Australian & New Zealand Military Aircraft Serials & History

RAAF Grumman G-21A Goose
1 Air Ambulance Unit, RAAF

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  Formed on 15 February 1941 at Laverton, No 1 Air Ambulance Unit (1 AAU), was one of the few non EATS Article XV RAAF units to operate under RAF control and its sole Grumman Goose HK822 has an unusual story.

1 AAU left Australia for the Middle East in April 1941 and began flying from Gaza in August 1941. With its eclectic mix of DH.86, Bristol Bombay, Lockheed Lodestar and Grumman Goose (also referred to in unit records as a "Grumman Widgeon" and "Grumman Amphibian") aircraft, the unit played a vital role in supporting AIF and other allied forces with Air Ambulance services in the North African, Middle East and Mediterranean areas of operation.

The Goose itself is an interesting in being the only one taken on RAAF charge and seems to have been an unexpected addition to the unit. First mention of it appears in the unit records in the form of a letter from Major A.J.L.McDonnell. A/Chief Commissioner of the Australian Comforts Fund (ACF) at the Australian Soldiers Club in Jerusalem who wrote:

"With reference to the Grumman Widgeon No.1212, I enclose a copy of the letter from the manager R.N.A.R.Y and my answer to him for your information.
I presume that this is the machine handed to you on April 21st last as I have had no advice of any other being forwarded."

In a memo titled "Aircraft made available by Australian Comforts Fund for No.1 Air Ambulance Unit" dated 04/06/1942 Flight Lieutenant Hatfield (CO 1 AAU) wrote to Wing Commander Montgomery at Rear Air Headquarters, RAF, Western Desert:

"On the 20th April, I was called to A.I.F. Headquarters Heliopolis, and informed by Lt. Colonel Gorman, Chief Commissioner of the Australian Comforts Fund, that he had been notified of the arrival of an Ambulance Aircraft consigned from an American Charitable organisation to the A.C.F.

As there is no section of the A.I.F. or Australian Comforts Fund capable of operating this aircraft, and knowing that this unit was operating in the Middle East, he made the aircraft available to us, and notified headquarters, R.A.F., Middle East accordingly.

I have now received the notes, copies of which are enclosed, and would ask your headquarters to take the necessary action to have the aircraft assembled and consigned to this unit, or advise me if there is an further action that I should take."

After considerable delays, the aircraft was finally received by 1 AAU on 01/12/1942 only to be lost at sea just over a week later during "landing practice".

Note: Some references quote that this aircraft had once been registered as G-AFKJ to Lord Beaverbrook, but in fact that aircraft became Goose Mark I, MV993, of No. 24 Squadron RAF based at Hendon, Middlesex which is pictured above.

Aircraft Serial Type CN Aircraft History
HK822 G-21A 1212
Presented to the RAF and impressed with the Serial HK822,
Operated as "N" Sea Rescue Flight,
20/04/1942 ACF advises 1 AAU of transfer of aircraft (referred to as Grumman Widgeon 1212),
21/05/1942 Letter from ACF to 1 AAU advising arrangement for transfer,
04/06/1942 Memo from 1 AAU to RAH WD HQ requesting assistance to have the aircraft assembled and consigned,
06/11/1942 Allotted from Sea Rescue Flight to 1 AAU, AHQ Western Desert to arrange delivery with HQ 201 Group.
09/11/1942 Aircraft noted in 1 AAU monthly Census of Aircraft as allotted from Sea Rescue Flight, HQ DAF via BARU,
01/12/1942 Received by 1 AAU ex BARU Heliopolis Wasp Junior engines 2425 (Port) & 2484 (Starboard),
09/12/1942 Crashed in the Mediterranean 15m N of Benghazi on 9 Dec 1942 during 'landing tests" with all crew eventually rescued, All survived the crash and escaped to a rubber dinghy. They were located by PO Carson and PO Meldrum in A31-7 the next morning and rescued by ship (Barton) or Walrus (Lever) in the afternoon
Pilots were F/Lt J Bartle and P/O McWilliam along with passengers F/O O'Donnell, LAC G R Richards, LAC J Richards, LAC G (or C) Allen & AC1 W Milburn (RAF).

Page Author: Brendan Cowan.

Source: National Archives, British Military Aircraft Serials 1911-1979, Bruce Robertson, Australian War Memorial, , , , Air Britain, Succour From The Sky – Leonard Barton , RAAF Air Ambulance and Medical Air Evacuation Units – John Lever,

Emails: Message Board Discussion , Michael Louey, Gordon Birkett,

Updated 06 June 2014


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