HISTORY OF REOA
(We are indebted to WGCDR K Leslie (Retd) for providing much of the History)
The Radio Officers' annual Xmas Function (ROXF) was initiated in the late 1950s by GPCAPT Pither (then head of the Telecommunications Engineering Division at HQ Support Command) basically as a social event to meet other Radio Engineers and invited members of industry who were involved in contractual work for the RAAF. The gatherings were held at the Officers Mess, St Kilda Road, and finally at the Coventry Street Mess. RAAF Transport aircraft were picked up at Amberley, Richmond and Canberra en route to Laverton where Officers bunked down overnight before returning to their bases.
Difficulties arose with officialdom over the arrangements and it was decided to change the format to a three-day convention where Industry was invited to present Engineering papers on their products and the latest developments in Electronic Engineering. This format proved to be a success and enabled officers to travel to Melbourne on official business.
With the breakup of HQ Support Command Engineering facilities and their spread to other parts of the RAAF these arrangements ceased.
In 1997 WGCDR Kevin Leslie (Retd) organized WGCDR John Allen (Retd), WGCDR Noel Hadfield (Retd) and WGCDR Richard Orr (Retd) to do a ring-a-round of ex-RAAF Radio Engineers to seek interest in attending a reunion function proposed for October 1997.
The survey identified 67 people and following this survey, a meeting was convened at the Victorian Division of the Airforce Association, Cromwell Road, South Yarra to organize the function.
These people attended:
WGCDR K Leslie (Retd)- Chairperson
GPCAPT R Bartram (Retd)
WGCDR R Yardley (Retd)
WGCDR J Allen (Retd)
WGCDR N Hadfield (Retd)
WGCDR R Orr (Retd)
SQNLDR K McRae (Retd)
SQNLDR R Toholka (Retd)
The meeting was unanimous in agreement that a sit-down Buffet Meal be held at the Victorian Division Airforce Association, Cromwell Road, South Yarra on the 30th of October, 1997.
A bank account was to be established in the name of REOA by WGCDR R Orr, SQNLDR K McRae and SQNLDR R Toholka.
The meeting agreed on a title for our group as the “RAAF Electronics Officers Association.”
GPCAPT Sam Ritchie (Retd) was invited to say a few words about the group and past events of the RAAF Radio reunions at the function. Records reveal 60 attendees were present at the inaugural function.
GROWTH AND EXPANSION of REOA
WGCDR Kevin Leslie (Retd) continued as Chairperson of the group for the first seven years.
During that time:
The group expanded to include its membership base to all past and present serving officers of the Engineering Branch of the Australian and Allied Defence Forces, including Reserve Forces. Our numbers expanded to 140 people and with the Air Force Office approval our name changed to “RAAF Engineering Officers Association”. We also became an affiliate member of the RAAF Association, Victorian Division.
With Jack Pluck’s involvement, we designed and developed artwork for a REOA logo which was used for metal lapel badges and caps.
Several committee members initiated and maintained a website for REOA to assist with communications and obtaining new members.
In 2009 Ron Ledingham obtained a grant of $8,994.00 from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to purchase a range of electronic equipment including computers, printers, a digital camera, PA system and software.
This equipment has greatly contributed to the success of our meetings.
The REOA committee since its inception has received significant voluntary contributions from:
WGCDR Noel Hadfield (Retd) Secretary
WGCDR Richard Orr (Retd) Treasurer
WGCDR John Pluck (Retd) Mentor
GPCAPT Bob Bartram (Retd) Mentor
AIRCDRE John Clarkson (Retd) Mentor
REOA organization has received excellent leadership from:
WGCDR Kevin Leslie (Retd) 1997-2004
WGCDR Tom Douglas (Retd) 2004-2006
SQNLDR Ron Ledingham (Retd) 2006-2013
SQNLDR Rick Toholka (Retd) 2013-2015
FLTLT Kingsley Porter (Retd) 2015-2017
SQNLDR Kingsley McRae (Retd) 2017-2019
Mr David Graham 2019
Many volunteers have served the committee, including of note:
WGCDR Bob Fretwell (Retd)
WGCDR Andrew Hogendijk (Retd)
GPCAPT Bob Bennett (Retd) Secretary
SQNLDR Dan Nebauer (Retd) Treasurer
SQNLDR Peter Jupp (Retd)
SQNLDR Rod Harris (Retd)
FLTLT Glen Gould (Retd) Treasurer
FLTLT Carl Dillon (Retd)
ROLE OF REOA
REOA is a not-for-profit group of mainly (but not exclusively) retired RAAF Engineer Officers who meet on a regular basis in Melbourne.
