AMBERLEY AIRFIELD, QLD
DURING WW2

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visits since 18 April 2001

 

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Bold and Faithful

On 15 July 1938 when the Minister for Defence granted approval for the purchase of 1100 acres of land at Boondall, near Brisbane (close to the Boondall Entertainment Centre). It was subsequently discovered that under certain conditions of tide and rain, there was a risk that the area would become flooded. The proposal was abandoned.    

Further investigation was made for a suitable site for an aerodrome in close proximity to Brisbane but only one additional area was found near Zillmere, approximately 10 miles north of Brisbane. However the natural contours of the area created a basin rather than a domed surface and would require considerable expense to drain the land. 

Another site for a good all-weather aerodrome was eventually located approximately 3 miles west of Ipswich. The site was recommended to the Air Board by the Chief of the Air Staff as an ideal location. On the 11 November 1938 the Air Board submitted a recommendation to the Minister that this area be purchased as the site for RAAF Station Amberley. Finally on 12 December 1938, the Commonwealth Government acquired about 882 acres of land for defence purposes at Amberley, in Queensland in the Parish of Jeebropilly County of Churchill.

The name Amberley was given to the area by Mr James Edwin Collet, a farmer who arrived from Sussex England in the 1850's to settle on a property at 3 Mile Creek west of Ipswich.   He called the property "Amberley" after his home town of "Amberley" a small village on the River Aron in East Sussex.

The original clearing of the land at Amberley was carried out by the contractors 'Chesterfield and Jenkins' (QLD) Pty Ltd at a cost of 4496 pounds. They initially cleared, levelled and graded the area, and in 1942 the company was responsible for the spraying with tar and bitumen of the first roads and hardstandings which had been constructed by the Mains Road Department.

It was during this initial construction period that Mr Chesterfield had a small strip cleared and levelled towards the southern end of the main ‘paddock’ and flew the first aircraft into Amberley.  The aircraft was a DH87A Hornet Moth registration No VH-UUW, and was thereafter used regularly by the contractors.

Chesterfield and Jenkins continued work on the base right up to 1944 when they were contracted to commence work on the sewerage scheme. Local labour was mainly employed during construction with preference being given to employment of returned servicemen.

The beginning of World War 2 in September 1939 found only a few buildings under construction in brick.  These were a guardhouse (at the old front gate, now occupied by Strike Publications), a large hangar (No 76 occupied by 501 Wing ECMF), a hospital (currently used by Boeing), and an Air Traffic Control tower.  All further construction was of fibro and timber - for speed, economy and ready availability of materials.

 

Commencement of Operations

On 17 June 1940, Amberley commenced operations as an RAAF Base with the formation of Station Headquarters and No 24 (General Purpose) Squadron. Squadron Leader S.A.C Campbell being appointed Temporary Station Commander and Commanding Officer of No 24 Squadron. Total strength at this time was 4 officers in Station Headquarters; F/O C.E Jenkinson, F/O W.S.E. Dods, P/O W.L. Hammond and F/O H.G. Vevy.  In No 24 Squadron there were 6 officers; the CO plus F/O H.W.J. Mc Donald, Flt. Lt. D.B. Hudson, P/O B.M.H. Palmer, P/O J.I. Stanley and P/O D.P. Chadwick together with 33 airmen . 

On 1 July 1940, a further unit, No 3 Recruit Depot was formed with Flt Lt. J.A. Adams as Commanding Officer. The Depot's function was to run recruit drill courses. On 4 July the first RAAF Aircraft arrived on base. It was a Moth Minor of No 24 Squadron No A21-26.   The  10 July saw the arrival of the first 4 Wirraway aircraft.   However No 24 Squadron did not remain long, and between 10 and 15 October 1940, the squadron departed for Townsville, (the main contingent of No 24 Squadron arrived in Townsvilleon the S.S. Ormiston on 14 October 1940), where it was re-equipped with Hudson bombers and served throughout the Second World War in the Pacific Area of operations.

With the departure of Sqn Ldr S.A.C. Campbell with No 24 Squadron Flt. Lt. J.A. Adams assumed temporary command of the station.   However Station Headquarters Amberley ceased to function on 21 October 1940 on the formation of No 3  Service Flying Training School, and its personnel were absorbed into the School which became a separate Air Force Unit within the Central area. 

 

Initial War Effort

The two key units for the initial war effort, No 3 SFTS and No 3 Recruit Depot at Amberley provided pilot training and personnel recruiting for the RAAF.  This remained the main role of the base until early 1942. No 3 SFTS formed at Amberley on 21 October 1940, as part  of the Empire Air Training Scheme, with a strength of 12 officers and 228 airmen under the temporary command of Flt. Lt. J.A. Adams of No 3 Recruit Depot. Wing Commander R.H. Simms, AFC assumed command of the unit on 28 October 1940. The units aircraft consisted of Wirraways and Anson which commenced to arrive on 1 November, and on 18 November 1940, thirty six Empire Air Scheme Trainees reported for duty and commenced lectures and physical training. Flying training commenced on 19 November 1940, and the first  solo flight is credited to trainee LAC Poulton on 25 November 1940.

During the early period of its existence, the school was beset by difficulties and trying conditions. Heavy rains falling between late December 1940 and March 1941, frequently made the aerodrome unserviceable, and much of the flying training had to be carried out from Archerfield and Maryborough.  The torrential rain made it apparent that 'all weather'  runways were essential and their construction started immediately.  A new working day of 0530 - 1830 hours was introduced to offset the weather, and aircraft maintenance was to be carried out in shifts throughout the night. The runways and overrun areas were completed by 31 August 1941, and 13 Bellman hangars by 1 October 1941.  A decline in the number of taxying accidents followed.

