608 Squadron History

608 (Town of Gawler) Squadron History

8FLT/608SQN AIRTC/AAFC

In December, 1950, the Gawler Branch of the Air Force Association began investigating the possibility of forming a Flight of the Air Training Corps, and a sub-committee was formed to launch what was eventually to become No. 8 Flight, Gawler.

On June 8, 1951, a public meeting was called, and the gathering was addressed by SQNLDR R Rechner, DFC, State Commandant, and FLTLT K F Müller, Commanding Officer of the South Australian Squadron Air Training Corps. Almost immediately following this meeting, preliminary training began for 23 cadets.  It was not until December 4, 1951, however, that official recognition of the Flight was forthcoming.

The foundation staff of reservists and civilian lecturers was as follows:

  • Officer Commanding the Flight, FLTLT A J V Riggs;
  • Executive Officer FLGOFF R P Day;
  • WOFF’s K S Cheek and L Leak;
  • SGT J Power;
  • CPL H L Pope;
  • Mr. R Gordon and,
  • Dr P Hicks.

From its inception, No. 8 Flight held its parade in Forrester’s Hall in Murray Street, Gawler.  This was not a very satisfactory arrangement however, as only one room, 3.0 x 4.0m, was set aside solely for the use of the ATC. The Flight operated out of this address for the next seven years until it was finally decided that a bigger premises was indeed required.

For several years, No. 8 Flight received assistance from Reservists at Barton Terrace (then HQ in North Adelaide).  Particular thanks going to FLTLT J B O’Leary, FLGOFF R L Arney, and WOFFs. Cutting, Everton and Hamer (ATC). These gentlemen provided the much needed support to guide the Flight in its operations both physically and administratively.

On the first cadets’ roll appear some names which have become well known here in South Australia. Two of these were very popular SANFL players; K I (Big Bill) Wedding (Norwood) and Peter (Bronco) Livesey (West Torrens), circa 1962. Ray Trenowden was also among the initial intake, and was awarded the first Flying Scholarship to No. 8 Flight in 1952.  Ray continued with his flying after leaving the Cadets; joining No. 24 (Fighter) (City of Adelaide) Squadron as a Citizen Air Force PLTOFF flying P-51 Mustangs out of RAAF Mallala, SA. Whilst on deployment to Townsville, QLD in May 1956 he was forced to make a wheels up landing at Cairns Airfield in A68-179. Although he was unhurt the aircraft had to be written off. Unfortunately Ray was later killed in a P-51 Mustang flying accident on 2 February 1957. Whilst piloting A68-152 his aircraft flew into the ground, 16km north of Balaklava, SA killing him instantly. It is unknown what caused the accident. It was most regrettable that such a fine, intelligent young man was killed in this manner. He was buried with full military honours two days later.  Ray’s parents have perpetuated his memory in the Flight by donating a trophy (known as the Ray Trenowden Memorial Trophy) for annual competition, and this is awarded to the outstanding cadet each year.  The trophy was keenly contested, and the thanks from all from No. 8 Flight go to Mr. and Mrs P Trenowden who have always been great friends and keen supporters of this Flight. Unfortunately the whereabouts of this trophy is now unknown to the squadron (2011).

In 1952, an all out publicity campaign was carried out by the Squadron to boost the number of recruits for the Gawler Flight.  The big day was the Gawler Show Day in September. The Gawler Branch of the Air Force Association printed 15,000 pamphlets to advertise their Annual Ball and gave some space to ATC recruiting.  These were dropped from a 24 Squadron Wirraway by FLTLT A W G Dawkins on Gawler and surrounding districts. The SA Squadron (including the band) marched through the main street to the Show Ground where the band displayed itself in the usual meticulous manner.  The marching of the whole Squadron through the entrance gates caused havoc among the gate-keepers who seemed undecided as to whether or not we had tickets.  (I leave it to your imagination).

