A new memorial to thousands of airmen who died in the Second World War has been proposed for Ballarat Airport.
More than 5000 men trained at the Wireless Air Gunners School at the airport between 1940 and 1946.
Although exact numbers have been hard to confirm, RAAF Association member Peter Schoutens said it was believed up to 50 per cent of those who trained there were killed in action.
A memorial would be built in front of the soon-to-be refurbished former Officers’ Mess, now known as Hut 48.
The men who joined the WAG school trained there for about 10 months.
They then went to Europe to fly with the RAF’s bomber command, or joined RAAF bomber crews in Australia for the Pacific campaign.
Mr Schoutens said they became fully fledged members of the Ballarat community during their training.
“A lot of them had a social life here in Ballarat, and a lot of them still have family and relatives around the place,” he said.
“Many people would still have photographs of them.
“We think there were about 55 courses in total that went through the WAG school.”
Men either trained as air gunners, or air gunners and wireless operators while in Ballarat.
This included intensive instruction in the use of Morse code that saw them using it to communicate at meal times in the mess, rather than speaking.
The position of WAG operators in bombers was vital to their success.
They operated the wireless radios and manned the rear guns of the planes.
Mr Schoutens said they had not received the recognition they deserved for their work.
“A lot of them lost their lives doing that job,” he said.
“As soon as they graduated the school they became sergeants – they were not officers.
“It was a problem to them, because they felt they should have been getting the same pay as the officers flying and navigating the planes.
“We think casualties were about 50 per cent.”
Plans for a possible memorial are still in the early stages, however the RAAF Association has approached Ballarat City Council and the state government to discuss the proposal.
The association will apply for the state government’s Victoria Remembers grant and a Heritage Victoria permit for the memorial.
Grants between $20,000 and $80,000 are available under the scheme.
It helps projects or activities that commemorate wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations in which Victorians have served.
Ballarat City mayor Samantha McIntosh said the process to fund the memorial had just started, but it was an exceptionally interesting project.
“On the surface it sounds like something we would talk about,” she said.
“We are doing significant work on the master plan for the airport precinct.”
The Wireless Air Gunners School – more commonly known as WAGS – operated under the Empire Air Training Scheme established by the British during the war.
After the Second World War ended the base became a radar training school and Hut 48 was turned into the Officers’ Mess, before the school was moved to Laverton in Melbourne.
The public used it for short time, but it has remained empty since the mid-60s.
Mr Schoutens said the association wanted to speak with anyone who knew of airmen who attended the WAG school, or were killed in action during the Second World War.