Command of the unit was relinquished by Wing Commander R.H. Simms AFC, on 14 April 1941, and handed over to Wing Commander L.V. Lachal.  During 1941, No 3 SFTS received more Anson aircraft and gradually transferred all their Wirraway aircraft to another base. 

 RAAF Station Sandgate, which consisted of Station Headquarters, No 3 Initial Training School, and No 3 Embarkation Depot was formed on 16 December 1940 under the command of Flt. Lt. V.L. Dowling. The advance party on arrival at Sandgate (North of Brisbane), found that no buildings had been erected and that, on instruction from Canberra all work on the site had been suspended.  Central area then obtained approval of Air Board for Sandgate to be based at Amberley,  pending completion of the buildings.  28 huts were made available to enable the first intake of 217 aircrew trainees to commence their 8 weeks training.  On 16 December 1940, all personnel arrived at Amberley and operated there as a separate command until the 18 April 1941, when movement  of the Station to Sandgate was completed.

 

War in the Pacific

During the rest of 1941, No 3 SFTS and No 3 Recruit Depot remained  at Amberley. Flt. Lt. K. Gardiner took command of No 3 Recruit Depot on 1 June 1941, then on 31 March 1942, the Depot moved to Maryborough, Queensland.

 Trainee Pilot, LAC Walter B. Campbell (later Sir Walter Campbell and now ex-Governor of Queensland) was given his 'Wings Test' by Chief Flying Instructor Sqn Ldr LeGood in Avro Anson W2095, on 7 December 1941. Sqn Ldr Hugh J F 'Speed' Le Good was an RAF flying instructor who came to Amberley in October 1940.  While LAC Campbell and the Ansons promptly became part of 67 Reserve Squadron, patrolling the east coast, Amberley was preparing its 'aircraft erection squadron'.   Sqn Ldr H.J.F. Le Good became Commanding Officer of 1 Service Flying Training School, Point Cook, on 20 May 1942.

On 15 December 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbour, personnel of the United States Air Corps commenced arriving on the base and were accommodated at No 3 SFTS. The total strength of the USAC on 31 December 1941 was 998 personnel, for whom accommodation facilities were provided at No 3 Recruit Depot's Quarters and in tents erected by the United States Army.

On 7 December 1941, a US convoy of seven ships was escorted by the cruiser Pensacola on its way from Hawaii to Manila to reinforce the Philippines. The convoy was ordered back to Hawaii but President Roosevelt then redirected the convoy to Brisbane, Australia. The 8 ships of the Pensacola Convoy arrived in Brisbane on 23 December 1941. Another source states that there were approximately 70 crates of A-20 and A-24 aircraft on board. Many of these were sent to Amberley for assembly. Archerfield was then to receive later shipments of crated aircraft for assembly.

Throughout December 1941 the American personnel with the assistance of members of No 3 Service Training School assembled P40E Kittyhawk and A24 Douglas Dauntless aircraft. This event foreshadowed the change in role of RAAF Base Amberley to a major centre for the assembly, maintenance and salvage of combat aircraft for the Pacific theatre. It is believed that crated engines and crated aircraft were stored at nearby Goolman airfield. Jim Steenson from an "erection squadron" recollects crated aircraft and engines being stored at a site near Amberley airfield.

The ground echelon of the USAAC's 38th Bomb Group had sailed for Australia on 31 January 1942 arriving in Melbourne. As there was no scheduled arrival for their aircraft, they were dispersed to Amberley and Eagle Farm to assemble P-39 and P-40 aircraft.


Photo: via Gordon Birkett

P-39 Airacobra assembly at Amberley

 


Photo: via Gordon Birkett

P-39 Airacobra assembly at Amberley

 


Photo: via Gordon Birkett

P-39 Airacobra at Amberley after assembly

 


Photo: via Gordon Birkett

P-400 at Amberley

 


Photo: via Gordon Birkett

A-24 at Amberley. There is a white #6 and possibly a 7 and a 6 on
the rudder (very fuzzy) therefore it could possibly be #41-15796. 

With the expansion of the Station, 36 members of the National Defence Force, and 38 members of Garrison Battalion were attached to the Base for guard duties in January 1942. On 10 March 1942, No 3 SFTS commenced to move to Kingaroy, and to facilitate this move, Station Headquarters Amberley began forming in nucleus, ultimately to become an operational station.  However as an emergency measure on 26 March 1942 it was decided to move or re-allocate  certain training units to make provistion for operational requirements of the USAFIA, and RAAF.  Kingaroy was handed over to the USAFIC and the move of No 3 SFTS which was still in progress was immediately diverted. The School was eventually dissolved on 22 April 1942 and 18 and 19 courses, instructional and maintenance staff and most of the aircraft were to be divided between 1 Service Flying Training School, Point Cook, and 6 Service Flying Training School, Mallala.  30 March 1942 marked the graduation of 17 course, the last of 10 courses to be trained at 3SFTS. During the schools 18 months at Amberley over 500 trainee aircrew received instruction and passed onto the advanced Flying Training Phase.

With the disbandment of No 3 Recruit Depot on 3 April 1942 now ended the initial role of the Station of Aircrew training and recruitment of personnel for the war effort.

