In 2013, approval was given for new facilities to support the modernisation of the Royal Australian Air Force’s air lift capability. Known as the Battlefield Airlifter Project, Conrad Gargett together with Managing Contractor, Laing O’Rourke undertook the master planning, design and delivery of a suite of new facilities at RAAF Base Amberley, including operational facilities, training facilities, working accommodation and living-in accommodation to support the introduction of the new C27-J (Spartan) aircraft to 35SQN in its relocation from RAAF Richmond to RAAF Amberley.
Working with the previously established Flight Line Master Plan, the siting of the new facilities impacted a number of significant heritage assets, including an iconic Bellman Hanger. Between 1942 and 1943, 14 Bellman Hangars were constructed at RAAF Amberley demonstrating the rapid response to the Second World War. The original hangar was designed by UK structural engineer, N.S. Bellman in 1936 as a temporary structure that was capable of being easily transportable and then erected or dismantled by unskilled labour with simple equipment. The structural system comprised of a kit of standard parts, bolted together in a “Meccano” style enabling a variety of plan configurations. Wall and roof sheeting was pre-drilled and bolted on with patented fixings. A truly unique response to prefabrication!
Understanding the heritage values of the hangar, Conrad Gargett prepared a Heritage Impact Report to support the relocation of Bellman Hangar 255 and the retention of Bellman Hangar 260 for spare parts. Bellman Hangar 255 was then carefully dismantled and re-erected in its new location, retaining its original form and configuration and clearly demonstrating its existing and new fabric.
The structure has been brought up to current structural and Defence standards with a new portal frame carefully inserted into the old structural system. The new solid galvanised steel sections contrast markedly to the lightweight old “Meccano” style trusses. The original structural frame and steel elements have been painted dark grey to differentiate them from the new support frame which is galvanised. Galvanised corrugated steel wall sheeting of the original WWII profile and short lengths has been used with an updated version of the original hooked bolt fixing system. Some original electrical and mechanical fittings have been retained for interpretation throughout the interior of the hangar, to convey some of the original functions of the Bellman Hangar.
In its new life as a hangar for Australian Air Force Cadets training aircraft, Bellman Hangar 255 demonstrates RAAF’s strong commitment to maintaining a strong connection with our Defence heritage with buildings that can still be used today.