The purpose of the REOA is to foster a common interest group to provide long-term, ongoing social and educational contact and support to past and current serving RAAF Engineer Officers and partners. Regular dinners and other functions are arranged to foster close contact and mutual support.
Regular contact is maintained within existing RAAF and Defence Engineering circles and support is provided for common interests emanating from within the group’s membership and contacts.
Presentations from prominent guest speakers generally in the form of current serving senior engineering staff within the RAAF and Department of Defence on engineering topics, as well as providing social, spiritual and communal support of members and their families.
MEETINGS / FUNCTIONS
Regular committee meetings are held throughout the year to foster interest and arrange functions and visits for members as well as addressing any other items of interest to the REOA members.
Two main functions are held each year; a midyear and end-of-year luncheon normally held at the Batman's Hill on Collins Hotel which is centrally located on the corner of Collins and Spencer Street Melbourne diagonally opposite the main Spencer Street railway station.
In 2013, due to popular demand, a Queensland branch of the REOA was established to service the large number of ex-RAAF engineers living up north.
ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE INVOLVEMENT WITH RMIT UNIVERSITY
RMIT and the RAAF have a very long and productive association beginning as far back as 1939 with the Melbourne Technical College (MTC); later becoming Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and now RMIT University.
Faced with formidable advances in aviation technology post World War 2 and Korea, the RAAF embarked on an ambitious scheme with several institutes of technology primarily RMIT to increase its force of qualified engineers. The scheme graduated some 700 aeronautical, mechanical, electrical, chemical, electronics and telecommunications engineers from 1954 to 1992. In 1962, students were posted into a RAAF training unit known as Diploma Cadet Squadron, later renamed as the Engineer Cadet Squadron.
For over sixty years, these engineers provided the backbone of the RAAF’s engineering expertise for the acquisition, specification and maintenance of aircraft and associated equipment of highly developed and advanced designs such as initially, the mirage, F111, Orion and more latterly, the F/A-18, C17, P8 and F35. A number served with operational squadrons in Australia and overseas (including Vietnam and the middle east).
Some reached senior RAAF appointments whilst others with specialised post-graduate qualifications made crucial contributions in the fields of aircraft structures, communications, propulsion, guided weapons, explosives and maintenance management. Overall, the RAAF could not have raised, sustained or projected its capabilities through the late 20th and early 21st centuries without the product of this outstandingly successful engineering training scheme primarily supported and delivered by the RMIT. Beyond the RAAF and in adding to the technological and management expertise of the nation, these engineers contributed significantly to the corporate and public sectors as well as private business.
Period 1939 to 1945
RMIT made a significant contribution to Australia's war efforts by training some 23,000 service men and women, mainly Royal Australian Air Force personnel, in radio communications, before their assignment as tradesmen at RAAF bases or participation in further training (e.g. in radar technology).
RAAF No 49 Wireless/Telegraphy Course, Bowen Lane, RMIT, June 1941
Period 1948 to 1992
Education of RAAF Radio Apprentices. Some 655 graduating apprentices with RMIT’s primary involvement being the RAAF Radio School. This was a significant contribution to the overall RAAF technical support effort with many going on to complete higher-level educational standards via RMIT.
Period 1961 to 1985
Education of RAAF personnel in Aeronautical, Communication, Mechanical Engineering and Business studies, that were home based at the RAAF’s Diploma Cadet Squadron and later Engineer Cadet Squadron at Frognall, Camberwell. Some personnel have graduated from the RAAF Technical Apprentice scheme, the majority direct entry to DCS/ECS.
Those completing RMIT’s Associate Diplomas and from 1973 Degrees( in Mechanical, Electrical, Aeronautical Engineering and some in Business studies) were mainly commissioned in the RAAF Engineer Branch as Communication/Electronic, Aeronautical, Electrical, Instrument specialist engineers and some in the RAAF Equipment/Supply Branch.
RMIT’s Schools of Aeronautical, Radio/Communications, Electronics and Electrical Engineering and Business Studies were involved, including RMIT lecturers tutoring RAAF students at Frognall. The RMIT involvement was significant to the RAAF, particularly to engineering.
Period 1985 to 1992
RAAF personnel still studying at RMIT when DCS/ESC closed, were attached to RAAF Point Cook.