Change of Role

The 16 March 1942 saw the formation of No 3 Aircraft Depot together with the resurrection of Station Headquarters Amberley.  Group Captain L.V. Lachal was appointed to command the station, and Squadron Leader W.H. Nicholson was posted from No 3 SFTS to temporarily command the Depot until Wing Commander G.E. Douglas took over on 18 June 1942.   

(note: Wing Commander G.E. Douglas and former Amberley Station Commander Squadron Leader S.A.C Campbell were both attached to Antarctic Flight as Flying Officers during the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expeditions of 1929 and 1931. Their aircraft was a de Havilland Gypsy Moth. This was not the only pre-war service involvement over the Antarctic Continent. On 22 October 1935 the American explorer, Lincoln Ellsworth and his pilot, H. Hollick Kenyon, lost contact with their support vessel during a trans-Antarctic flight from Dundee Island. The Australian Government mounted a successful rescue mission to the Bay of Whales. Aboard were the Discovery II were two RAAF aircraft, a Gypsy Moth and a Wapiti, under the command of Flying Officer G.E. Douglas.

RAAF Station Amberley now settled down to perform its major role of assembly, repair and salvage of aircraft.  As the war in the Pacific intensified, the Station played a big part in the supply and servicing of operational squadrons, and as a staging post for units moving into the war zone.  For the rest of the war, Amberley was home to hundreds of US military personnel.

Jim Steenson was an RAAF member of the 'aircraft erection squadron' at Amberley for about 18 months from the end of March 1942. Jim wrote - "...our prime objective was to assemble the Kittyhawks (P-40) and Cobras (P-39) alongside the American engineering staff in an effort to get fighter aircraft into action as soon as possible. We worked around the clock in two 12 hour shifts. I was on the 6 pm to 6 am shift, seven days a week for a period of a few months. We were given a meal at midnight (on the job) of sandwiches and tea. The aircraft were stored in crates in the bush just outside the station, guarded by american soldiers.  They were placed on the apron outside the hangar, with mobile cranes pulling the crates apart. Then on low wheeled platforms they were taken inside to four assembly lines, two Australian and two American.  From memory the best assembly rate was eighteen in a 24 hour day!"

No 3AD was soon in full swing, and with an initial complement of 106 airmen from No 3 SFTS erected 123 P39 Airacobra fighter aircraft within the first two months of operation.  By the end of April 1942, the strength had increased to 284 airmen, and a salvage section was formed for the purpose of salvaging unserviceable aircraft from squadrons and aerodromes situated in the area, and despatching repairable items to No 5 Aircraft  Depot at Wagga Wagga NSW.

Although 76 Squadron RAAF was formed at Amberley on 16 March 1942, Records for RAAF Station Archerfield show that 76 Squadron Kittyhawks arrived at Archerfield on 14 March 1942.

An 80 man team from the 49th Pursuit Group, USAAC moved by rail to Amberley airfield. This team was lead by Lieutenant George Hermanson of the 7th Pursuit Squadron, Dick Illing of the 8th Pursuit Squadron, Lieutenant Fred Hollier of the 9th Pursuit Squadron and Lieutenant Paul Werner from the HQ Squadron. Their P-40 Kittyhawks (Warhawks) were fitted out a Amberley.

Ferry pilots soon started to deliver Kittyhawks to the Pursuit Squadrons at Bankstown, Fairbairn and Williamtown. Each Squadron received 25 Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawks (Warhawks) from the first three production runs of Kittyhawks. Some P-40E1CU Kittyhawks from the 4th production run were also delivered. All of the Kittyhawks carried the star-in-circle insignia and the words "US Army" on them. 10 Kittyhawks were held in reserve in HQ Squadron at Bankstown and about another 10 were allocated to the RAAF reserve pool at Laverton airfield in Melbourne. Within two weeks more than 30 planes had been wrecked during training.

By March 1942, about 330 Kittyhawks had been delivered to various Units of the USAAF in Australia. 140 of these were lost during training accidents in Australia. After 22nd March 1942 more pilots and crews started to arrive in the Northern Territory directly from Amberley airfield in southern Queensland or from the 49th Pursuit Group's training reserve team in Williamtown. 

On 22 March 1942, the first flight of the USAAC's 22nd Bomb Group Air Echelon arrived at Amberley Field - the first Air Force Group, completely armed to fly the Pacific en masse.  During the next few months, the depot expanded further and commenced major inspections of Wirraway and Hudsons, and assembly of Martin Marauder and Kittyhawk aircraft. In April 1942, more personnel arrived on the Station, and personnel of the US Army Air Corps, Volunteer Defence Corps, Australian Army Service Corps, and the 6th Anti Aircraft Battery of the Australian Military Forces were stationed on the base for various duties.

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Hangar used by 22nd Service Group
at Amberley in the foreground of
the above photo

On 6 May 1942, a second Citizen Air Force Unit, No 23 Squadron under the command of Squadron Leader K.M. Hampshire moved from RAAF Station Archerfield to Amberley with a compliment of 11 Officers and 270 Airmen together with 20 Wirraway and 3 Moth Minor aircraft.  During the month, the squadron carried out reconnaissance and anti-submarine patrols off Australia's east coast, and army co-operation work.  The Squadron stayed until 6 June 1942 when it was transferred to Lowood Queensland.  During the period 1942 - 1960, No 23 Squadron returned to Amberley several times, and in 1961 it took permanent residence on the base.

