No. 1 Bombing and Air Gunnery School / No. 1 Air Observers School / Evans Head 1 BAGS / 1AOS

About This Unit

No. 1 Air Observers School / No. 1 Bombing and Air Gunnery School (Evans Head)

Under the Empire Air Training Scheme, the RAAF established aircrew training facilities around the country from 1939/40.

No 1 Bombing and Gunnery School (1 BAGS) was established at Evans Head on the far north coast of New South Wales, to provide bombing and gunnery training for pilots, air observers and air gunners.  As training priorities changed, it was later re-designated No. 1 Air Observers School (1 AOS) in December 1943, when the original 1 AOS was transferred from Cootamundra. 

The No 1 Bombing and Gunnery School (1 BAGS) was fully operational by December 1941. Sir Valston Hancock was appointed as the Station's first commanding officer, himself playing a key role in the location, design and development of the Station.

Bombing and gunnery ranges were established to the north and south of the Base, as well as a sea range south of the Airfield. Covering 600 square miles (1,500 km2), as well as bombing and gunnery practice, the school also trained  Air Observers / Bomb Aimers, Wireless Operators/Air Gunners and Navigators. The main aircraft used for training were the Avro Anson trainer and the Fairey Battle (originally a light bomber, but relegated to training roles after a disastrous campaign in France with the RAF in 1940).  About 70 aircraft were on establishment at Evans Head at that time.

In late 1941 with Japan entering the war, the proximity of RAAF Evans Head to Brisbane elevated the importance of the base as an important defensive asset in the event of attack. As a defensive measure, 19 strong points were built around the aerodrome equipped with 303 calibre Vickers machine guns.  Aircraft from the base were also engaged in coastal surveillance duties. As many as 17 transportable Bellman hangars were erected on the base.   A significant marine search and rescue unit operated from their own wharves in the nearby township. Other facilities at the base included accommodation for up to 1400 personnel, a hospital, garbage and sewerage services and recreational activities

Training needs were changing, with open cockpit air gunnery quickly becoming obsolete, particularly in Europe,  and operations at 1 BAGS began to wind down in the later months of 1943 as serviceability of the Fairey Battle fleet dropped back down to around 50%. Over 5,000 trainees passed through No 1 Bombing and Gunnery School.  One of the students was actor Chips Rafferty. More than 1,000 of those who trained here were killed during the war, mainly in Europe.

In November 943, 1BAGS was disbanded and No 1 AOS relocated from RAAF Station Cootamundra to Evans Head, flying mainly Avro Anson and CAC Wackett aircraft. An estimated 630 aircrew passed through this school until it too was disbanded in 1944.[3]

By the end of 1944, a total of 630 trainees had passed out of 1 AOS since its commencement the previous December. 

Post War

The airfield has since been used as an emergency landing ground, RAAF aircraft storage facility (all World War II vintage aircraft had been moved or disposed of by 1958) and ordnance depot. It has also been used as a staging facility for flood relief operations, and the area is still used by RAAF aircraft operating out of Amberly AIr Base in Qld.

A civil aviation capability developed at the airfield but over the years it has reduced to light aircraft operations only.

The Airfield precinct has come under considerable pressure from the Richmond Valley Council who have tried on several occasions to re-zone and subdivide the land for residential development, contrary to the original provisions of transfer.  It is listed on the NSW Cultural Heritage Register.

Sources - 

1. Wikipedia Article (

2. Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Heritage Aviation Association website (