The Annual GPA Swim In, Corowa NSW, 2008

Corowa 2008 was nigh. I had only 4 1/2 hours of work left before I was off to get on the boat was the first thing that entered my head when I sat down at work on the 11th of March. The clock seemed to move ever more slowly until that magic time of 1pm clicked over.

I was soon in my land rover heading off to pick up Geoff on the way to getting on the boat. Fortunately I was a little ahead of time as fitting my and Geoff's gear meant that a bit of a repack as we had plenty of miles to go under the wheels just yet.

We met up with Greg at the boat and headed off. We were all running a bit of a cheapie trip this year with thoughts of saving up for the big year in 2009 which is the 30th anniversary of Corowa, so Greg was in the troopie and I was in the land rover, and Geoff would switch vehicles once in a while.

Morning arrived with a grey sky in Melbourne. It had been a smooth crossing, and thus far Melbourne was looking like staying grey, which was fine by us as it kept the temperature down. After Greg grabbed a splash of fuel at the servo where we got onto the west gate freeway we merged into the dreaded Melbourne traffic. This was my second trip, and it wasn't anywhere near as stressful as the first time. Rebecca had navigated last year, and despite having all the navigation notes from last year, most of it I could still remember. We were only reduced to walking pace the once, otherwise the traffic wasn't too bad at all. We were soon peeling off the western ring road and onto the much quieter Hume highway. Once away from Melbourne we stopped at a truck stop for some breakfast and some fuel for me. We found a park but Greg had to go around the other side. He danced around the corner announcing that breakfast was on him. Puzzled Geoff and I asked why? It seemed Greg had hoped out of the car and stepped on $45 sitting in the carpark. Piece of luck number 1 for the trip!!!

In about another hour we were arriving at the gates of Puckapunyal to see the Tank Museum. This year they were open and we were waved through. It seems we had arrived at the gates at 10am and the museum opened at 10, what timing!!! The first panic of the trip came from me when my whiz bang camera was just taking blackness instead of photos. A quick check found the mirror sticking after it was bumped off a chair the previous weekend at Steamfest. A gentle piece of persuasion and we were in business again. After compiling our own lists of what vehicles we would take home Greg found a scout car to have a poke around, and we promptly found three vehicles being prepared to head off to Corowa. Two M113's and an ex Israeli Halftrack. While there Greg managed to glimpse one of the new Abrams tanks starting up at the School of Armour (which is beside the museum), however when he asked if he could take a photo, No was the swift answer. We also found out that the museum had just received permission (and I presume money) to build another large shed so that the rest of the museum's collection could be put on display. We hope before next years trip.

The Puckapunyal Tank Museum

By this point in time we had escaped the Melbourne cloud and the heat of the day was starting to set in. It looked like another hot trip, but we were told that this was an unseasonably hot spell, so it shouldn't always be this bad. In the end the hot spell lasted all of the days we were there, but more on that later.

A few more hours of driving and a lunch break later we were at Corowa. We set up after saying g'day to a few familiar faces who dropped by. By this time it was almost getting dark, so we decided on a quick trip to the other half of the camp out at the airport to see what tracked vehicles had arrived. After a short drive we found a some bren gun carriers and a Stuart Tank.

Around Corowa

The next morning broke with a rather unusual alarm clock, a Spitfire flyover! We were all suitably impressed, especially when we found out that it was a 8/10 th scale aircraft with a v6 engine. It sounded almost exactly like the real thing, and in the air looked it. We were going top just tag along with the tracked vehicles for a drive this day, however we found out that the famous Tooles disposals was opening their warehouse up to people attending the GPA swim in, and that Thursday (today) was the last day this was to happen. We were going to go to Wodonga to Tooles and the Bandiana Museum on Friday, however a visit to what must have been an impressive warehouse was too good to miss out on, so we all hopped in Greg's troopie for the drive to Wodonga. We had to visit the store to get directions to the warehouse, so we did that and found our way to the warehouse.

We weren't let down. The warehouse was a veritable Aladdin's cave of militaria. From pallets and pallets of ammunition tins, to cargo parachutes, operating tables, ww2 uniforms and everything and anything you could hope to find, and then some. We spent some time in the old nissen and a few dollars. It was certainly well worth a visit. Next stop was the main Tooles store after some lunch at subway where I didn't get charged for my drink. Piece of luck number 2 !! Next stop was back t the airport to see what (and who) else had arrived during the day. Two M113's had arrived from the Army Museum Bandiana as well as another Stuart and another Halftrack or Two.

The next day was our now Annual pilgrimage to the Army Museum Bandiana. Before we left I had teed up with the museum to view and copy some documents as well as visit the workshop and storage sheds for the three of us. After spending a few hours photographing hundreds of pages of documents I grabbed Greg and Geoff to have a look at the workshop and storage sheds. We were lucky enough to be able to watch the Russian T34/85 tank of the Australian War Memorial (on loan to the museum) loading up to head off to Corowa Airport, quite a site! Then I finally had a chance to have a quick look around the museum before we headed back to Corowa. I was quite surprised to see a large increase in the number of vehicles in the museum, with more on the way apparently!!

At the Army Museum Bandiana

Back at the airport we found Tim Viberts Tracked Rapier that had been on loan to the Bandiana museum along with the T34/85 ready to unload. We seemed to keep bumping into this tank! The vehicles from the Army Tank Museum had also arrived. While out at the airport we were able to have a close look at the replica spitfire. Even on the ground it looks fantastic. It certainly had Geoff contemplating how many things he could sell to afford one. Unfortunately he came up with "not enough things!".

Saturday is the big day at Corowa! We lined up for the parade out to the airport where they would have the official lineup and the swap meet. Those tracked vehicles that were driving up were already down at the caravan park entrance, along with about of the vehicles by the time we got there. After a short briefing we were away to the airport. Again a record number of vehicles this year with some 170 vehicles registering for the event. There were also plenty of goodies to be found at the swap meet, although the lack of shade at the new location at the airport made it a very hot day indeed. I don't expect that the heat was helped by a jet powered blitz truck going for a spin on the tarmac either! Before too long we found ourselves heading back to the caravan park for a swim again.

Last days at Corowa

Sunday dawned, and with the mournful silence of no Spitfire flyover today we started packing for the drive home. We took our time as we had plenty of time to fill in before the boat left. We had a brief visit at Seymore at a 2nd hand store before taking the last leg back to Melbourne. We headed off to Werribee to have a look at the liberator being rebuilt, however we missed the opening hours by about 1 hours so we went into Werribee to get some tea. Rather than hanging out in Werribee for a few hours, we decided to go to the beach just beside the boat terminal. It was a sunny afternoon and a nice relaxing spot to stop for a while. We could hear some sounds from the Formula One car races, as well as the obligatory helicopters above, and exotic cars driving past on their way home. Even when we arrived at the dock there was a surprise in store, 2 Collins Class Submarines, HMAS Darwin and a navy re-supply ship. However it was soon time to embark the boat, and after seemed what was forever (we must have been some of the last vehicles on the boat) we were leaving Melbourne to head home and start work on Monday afternoon (for me at least).

On the way Home

Richard Green