On the 11 May 1942, Group Captain L.V. Lachal was posted to No 53 FTS Uranquinty and Wing Commander W.R Hartwright (RAF) assumed command of the station.  On 25 May, the Station Operations Room was established with a compliment of 3 controlling Officers, 3 Sergeants previously from Archerfield.  Also during this month the following works were completed: Shelter trenches for personnel, roads for aircraft disposal ; splinter proof walls around the operations building, Hospital, Power Station, boiler rooms and W/T Station. Work was also commenced on the extension of runways, and the construction of satellite landing grounds was completed.

 

Bomb Shelter or Bunker at Amberley during WW2

 

June 1942 saw several more changes around the base. On the1 June 1942, No 3AD came under the control of No 5 Maintenance Group, Sydney.  On the 18 June 1942, Wing Commander G.E. Douglas assumed command of the Station from Wing Commander W.R Hartwright (RAF) and on 26 June 1942, No 10 Repair and Salvage unit became a lodger unit on the base until its departure to Lowood on 1 September 1942 where it came under control of No 9 Group.

On the 11 July 1942, instructions were received ordering the disbandment of Station Headquarters as from 31 July 1942, consequent upon the issue of a revised Establishment for No 3 Aircraft Depot which would transfer maintenance and administration of the Station to the Depot.  No 3 Aircraft Depot, under the Command of Acting Group Captain Douglas, assumed control of the Station, and took over all aerodrome maintenance personnel on 1 August 1942.  Also on 24 August 1942, No 6 Recruit Depot was formed on the Station under the command of Squadron Leader J.R. Gordon, with a staff of 63 personnel and an establishment of 250 airmen under training.  The function of the Recruit Depot was to provide recruit training consisting of the training at the Depot and a bivouac in nearby bush country. The training consisted of foot drill, rifle and bayonet drill, physical training and swimming; lectures on aircraft recognition, gas, sanitation, hygiene, discipline; and a wide range of administrative matters. The bivouac training was to provide living conditions similar to those at an advanced base. This consisted of bayonet fighting, bushcraft, night exercises, unarmed defence, swimming, and attack involving obstacle courses and methods of assault under as near as possible to battle front conditions. This unit left Amberley on 1 December 1942 and moved to Sandgate. 

The advance party of USAFIA Ferry Division Air Transport Command, Williamtown commenced operating from the Station on 10 September 1942.  This party which compromised initially of 2 officers and 7 airmen were required at the terminus of the Trans Pacific Ferry Service to supervise offloading and subsequent delivery, and the outward loading of aircraft proceeding between Australia and the USA.   At about the same time the US Army Airways Communication Service arrived on the base, and then in November 1942, the 22nd Service Group of the 5th Air Force also settled in on the Station, both these units were to remain till 1945.

At Amberley and nearby Archerfield, the RAAF played host to the 22nd ground echelons, supplying them with blankets, mosquito bars, Aussie shorts, shirts and long woollen socks. Slit trenches were dug and anti-aircraft emplacements were built as Darwin was already being bombed and the invasion of the Australian mainland seemed very real and very close at hand. 

The 101st Coastal Artillery (AA Separate) Battalion and the 94th Coastal Artillery (AA) Regiment, US Army arrived in Sydney on the "Queen Mary" on 28 March 1942, and travelled to Queensland by train. The 101st CA Battalion deployed its 0.50" calibre machine guns around Amberley and Lowood airfields and the 94th CAAA Regiment deployed some of its 3" anti-aircraft guns at Amberley, Archerfield and other areas of Brisbane. 

The Aussies, bitter that their own troops were fighting in the Middle East at a time when Australia itself was likely to be attacked any day showed their gratitude at work and in town. Civilians who had sons themselves far from home opened their homes to the Americans.

A staging camp was built at Rocklea and was later used to house evacuees coming from Java. Dutch pilots and officers were seen in Lennon's Hotel in Brisbane. The 22nd helped set up the A.P.O. in Brisbane it released experienced personnel to G.H.Q. in Melbourne and helped form the Base Section 3 HQ at Somerville House in Brisbane. But the most important work of all was the splendid job the ground crews did in assembling aircraft new to them - the P-40 and P-39 aircraft were arriving in crates. These aircraft were mostly sent to Darwin, the Dutch East Indies and to Port Moresby for combat. The RAAF Airacobras were used exclusively for patrols against Japanese aircraft attempting to attack targets in Australia, and never saw any combat. By November 1943, all the RAAF Airacobras had been returned to the 5th Air Force, with the exception of A53-1, -3, -5 and -8, which had been written off in accidents.

The 39th Fighter Squadron of the 35th Fighter Group, USAAC was the first unit in the 5th Air Force to use the new twin tailed P-38 Lightnings. Approximately 50 "F" Model P-38's were delivered by ship to Brisbane in October 1942. They were unloaded from the American aircraft carrier USS Barnes at the Brisbane wharves and then assembled at nearby Eagle Farm airfield, before being flown to Amberley airfield for final fitting out with armament, etc.

Amberley in March 1941 before the Bellman hangars were erected.
The parade ground is near the centre of the photograph. The picture
theatre is the building at the bottom right of the photograph.

 

P-38 Lightnings being unloaded from
American aircraft carrier USS Barnes
at Brisbane Wharves

 

Eighteen P-38 Lightnings, with wings missing, at Eagle Farm airport,
possibly just after being offloaded from a US naval convoy. 

