The DCA RTS (Sydney)

Dept of Civil Aviation Regional Training School.

Robert 1966

Robert Brand 1966 at the age of 13 years old

Story by Robert Brand.

It has been 45 years since I stepped in the doors of the DCA training School at Waverton. All that is left these days is the land it sat on and that is a car park for sailors at HMAS Waterhen that sits below the old site.

I started on Jan 8th 1968 and I was the grand age of 15 years old. It was a nervous time, not knowing what was in-store for us, but I was pretty happy about getting paid to learn.

The picture of me shows what kids with an interest in technology did before home computers were invented. That is a number 19 tank radio transceiver and I was wiring a small home made intercom with a very loud speaker. OTC was perfect for me. That was one corner of my bedroom and the light above was for developing prints when I turned it into a dark room.

George Nettle was the Head of the school and we had three classes, although that dropped to 2 classes after the first year. The main instructors were Frank Mann, Bob Williams, John Dryden and Reg Breen. The classes were made up of a few Navy trainees that washed out after the first year and it left 50% OTC and 50% DCA trainees in our year.

These three photos below were taken on the last day of school 4 years later – 1971

Bob Williams

Bob Williams who kept going up to the last bell

John Dryden caught in a practical joke by Robert Brand

Paul Davies and Robert Brand

Paul Davies and Robert Brand studying at DCA – 1971

I showed these photos to a friend that worked for DCA and attended the school after me.

Mick Gawlas ex DCA trainee 1974-1977 wrote back and said:

My God, Bob Williams without a huge black beard!!!, I remember he had a little yellow Honda S600 coupe with a Cortina motor in it. It had a great big fibreglass bubble on the bonnet to protect the carbies!!; and John Dryden looks like a 15 yo schoolboy!! Perhaps he was younger than I thought! Bit of an eccentric, he had a penchant for socks and sandles with shorts, even in Winter!! He came from Thornleigh somewhere as I used to see him on the train. Jack Rutherford (Electrical) also came from up that way. I last saw Jack teaching at Hornsby TAFE in 2001. With regard to pictures on the overhead, there was a guy at Dept of Communications in the 1980’s who used a “nude” transparency to “focus” the projector AND the audience!! Back in the good old days before political correctness!

The antics we got up to were amazing. We stuffed as many trainees as possible into Greg Waller’s car and drove around Balls Head Reserve and back. There were complaints from HMAS Waterhen about flaming paper planes launched from the school above, dart fights between the two buildings with thorn tipped paper darts blown through PVC conduit, radio jammers getting built and the annual instructors vs trainee rugby league game. There was so much more and I wish I had photos of it all..

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10 thoughts on “The DCA RTS (Sydney)

  1. There was another complaint from HMAS Waterhen the day someone in our team flushed the leftover white paint down the toilets and found out that it went into the harbour near Waterhen!! All the boats had a white line around the waterline!!!! Peter W Burgess, OTC Student at
    DCA in 1973 – 1975… and loved it!!!

    • And I loved it too. I lapped up the electronics and enjoyed the money and the freedom. I was still 15 when I started and it was amazing to have a secure and promising job and good money. Great times and I bet school isn’t as much fun these days!

    • Geoff Larcombe said on Facebook: I remember to time when we re-broadcasted a rock station over 2CH frequency using one of the lab transmitters. We could only imagine the confusion for the local 2CH listeners…

  2. Mick Gawlas (ex-DCA) said via email: Thanks Robert,

    My God, Bob Williams without a huge black beard!!!, I remember he had a little yellow Honda S600 coupe with a Cortina motor in it. It had a great big fibreglass bubble on the bonnet to protect the carbies!!; and John Dryden looks like a 15 yo schoolboy!! Perhaps he was younger than I thought! Bit of an eccentric, he had a penchant for socks and sandles with shorts, even in Winter!! He came from Thornleigh somewhere as I used to see him on the train. Jack Rutherford (Electrical) also came from up that way. I last saw Jack teaching at Hornsby TAFE in 2001. With regard to pictures on the overhead, there was a guy at Dept of Communications in the 1980’s who used a “nude” transparency to “focus” the projector AND the audience!! Back in the good old days before political correctness!

    Thanks and regards,
    Mick Gawlas
    ex DCA trainee 1974-1977

  3. Mick Gawlas (ex-DCA) said via email:
    I met G F Mann (Frank) in 1975 at the DAE Lab at Marrickville. He must have been an STO2 or something, but by then his health was failing as he was often asleep at the bench whilst heavily poised with a meter or CRO probe in the bum of a piece of valve test gear. It was a miracle he never got plated!! Someone used to announce morning tea to wake the poor bugger up. He was terrifying to drive with, as I remember a few close calls in our old “Marigold yellow”/white roofed XT Falcon panel van. I think he retired soon afterward.

    funny what we remember…

  4. I started at Waverton on the 6th January 1969, as a DCA Electrical Technician-In-Training.
    I was in Class 1T, (John Thompson). DCA Radio, Electrical and OTC, were all in the same classes for the first Year. I remember 2 OTC guys in my class, Bob Kelsell and Mark Stevens. Other DCA Radio guys were Bob Breeze, Laurie Everington, Bill King, Andrew James, Steve Howse.
    45 years later, I am still at Sydney Airport.

  5. I was in the 1969 OTC intake after leaving school the end of 1968 at the age of 16. The most memorable thing for ’69 was doing field training at OTC Paddington Terminal & during that stint the first Lunar landing occurred. Everyone there got to watch the landing in full colour on the monitors that the NASA guys brought with them from the U.S. never forget that experience. The only downside was being a junior shit kicker we had to roll ip all the what seemed to be hundreds of meters of thick co-ax used to connect all the video gear! Another occasion down at Balls Head when we started to acquire cars, a lunchtime favourite was to conduct timed trials around the road at the headland. That is until Darryl ???? Had a head on collision with a visitor who returned to their car & forget the road was one way & headed back right into Darryl going hell for leather in his VW beetle. Mace a mess of the cars but lucky no real injuries!. One of the instructors had a new GTHO Falcon & we all lusted after that car. Good old days eh! Geoff a Grace

    • Time and memories sometime lead to the odd error. I sure make them. There were many Apollo missions and only the ones after Apollo 11 were in colour. The Apollo 11 flight was broadcast in black and white and received in Australia in Black and White, so I expect that you were thinking of the later coverage of other Apollo flights. The rest was all fun and cars and different adventures at the Balls Head Reserve were par for the course at lunch breaks. The young instructor that had the falcon also had a mustache. I can’t quite remember his name, but it will come to me.

      • The instructor with the GT Falcon was John Thompson.
        Geoff, I remember you. I was in Class 1T, (Thompson), in 1969.
        Do you remember Geoff Cullen? He was an instructor at the Training School.
        He taught me in 1969 and 1970.
        I see him at the DCA Quarter Century Club outings.

  6. Another timely co-incidence, Phil Brown who was a DCA tech in training in my class over the 4 years just sent me an email supporting Project ThunderStruck and offering to provide HAM radio support. HAM radio involvement is really needed to help with tracking and other aspects of the flight as secondary systems. It takes some of the workload off me. Project ThunderStruck: http://projectthunderstruck.org

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