In the sporting field, No 8 Flight had also acquitted itself very well.  The annual inter-flight athletics carnival was anticipated with keen interest each year. As early as 1951, Gawler had been competing and have been runners-up on several occasions.

Rifle shooting prowess has been spasmodic.  Probably the best period was 1956-57.  The Gawler team were outright winners in 1956 and were beaten in a shoot-off in 1957.  One of the cadets; Roger Sweeney was the most outstanding shot and was the back-bone of the team in 1956-57. During this period he was also picked for the Squadron Shooting Team.

In 1958 No. 8 Flight with 25 members, moved to the old RAAF (Gawler) Station at Willaston, which was then under the control of the Commonwealth Hostels Ltd.  With what seemed like unrestricted space the Flight almost became lost.  The move had the desired effect, however, in that cadets became more enthusiastic and more applications for enrolment were received. Initially the old base Pharmacy was used for the office, lecture rooms and canteen. This building is now the Headquarters of the Squadron and other buildings have been erected over the years greatly expanding the squadron’s facilities. Indeed 608SQN is the only AAFC unit on its own Defence Force base in Australia. 

In 1959, No. 9 Flight (Barossa Flight) was amalgamated with Gawler. It was immediately apparent that all, both Reservists and Cadets, who made the transfer to Gawler, were pleased with the way in which the two Flights joined to make a strong, happy and efficient Flight.

Today little is known of the Flight’s activities through the decades of the 1960’s to the 1990’s, much of the history during that period having been lost; suffice it to say the Flight was active as some 400 cadets had been trained up to November 1977 when a 25th Anniversary dinner was held on base at Willaston. It would appear that the unit survived reasonably intact over the period of the mid Seventies when the whole Cadet scheme was close to folding due to the Labor governments’ erroneous decision to abolish cadet training.

In December 2001 the squadron celebrated fifty years of continuous service to the youth and community of Gawler. A reunion dinner was held on the 8th December and the inaugural 608SQN Banner was first paraded. 

In April 2005, long time serving member of the squadron; FLTLT (AAFC) Bev Roediger retired. FLTLT(AAFC) Roediger was the primary instructor in all things aviation and was a fully qualified instructor pilot and an exceptional glider pilot. At one time she was the most qualified female pilot in Australia; having flown pioneering commercial flights in New Guinea and operating her own Flying School in Victoria in the 1970’s. Bev was instrumental in many of the cadets going on to careers in aviation at the conclusion of their cadet service.

The Catalina Trophy was awarded by the Squadron/Wing to the best Flight/Squadron overall each year for training, administration and overall performance. 8FLT/608SQN has worn this prestigious award four times. Though the awarding of this trophy lapsed for a few years; 6Wing is now restoring it to its former glory and 608SQN look forward to winning it again.

Former Commanding Officer, FLTLT(AAFC) Alison Koslowicz holds the distinction of being the first female NCO to be promoted to the rank of WOFF. Alison went on to command the squadron for nine years (2001-2009) before retiring after some 23 years of service to the AIRTC/AAFC. She was preceded by her husband David who joined the squadron at thirteen and eventually rose to command the unit for ten years. FLTLT(AAFC) David Koslowicz continues his service as the AAFC LOGO (6LOGFLT) with 6WING at RAAF Edinburgh.

Known as the quiet achiever, 8FLT/608SQN continues to serve the region well. The admission of girls into the Air Training Corps in 1982 has led to further expansion in numbers and currently, (2012) some twelve girls are on the roll; some of whom hold senior NCO ranks and positions within the Squadron. 

Since the turn of the century the squadron has continued to train cadets in all facets of the curriculum and conduct training camps on a regular basis. In the last ten years 608SQN has seen a number of its members go on to successful careers in the ADF either via Direct Entry or via ADFA. Ex squadron members have served the nation well with some seeing service in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places of conflict or under the banner of the United Nations in Peace Keeping/Peace Enforcement operations.