A gaggle of P-38 Lightnings at Amberley
air base west of Brisbane in November 1942.
Hangar 76 can be seen at the left

 

A closer look at the P-38's at Amberley. 
Note the camouflaged hangars

 

Amberley in March 1943

 

Hangar 76 at bottom of the photo

 

Some photos of P-38's in Australia during WW2

By the end of 1942, No 3 Aircraft Depot was assembling Vultee Vengeance aircraft as well as major inspections being carried out on Avro, Cobra, Kittyhawk, Lancer, Hudson, Wirraway and Boston aircraft.  An Engine Repair Section was also established to overhaul Single Wasp engines and Hamilton, De Havilland and Curtis Electric airscrews.

In January 1943 the total number of combined personnel on the Station was 2290. Units sited at Amberley comprised of:

The United States Air Transport Command had an extensive communication network within Australia. They shared a radio station at Amberley airfield west of Brisbane with the 5th Air Force and had Teletype facilities at a number of locations.

No 23 and 71 Squadron detachments departed Amberley and recommenced operations from Lowood on 2 February 1943 but were replaced at the depot by the Air Echelon of No 77 Squadron which arrived from Darwin on the same day and handed over all of 77 Squadron P40E aircraft to No 3AD.  This Squadron was re-equipped with the new P40K aircraft and departed Amberley enroute to New Guinea on 15 February 1943.

On 11 February 1943, a Douglas DC3  USAAC No 41-38713 was allotted to the RAAF and renumbered A30-15.  This was the first aircraft of this type received by the RAAF, and after inspection by the Depot delivery of it was taken by No 36 Squadron. Further construction was commenced on the HF/DF Station and orders were placed for the equipment on 25 February 1943.  On this day work was also commenced on new shelter trenches and the erection of 12 concrete gun pits.

During the rest of 1943, Amberley continued to expand and in June RAAF and WRAAF personnel on strength at No 3 Aircraft Depot totalled 1856.

The first of thirty eight B-24 Liberators of the 380th Bombardment Group left Topeka, Kansas for Australia on 15 April 1943. They arrived at Amberley airfield between 22 and 30 April 1943. The Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Miller, reported to General George C. Kenney at the Fifth Air Force's Headquarters in Brisbane and received his orders to move the 380th Bomb Group to Fenton airfield in the Northern Territory. They made a temporary stopover at Charters Towers airfield for modifications. The 528th Squadron were the first to leave Amberley airfield on 28 April 1943.

In May 1943, the construction of two 170' span structures began by contractor M R Hornibrook P/L, to house B-24 Liberators. They were located on the southern fringe of the building area and became well known to RAAF crews ferrying B-24s across the Pacific, and those of the RAAF Liberator squadrons picking up their assigned machines in 1944 and 1945.  These hangars served until their demolition to make way for the huge maintenance facility (Hangar 410) now operated by 501 Wing.

On 1 July 1943, the 431st Fighter Squadron, of the 475th Fighter Group, USAAC, transferred its P-38 Lightnings from Charters Towers to Amberley airfield. The squadron had not been in combat at that stage. They relocated to Port Moresby on 8 August 1943. On 14 August 1943, the Headquarters group of the 475th Fighter Group and it's 431st, 432rd and 433rd Fighter Squadrons transferred from Amberley airfield to Dobodura, in New Guinea. 

On 14 October 1943, No 6 Aircraft Depot was formed at Amberley and departed soon after to Oakey airfield. The Aircraft Depot's primary function was to relieve, repair and carryout overhaul work then being done at No. 3 Aircraft Depot at Amberley airfield and to act as a forward depot for aircraft operating from New Guinea and northern Australia. The Depot serviced, assembled and conducted test flights of Beaufort, Mustang Norsemen, Wirraway and Spitfire aircraft. They also serviced large quantities of communications equipment and radio compass receivers. No. 77 Wing Headquarters formed at Amberley on 22 November 1943 and a separate Air Force unit under the Command of Eastern Area.  The Wing Headquarters departed Brisbane aboard the "SS Edward D. Baker" on 17 January 1944 enroute for Nadzab,  New Guinea, accompanied by No 11 Repair and Salvage Unit, No 47 Operational Base Unit and No 23 Medical Clearing Station.  No 10 Replenishing Centre also formed at Amberley on 22 November, under the command of No 5 Maintenance Group, as a separate Air Force Unit.  Its function being the storage and distribution of ammunition, explosives and pyrotechnics.  The unit came under the control of No 10 Operational Group on 12 January 1944 and departed on 17 January also enroute to Nadzab.

The Station expanded further when No 3 Central Recovery Depot was formed as a lodger unit at No 3 Aircraft Depot on 11 January 1944 with 3 officers and 102 airmen.  This unit was formed under instructions from No 5 Maintenance Group and included personnel from Technical Salvage Sections of No 3AD, No 8 Service Flying Training School, and Non Technical Recovery and Disposal Section of No 3 Stores Depot.

No. 15 Squadron RAAF sent a detachment to Amberley, from 10 May 1944 until 4 March 1945.

New aircraft appeared on the Station in May 1944 when 48 RAF Spitfires of No 548 and 549 Squadrons arrived on 23rd from Strathpine, Queensland.  On 24 May 1944, the first of the new B24-J series Liberator arrived from overseas ferried by a RAAF crew.  During this month, to show the versatility of No 3 Aircraft Depot the following aircraft were allotted from or received into the unit:

5 Spitfires

2 Taylor Craft

6 C47

2 Avro Ansons

1 Beaufighter

25 Kitty Hawk

2 F38 Lighting

2 B24 Liberators

1 Beaufort

The Station now expanded very rapidly, and the construction of the Station Sick Quarters commenced on 31 May 1944. Security was increased on the Station when a report arrived on 5 August 1944 that a number of Japanese prisoners had escaped from an internment camp.

