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RAAF to restore last remaining WWII rescue launch

written by Adam Thorn | March 5, 2022

RAAF search and rescue boat O2-06 being pulled from the water at Lakes for transport to an Air Force History & Heritage Branch facility in Spotswood, Victoria. (Defence, FLTLT Christopher Moon)

The RAAF has been gifted its only remaining rescue launch used during World War II.

O2-06 is one of 15 separate O2-class vessels built for the Air Force in 1941 and will be restored in its original livery before being displayed at the RAAF Museum at Point Cook.

The boat was originally in service in the Gippsland Lakes, East Sale and Point Cook and was declared for disposal in 1954. It subsequently had three owners, including its latest, Howard “Harry” Bowman, who bought it in Melbourne in 1986.

Air Force operated boats from 1921 to 1993, and the fleet peaked at 1,300 during WWII, with 600 powered craft and 700 unpowered.

After the cessation of hostilities in the Pacific, the RAAF commenced disposing of its unwanted boats.

A revision of the RAAF Small Marine Craft Program led to the retention of only 107 to provide support in the areas of supply, torpedo recovery, air-sea rescue and flying boat service at eight bases.

These bases gradually diminished in number until only three marine sections remained at Townsville, Williamtown and Point Cook for SAR duties. These three sections remained operational until January 31, 1993.


When Bowman realised he had bought a piece of RAAF history, he motored it across Port Phillip Bay to Mordialloc Creek, loaded it on a trailer and transported it to Sale.

During the past 36 years, it has been a regular sight on the waterways between Sale and Lakes Entrance and has generated a great deal of interest from locals and holidaymakers.

Bowman maintained the boat as originally as possible, marginally converting it internally into a comfortable family cruiser without detracting from its unique military past.

He had always wished to donate the boat to an appropriate organisation that would restore it to its former glory and display it for future generations.

Defence has now confirmed its History and Heritage Branch will restore the boat before putting it on permanent display.

Comments (2)

  • Michael


    It is a pity that it cannot be restored to its sea-going former glory.

  • Ted


    Wonder if this is the same PT Boat my farther owned he bought the boat off one of his customers Bill Morgan of Morgan Drainage of Footscray it may have been owned previously by the Nicholas Family of Aspro fame.it was sold as a ferry to run customers to Gypsy point hotel/motel East Gippsland. for memory it may have had 2 of 4-71 GM engines. my farther did not own it very long beacause of the cost to moor it @ StKilda Mariner

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