular park at the intersection of Bradfield Rd and Moore Avenue. Photo: H. Hills in The Railway came to Ku-ring-gai.
After the war Bradfield Park had another life as a migrant hostel to help ease the housing shortage in Sydney. Today, leafy suburban streets and a CSIRO measurement laboratory occupy the area.
The housing settlements established after the war operated from the late 1940s to the early 1970s and through the years residents were of very diverse backgrounds – from European refugees displaced by the war and British migrants seeking a new life, to ordinary Australians needing rental accommodation in a time of great housing shortage. For further reading explore Michael Hogan’s Almost Like Home.
Among the RAAF airmen who trained at Bradfield Park was my great-uncle, Flight Sergeant Ian Miller, a Lancaster bomber pilot who was killed in action in 1943. I was privileged to pay tribute at his grave near Munich in 2008.
All Saints’ Air Force Memorial Church on Moore Avenue was named in honour of RAAF Bradfield Park and the men and women who served in the RAAF during the war.
Photo: Robert C. Johnston
This article is dedicated to the 200,000 RAAF and WAAAF members, including 15,624 aircrew, who passed through Bradfield Park – many making the supreme sacrifice.
Did you train at Bradfield Park during the war?
Did you live in the migrant hostel?
Have you found any backyard relics?
Some of the streets today on the land: Bradfield Rd, Charles St, Edmund St, Brevet Av, Squadron Ct, Carramar Rd, Guyong St.
Special thanks to Len Marjason for allowing me access to his memoirs.