No 24 Air Stores Park formed at Amberley on 25 August 1944 as a lodger unit within the Depot.  The unit departed by troop train on 24 October 1944 for Fenton (120 miles south of Darwin).

The veteran Lancaster W 4783, 'G' for George which participated in 90 sorties for the RAF Bomber Command with 460 RAAF Squadron arrived from Tontoula 11:32 a.m on 8 November 1944  captained by Flight Lieutenant E.A. Hudson, DFC and PWR.  'George' underwent and inspection at the Depot and departed for Rockhampton on 10 November 1944. After a promotional tours of Australia, 'G' for George was honourably retired and flown to Canberra for preservation. After ten years outdoors, the aircraft was restored to display condition in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

During the next few months, various units stayed, or were formed at Amberley enroute to other locations.  An Air Echelon of No 21 Squadron with 138 personnel and 11 Liberator aircraft arrived on 17 November 1944, and departed on 2 January 1945 for Fenton.  The first detachment of No 300 Wing (RAF) Ground Staff landed on 4 February 1945.  After receiving a further ten C-47 aircraft, the unit departed for Camden, NSW on 23 February 1945.  No 85 Operational Base Unit was formed at Amberley on 8 March 1945 under the control of 85 (N/B) Wing.  They departed on 25 May 1945 for Fenton, however this was later changed to Winnellee, where it arrived on 7 June 1945.

No 85 (Heavy/Bomber) Wing Headquarters formed at RAAF Station Amberley on 10 March 1945, under the control of Headquarters Eastern Area.  Its purpose was the administration and Operational Contol of the following units:

No 31 Air Stores Park

No 85 Operational Base Unit

No 12 Heavy Bobmer Squadron

No 99 Heavy Bomber Squadron

Wing Commander H.C. Hemsworth was appointed Temporary Commanding Officer, and the Headquarters completed the move to Darwin by 19 June 1945. 

No 31 Air Stores Park was formed at Amberley on 11 March 1945 and was put under the direct control of  No 85 Wing Headquarters from 1 April 1945.  It formed a lodger unit on No 3 Aircraft Depot until 1 September 1945 and completed movement to Darwin by 13 September 1945.

On 16 March 1945, No 3AD was declared a Master Depot for Liberator aircraft for the purpose of bringing on charge all future deliveries of B-24 aircraft.  On this date also, Air Echelon of  No 23 Squadron moved to Amberley with 12 B-24's pending the arrival of their land party at Fenton.  The Air Echelon departed Amberley on 6 April 1945 enroute to the N.W. Area.  On 20 April 1945, six B-24's of 12 Squadron also arrived to await movement to N.W. Area.  12 Squadron at this period was re-arming as a Heavy Bomber Squadron and the Air Echelon departed the Station during the following month.

During the month of April 1945, No 3 Aircraft Depot handled 100 aircraft to and from the unit.  They were:-:

47 B-24 Liberators

21 C-47 Dakota's

7 Mitchells

4 Avro Ansons

4 Spitfires

1 Venture

2 Moths

17 Kitty Hawks

2 Beaufighters

1 Vultee Vengeance

An event which helped to break the monotony of service life on the Base, occurred on 2 May 1945 when Wing Commander J.W. Kingsford-Smith and a group of Cinema Technicians arrived to screen the first part of the film "Kingsford-Smith".  Also on 4 May they filmed a scene of the landing of the first Liberators arriving by the Pacific Air Route for the film, "Life of Kingsford-Smith".

Celebrations were in order on 8 May 1945 with the Declaration of V.E.Day.  Piquets stood by and only essential crews worked on the following day.

In part by June, 1945 3AD had received and despatched 254 Liberators to flying Squadron.

Twenty five Mosquito Aircraft of No 1 Squadron Air Echelon, under the command of Wing Commander R.A. Little, DFC, arrived on 21 May 1945 on move from Kingaroy Queensland enroute to Labuan.  Fifteen officers and 15 airmen were accommodated on Base, and the rest were quartered at Rocklea Transit Camp Brisbane. The Squadron departed the area on 31 July 1945, however one  aircraft had to return due to engine trouble, and another aircraft swerved on take off and struck a civil truck killing one of the occupants.

After delays of approx 2 months, No 99 Squadron with 12 Libertors and 75 personnel under the Command of Wing Commander A.E. Cross commenced to arrive on the Base on 7 August 1945.  They were accommodated in the American section of the Barracks area, as an independent unit and departed on 19 September 1945.

Air transport Command (USAFIA) moved to Eagle Farm on 5 July 1945 and their last  operation from Amberley was completed shortly after midnight.  Approximately 190 personnel of the US Army Airways Communication Services remained on Base to carry out essential communications pending a final move on the following month.  The two Igloo Hangars and Tarmac area at the end of Runway 135 which had been occupied by the USAFIS were loaned to the RAAF from 17 July 1945 on a temporary basis for the parking of Liberator aircraft.  Commanding Officer, Rear Echelon, FEASC could terminate this arrangement at any time if necessary.

On 1 August, 1945, Commander Coote RNVH and Lieutenant Armstrong visited the US section for possible use by the Royal Navy.  Forty six naval personnel arrived on this date and commenced the erection of 12 Vultee Vengeance aircraft allotted to the RAN for target towing,  These aircraft were to eventually return to Air Stores for disposal on 25 October 1945 and the RAN detachment departed for Brisbane on 30 October 1945.

