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Images from Antarctica

By David Watmuff (Collections Manager, Air Force Museum of New Zealand)

Alun Breese with his slide collection. MUS-0901925.
Alun Breese with his slide collection

In June the Air Force Museum received a donation of 180 35 mm colour slides from Mr Alun Breese, a former Royal New Zealand Air Force Airframe Fitter who served in Antarctica with the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition.

Alun arrived there by United States Air Force Globemaster on 25 October 1957, his job being to help service the RNZAF Antarctic Flight’s Auster and Beaver aircraft. During his time on the frozen continent, Alun took many pictures of his surroundings with his own camera, such as Scott Base, McMurdo, Mt Erebus, Shackleton’s Hut, and the Beardmore Glacier.

While official photographs provide a formal record of the RNZAF’s role there, Alun’s collection offers a more personal insight into life in Antarctica. Among the slides are some of a piano in the snow at Scott Base that was mysteriously ‘acquired’ from the Americans at McMurdo on Christmas Day, and which was used to good effect in the Base’s social calendar.

Alun left Antarctica aboard the USS Greenville Victory on 4 February 1958. The Officer Commanding the RNZAF Antarctic Flight, Squadron Leader John Claydon, described Alun at the time “as a Welshman who was a ball of fire with a very lively sense of humour”.

Ice Piano: Alun Breese (orange goggles) enjoys a surreal tune from the piano ‘acquired’ from the Americans by the New Zealanders at Scott Base. Photo courtesy of Alun Breese.
Ice Piano

Alun has had these slides for over 50 years and decided that they were best kept at the Museum for others to benefit from in the future. They are of very good quality and represent an historically valuable addition to the photographic collection.

Alun, who lives in Christchurch, came into the Museum and made the presentation close to Auster NZ1707—the very aircraft he had helped service in Antarctica over 50 years ago, and the Museum’s Beaver aircraft. The original Beaver still lies on the Beardmore Glacier where it crashed in January 1960.

The Museum was delighted to accept Alun’s generous donation to its collection.

Image Gallery - Issue 109