2010 a new year and a new CO. PLTOFF(AAFC) Lee Murphy assumed command of the squadron on FLTLT(AAFC) Alison Koslowicz's retirement. In April 2010 the squadron was successful in its Cadet Initiated Activity bid and twenty plus members of 608/613 Squadrons had a week travelling to Temora, NSW (Airshow) Pt Cook (RAAF Museum) and Puckapunyal (Army Museum of Armour) and Sovereign Hill, VIC. A further accolade for the squadron was the selection of CFSGT Daniel Marron as Cadet of the Year for 6WG to attend Remembrance Day activities in Canberra in November 2010.

The year 2011 was a busy year for the squadron. The JNCO Course held in January at RAAF Edinburgh saw LCDT Jessica Smithson take out the DUX of the Course; winning her a number of trophy’s along the way. Several members of the squadron attended the Avalon International Air Show in March. CUO Dylan Harrison-Brady went to Canada as part of the 2011 IACE outbound component in July. August saw the squadron Drill Team win the 6WING Drill Competition; an outstanding result given that the team only had four training sessions before the competition. A contingent of staff and cadets took part in the AIRTC/AAFC 70th Anniversary Parade through Adelaide in October. CDT Jack Liersch was also selected to travel to Melbourne as part of the National 70th Ann. Parade held in the same week. 

To top the year off and adding the jewel to our crown was the awarding of the Right of Freedom of Entry to the Town of Gawler to coincide with the Sixtieth Birthday of the squadron on December 4th. The squadron proudly marched through the main street in company with the Pipes and Drums of the Elizabeth City Pipes & Drum Band in front of some 500 townspeople, followed by a fly past by a Chipmunk Trainer and the 6WING AAFC Motor Falk powered glider. It was a spectical to be long remembered by all concerned.

The year 2012 saw a continuance of the usual round of training and bivouacs for the squadron. By our standards it was to be a quiet year consolidating the training and rebuilding of the squadron after the loss of some of our cadets who either timed out or moved on to greener pastures with work and so forth. Once again the squadron won the 6 WING Drill Competition only to lose it on a technicality due to wrong instructions being issued - nevertheless it was ours by a long margin. The team took it on the chin knowing they were the standout team all the way, and indeed some lessons were learned.

2013 saw another successful CIA bid being awarded to the squadron. This time some twenty odd staff and cadets undertook their Bronze Medallion Swimming training and all those who completed the ten week course passed and earned their medallions.  Further to this the squadron initiated the criteria and ran the first AAFC Swim Test to enable cadets to safely undertake waterborne activities.

2014 started off exceptionally well for the squadron with a total of eleven cadets undertaking promotion courses at the beginning of January (surely a sqn record) with CSGT Bryony Skiparis duxing her SNCO Course, CSGT Luke Tonkin coming very close in duxing his SNCO Course and CWOFF Jonathon Hancock duxing his course. CSGT Jesse Walker also received a commendation in his course report by the Wing SOGT for supporting and aiding a distressed classmate. Sadly, Jesse would pass away on 30 April as a result of a tragic motor vehicle accident. His passing left a massive hole in the squadron and was keenly felt by all. His funeral being attended by in excess of 300 people, with many cadets and staff from outside of the squadron included in the gathering.

As a result of donations and other support received from a great number of people including the Corporation of Gawler; the Cadet Club and the Kitchen have been refurbished and the Club has been renamed the CSGT Jesse Walker Club in honour of a fine young man.

In July the squadron was lucky enough to proudly accept a GROB 115A trainer that had been retired by Flight Training Adelaide (FTA) via PLTOFF Nico Robbertse who works as a Training Manager with the organisation. The air-frame will be repainted in RAAF colours and will eventually become a flight simulator greatly aiding aviation training within the squadron. 

All this as well as the normal round of training weekends and parades throughout each year. Now after more than sixty years of continuous operation 608SQN has trained in excess of 600 cadets and is regarded with distinction and honour as a can do squadron. The future is bright and we look toward it with relish to add further distinction to a glorious past.