News of the Japanese surrender reached the Station at 0930 on 15 August 1945.  Personnel were stood down from 1200 hours on this date till 17 August 1945 to participate in Peace Celebrations.  However much joy was taken from the festivities when at 1600 hours on 17 August 1945 a Liberator from No 99 Squadron, A72-306 crashed at the South East end of the field resulting in the death of 4 occupants.  Unfortunately another Liberator from 99 Squadron A72-313 also crashed on 14 September 1945 about 2 1/2 miles south of the field killing the crew of five.

On 17 September 1945 the first batch of POW's arrived on the Station from Darwin by aircraft.  They were cared for and fed at the Station Sick Quarters with assistance from the Red Cross Voluntary Workers.

 

After the War

With the cessation of hostilities in the Pacific, now started the disbandment of many units around the area, and the return of overseas squadrons to Australia.  As Amberley was the departure point for many units it now became a place of return and disbandment.

The main runway and parallel taxiway were reconstructed on a new alignment in the immediate post-war years.

The Commanding Office with two other members of Air Defence Headquarters visited the Station on 12 October 1945 to inspect accommodation for the move from Brisbane.  Buildings inspected were situated in the American Area and were made available by the US Army on usual turn out on 30 days notice. Air Defence Headquarters with 174 personnel (50 WRAAF) arrived on Station on 5 November and eventually disbanded on 22 November 1946.

No 3 Central Recovery Depot was reduced to a nucleus as from 10 January 1946 and Recovery Section 3AD was formed during the month as a section of Stores Squadron pending receipt of unit organisation to take over No 3 Central Recovery Depot.  Headquarters No 5 (Maintenance) Group disbanded on 23 January 1946 and units controlled by the Headquarters and Eastern area Headquarters with effect from that date.  No 3 Central Recovery Depot was eventually disbanded on 31 August 1946.

On 5 February 1946, the advance party of 12 Squadron, Commanded by Squadron Leader J.E.S. Bennet arrived at the Base and became a lodger unit on No 3 Aircraft Depot.  The movement of 12 Squadron was completed during March 1946 and the Squadron was reduced to a care and maintenance unit at Amberley, and eventually came under the command of the Headquarters No 82 Wing.

No 14 Operational Base Unit ceased to function on 25 March 1946.  The detachments of this unit at Kingaroy and Charleville were withdrawn, but Meteorological personnel required to Charleville were added to the establishment of No 3 Aircraft Depot.  No 3AD became responsible for the safeguarding of buildings and installations at Lowood and Kingaroy, and for stored aircraft at these locations. Care and maintenance detachments were added to No 3AD to take care of these areas.

Headquarters No 82 Wing, No 21 (H/B) Squadron and No 23 (H/B) Squadron moved from Tocumwal, NSW to Amberley during April 1946.  On 2 April 1946 the Commanding Officer No 82 Wing, Group Captain P. Parker, DFC, flew to Amberley to inspect the new location.  On 17 April 1946, the orderly rooms of the three units were closed down at Tocumwal and re-opened at Amberley on 18 April 1946.  On arrival at Amberley the units ceased to operate and were reduced to a care and maintenance basis.  No 82 Wing was lodged on No 3AD but remained under the command of Headquarters Eastern Area. 

On 10 May 1946, No 4 Repair and Salvage Unit completed its move from Parkes, NSW to Amberley, and was renamed No 482 Squadron under the command of  Squadron Leader J.E. Jackson. The Unit then became a component of No 82 Wing and was reduced to a care and maintenance unit.

The demobbing program was so successful, that the lack of staff forced the closure of the Officers Mess and Sergeants Mess on 20 May 1946. However with the build up of No 82 Wing aircrew personnel in July and August the Officers Mess reopened on 20 August 1946.

A 'Victory March' took place in Ipswich on 10 June 1946.  Two flights of 60 airmen participated, one from each of No 82 Wing and No 3AD.   By July 1946 a considerable number of aircraft were held at No 3AD, and the number were such that a Care and Maintenance Detachment was set up at Archerfield. This detachment flew a large number of aircraft including many Mosquitos.  A total of 309 aircraft were being held at the depot which was nearly equal to the total number of personnel on the unit. Aircraft held were as follows:-

10 Avro Ansons 27 Mosquitos
2 Beaufighters  47 Spitfires
3 Beauforts 1 Ventura
41 Vultee Vengeance 16 C-47
1 Boomerang 68 Mustang
32 Mitchell 61 Liberator

A preview of things to come occurred on 16 September 1946 when the Lincoln aircraft 'Aries' of the Empire Air Navigation School arrived at Amberley.  Lectures were given to aircrew of No 82 Wing on advancements in flying research, and general organisation of the RAAF by instructors from the School.   A party of 8 RNZAF personnel arrived at Amberley on 10 October 1946 for the purpose of taking over 4 Mosquito aircraft and fly them back to New Zealand.  A Lincoln aircraft, A73-1 and crew arrived on 1 November to await departure of the Mosquitos. All aircraft departed Amberley on 7 November 1946 enroute for Norfolk Island.

