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Black beauties

A Catalina flying boat presents a graceful sight during service in World War II.
A Catalina flying boat presents a graceful sight during service in World War II.
By Ben Caddaye

DOCUMENTARY makers Jeremy Linton-Mann and Alex Bonazzi are Cat lovers.

In October 2000, they set about documenting the history of the Catalina flying boats, their pilots and aircrew that served Australia during World War II after they discovered that no documentary had been produced on the subject.

“Even the landmark series Australians at War missed recounting the amazing stories of the RAAF Catalina squadrons’ highly dangerous missions against the Japanese invasion forces in the Pacific,” Mr Linton-Mann said.

The RAAF 75th anniversary book didn’t include an account of their work either.

The lack of documented Catalina history was also noticed by Deputy Chief of Air Force Air-Vice Marshal Chris Spence. In a letter regarding the documentary, AVM Spence said “there is no doubt that the officers and men of the Catalina squadrons performed vital roles in our northern defences during World War II and the high level of secrecy involved with their work has, unfortunately, contributed to them being the ‘forgotten heroes’ of war”.

But thanks to the efforts of the two documentary makers, these heroes will no longer be forgotten.

More than two years and over 30 interviews later, the pair has produced Black Knights – an 80-minute documentary showcasing the exploits of the Catalina squadrons and their contribution from 1940 until the war ended.

The groundbreaking production features interviews with former Catalina pilots and aircrew from Queensland, NSW and Victoria, along with rare Catalina-related footage supplied by the Australian War Memorial.

“When the Cat vets get together they revert to being ‘twenty-something’ again,” Mr Linton-Mann said. “They are the most terrific guys and unsung heroes with the greatest degrees of humility I’ve ever come across in program making. They are delighted their story has finally been told in documentary form.”

He said a major source of support for the documentary was Sir Richard Kingsland, a former No. 11 Squadron Catalina skipper who became Commanding Officer of RAAF Base Rathmines – the flying boats’ training base on Lake Macquarie.

Black Knights is available on VHS and DVD by e-mailing FilmAffaires@aol.com. The cost of the documentary is $40, which includes $5 postage and handing.

The production company WingCo Pictures, in return for access to War Memorial archive footage, is donating master copies of all interviews to the memorial, enabling historians and interested members of the public access to these fascinating tales.

Another WingCo Pictures production, Wings Over Water, which documents Australia’s love affair with military and civilian flying boats, will be released in December to coincide with centenary of flight celebrations.



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