Opportunity to farewell WWII boat

Josh Farrell

Sale residents will get the opportunity to farewell a World War II boat that spent much of its life on the Gippsland Lakes on Wednesday.

Howard Bowman will be donating the vessel to the RAAF Museum in Point Cook, but it will stop by the Port Of Sale.

Mr Bowman found the boat with his sister and her husband Jacinta and Phil Fleming in the mid-1980s on the Yarra River, near were Polly Woodside currently resides.

With his interest piqued, Bowman travelled back to the city with his father Howard Bowman Snr – a WWII veteran in the 22nd infantry battalion.

“I was by then obsessed with the vessel and its history so my sister and I jumped at the opportunity to purchase her,” Mr Bowman said.

Mr Bowman took full ownership of the boat and decided he would bring it back to the Port of Sale.

“With the help of my father and many others we motored it across Port Phillip Bay to Mordialloc Creek, where she was crane loaded on to a huge boat trailer and transported along the Princes Highway to Sale,” Mr Bowman said.

“It was a major exercise in those days without any type of escorts, where she was launched by two cranes in to the Port of Sale.”

The boat remained a familiar sight in around the waters of Gippsland over the past 35 years.

“She would be moored in freshwater in Sale through the winter and then on our return from Darwin, we would take her to Lakes Entrance for the summer,” he said.

The boat was a regular talking point in Lakes Entrance as holidaymakers of all ages.

The boat has never missed a Wooden Boat Show at Paynesville and was a major attraction for those in attendance.

The boat has been kept in as original condition as possible while also being made a comfortable second home and family cruiser without losing its visual originality.

The boat spent much of its working life on the Gippsland Lakes, performing search and rescues.

It is believed the boat travelled to Papua New Guinea in service and was even used as one of the opening boats in the 1956 Olympics held in Melbourne.

Mr Bowman had hoped the boat could retire in East Gippsland where it had spent most of its life.

“I would have really liked her to retire in East Gippsland somewhere as it has spent the last 35 years moored between Sale and Lakes Entrance and that is also where I will spend most of my retirement, but after many phone calls and letters the interest and funding was just not there which I felt a bit sad about as it would have been a great donation to the community for a tourist attraction,” he said.

Mr Bowman then began making calls with the Maritime Heritage network where he was put in contact with David Gardner OAM.

Mr Gardner is the RAAF Airforce History and Heritage Branch curator at the Air Force Headquarters in Point Cook.

The museum was excited to acquire the piece and intend to restore the boat to its 1940 condition and display it.

“It is most gratifying to have the interest and support of individuals such as yourself [Mr Bowman] to offer the museum such an historic artefact relating to an important element of RAAF operations during WWII and beyond,” Mr Gardner said in a letter to Mr Bowman.

Mr Bowman is excited for the boat to travel to Point Cook, where it will be on display close to where it was built in Fishermans Bend and hopes to remain involved with it.

“I will also be involved in helping with advice and restoration under the leadership of David Gardner and crew,” he said.