 

Units Based At RAAF Base Amberley 

Unit

From

To

Station Headquarters Amberley

17/06/40

21/10/40

No 24 Squadron

17/06/40

11/10/40

No 3 Recruit Depot

1/07/40

3/04/42

No 3 Service Flying Training Squadron

21/10/40

20/04/42

RAAF Station Sandgate  (Station Headquarters)

16/12/40

18/04/41

(No 3 Initial Training School) (No 3 Embarkation Depot)

 

 

Units of US Army Air Corps (various)

15/12/41

-53

Station Headquarters Amberley

16/03/42

31/07/42

No 3 Aircraft Depot

16/03/42

1/04/92

Units of National Defence Corps

-43

1/04/92

Garrison Battalion

-43

 

Units of Volunteer Defence Corps

-46

 

Units of Australian Army Service Corps

-46

 

6th Anti-Aircraft Battery AMF

-46

 

No 3 Medical Clearing Station

1/05/42

 

No 23 (F) Squadron

6/05/42

6/06/42

No 1 Air Liaison Section (Home Forces)

12/05/42

 

No 10 Repair and Salvage Unit

15/05/42

1/09/42

No 6 Recruit Depot

24/08/42

1/12/42 

US Army Airway Communication Service

-51

-53

USAFIA Ferry Div Air Transport Command

10/09/42

5/07/45

22nd Service Group (5th Air Force)

25/11/42

 

No 71 Squadron (Detached Flight)

26/01/43 

2/02/43

No 77 Squadron (Air Echelon)

2/02/43

15/02/43

No 6 Aircraft Depot

14/10/43

 

No 77 Wing Headquarters

22/11/43

17/01/44

No 10 Replenishing Centre

22/11/43

9/01/44

No 3 Central Recovery Depot

11/01/44

31/08/46

No 24 Air Stores Park

25/08/44

27/10/44

No 21 Squadron (Air Echelon)

17/11/44

21/01/45

No 300 Wing (RAF)

4/02/45

23/02/45

No 85 Operational Base Unit

8/03/45

25/05/45

No 85 (H/B) Wing Headquarters

10/03/45

6/06/45

No 31 Air Stores Park

11/03/45

1/09/45

No 23 Squadron (Air Echelon)

16/03/45

6/04/45

No12 Squadron (Air Echelon)

20/04/45

-50

No 1 Squadron (Air Echelon)

21/05/45

31/07/45

Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Detachment

1/08/45

30/10/45

No 99 Squadron (Air Echelon)

7/08/45

19/09/45

Air Defence Headquarters

5/11/45

22/11/46

No 12 Squadron

5/02/46

23/02/48

No 23 Squadron

12/04/46

23/02/48

No 82 (B) Wing Headquarters

18/04/46

1/02/74

No 21 Squadron

24/04/46

23/02/48

No 482 Maintenance Squadron

10/05/46

1/04/92

Headquarters RAAF Station Amberley

15/08/47

30/04/52

 

MILITARY AIRCRAFT CRASHES AT AMBERLEY DURING WW2

DATE LOCATION SERVICE AIRCRAFT SERIAL NO.
11 Jan 42 Amberley airfield USAAF A-24 ?
17 Jan 42 Amberley airfield USAAF A-24 #41-15798
24 Jan 42 Amberley airfield USAAF P-40E Kittyhawk #41-385
26 Jan 42 Amberley airfield USAAF A-24 #41-15772
30 Jan 42 Amberley airfield USAAF ? #48
3 Feb 42 Amberley USAAF P-40 Kittyhawk #36-476
3 Feb 42 Amberley USAAF P-40E Kittyhawk Box No. 186 (straight out of the box!)
12 Apr 43 Amberley airfield USAAF? B-25D Mitchell #41-30197
15 May 43 Amberley USAAF B-25D Mitchell #41-30032
"Best Yet"
4 Dec 1942 collided near Purga, crashed in Coolamon Creek, near Peaks Crossing USAAF P-38 Lightning #42-12646, "Synchronised Sal", collided with the P-38 below, 1 killed
4 Dec 1942 collided near Purga (near Amberley) USAAF P-38 Lightning #42-12642, collided with the P-38 above
9 Jun 44 Amberley USAAF B-25G Mitchell 312 BG
5 Jul 43 Amberley USAAF? P-38H Lightning #42-66530
12 Jul 44 Amberley USAAF? C-47 Dakota #42-23890
abt Apr 45 Amberley RAAF HF.VIII Spitfire A58-669 (MT892), crash landed
31 Jul 45 Amberley RAAF Mosquito A52-502
16 Aug 45 Amberley RAAF B-24J Liberator A72-306
14 Sep 45 near Amberley RAAF B-24J Liberator A72-313

 

SOME PHOTOS OF THE ENTRANCE TO AMBERLEY AIRFIELD - 2001

amb02.jpg (66559 bytes) amb03.jpg (63731 bytes) amb01.jpg (116026 bytes)
amb04.jpg (109848 bytes) amb05.jpg (81959 bytes) amb06.jpg (147059 bytes)
amb07.jpg (102804 bytes) amb08.jpg (95909 bytes) amb09.jpg (123500 bytes)
amb10.jpg (207296 bytes) amb11.jpg (133749 bytes) amb12.jpg (101015 bytes)
amb14.jpg (102555 bytes) amb13.jpg (165085 bytes) amb15.jpg (115713 bytes)
amb16.jpg (95528 bytes) wb02.jpg (61029 bytes) wb03.jpg (54688 bytes)
wb04.jpg (55091 bytes)    

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

I'd like to thank Tony Porter for his kind assistance with the greater majority of the above information on Amberley airfield.

 

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This page first produced 18 April 2001

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