8 June 2023
One of Ipswich’s oldest war veterans, 99-year-old Jean Jackson, recently returned to RAAF Base Amberley for the first time in 78 years.
Mrs Jackson, a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force, served at RAAF Base Amberley from 1943 to 1945 working at the base’s cinema as a cinematographer. She also travelled to other training locations around Ipswich, such as outposts in Okie and Lowood, taking movie reels with her for educational purposes.
The Senior Australian Defence Force Officer at RAAF Base Amberley, Group Captain Dennis Tan, gave Mrs Jackson and her family a special tour of the base.
“It was a privilege to hear about Jean’s time working at the cinema and various training establishments, and to listen to her memories of life on base during World War 2,” Group Captain Tan said.
“It was a very proud day for us to have Jean back to visit her former base.”
RAAF Base Amberley had been opened for two years when the Astra Cinema was built. It fast became Amberley’s main off-duty attraction, holding film screenings for base personnel six nights a week.
Group Captain Tan said Mrs Jackson’s work was “important in helping to keep service personnel’s morale and spirits high during the darkest days of World War II”.
The cinema has since been replaced with the Astra Complex, a multi-purpose facility named in its honour.
Elements of the cinema were used in the construction of the Astra Complex including the mezzanine floor railings and timber posts, which form part of the entrance to the building known as Astra Walk. Photographs and other memorabilia from the cinema are also on display at the complex.
Mrs Jackson was glad to see Air Force had retained the history of the building.
“The memorabilia and photographs of the cinema are beautiful things. I’m so pleased Air Force has preserved them,” she said.
The cinema was a big part of RAAF Base Amberley’s history but also the history of Ipswich.
As well as base personnel, many Ipswich locals would also watch movies at RAAF Base Amberley. They would get a pass to come onto the base and then walk down to the cinema as it was cheaper than going to the movies in town.