MONOMEITH PARK AIRFIELD
NEAR KOO-WEE-RUP, VIC
Monomeith Park Airfield was the parent Airfield for Longwarry (Maintenance Echelon), Heath Hill (Dispersal Airfield) and Tynong (Dispersal Airfield). Monomeith Airfield was constructed "for air operations in the defence of Melbourne and Yallourn including the sea approaches."
An assessment of local conditions in March 1943 by Pilot Officer Douglas Cuninghame Farran possibly of an RAAF Airfield Construction Squadron, indicated that dispersal areas would "probably be located north west of Heath Hill about 8 miles east of Monomeith Park airfield and about 5 miles south east of Cranbourne on the south western side of the South Gippsland Highway. This will require further investigation on the ground."
Another ground inspection of the site was made on 14 May 1942 by Mr. Hicks of the Department of Home Security and an Engineer from the Department of Air. They visited the following sites:-
Their report indicated they would need some aerial photographs before it would be possible "to work out a complete and satisfactory scheme for all of them."
A further inspection of the general area for a fighter aerodrome near Monomeith Park was carried out on 17 June 1942 by Wing Commander Mervyn Ellis Bill (250934), Mr. Beattie from W.6 Section, Mr Grantley, District Engineer S.R.W.S.C. at Koo-wee-rup and Pilot Officer Fowler and Pilot Officer Farren of W.2 Section. Their report dated 17 June 1942 found "It appears from this and previous inspections that Monomeith Park is the only suitable site observed for an aerodrome in this district."
A Department of Home Security, Pre Planning Section report by W.R. Godfrey dated 6 August 1942 detailed yet another inspection of the site by Mr Lawrence D.W.B. The "Object of the Visits" was recorded as a visit to "Select 16 sites for fighter aircraft." The Report described the site as follows:-
DESCRIPTION OF SITE
Field is to have four runways (only 2 gravel runways were built). Whole area is extremely flat and very bare of suitable cover. Nine hideouts were sited but none was really good. Six located under or against pine-rows. One in a private garden among wattle; two in fair gum patch, 1 1/2 miles South of Strip. In all cases it was intended to use suspended garnishing. One hideout in pine-row of private house (No. 5) was to have tail built into reconstructed house. Work abandoned incomplete to enable Mr. Lawrence to check runway placement with W.2 Section.
Agreed that taxiways should be left untreated where they cross fields except in case of H 3 where steel mesh surface is recommended.
If necessary to select remainder of 16 sites these will probably have to be splinter-proof pens and may as well be sited at best operational positions irrespective of Camouflage. Later report form Mr. Lawrence suggest that aircraft used will be medium dive-bombers. This necessitates reconsideration from camouflage viewpoint of all selected hideouts. Out work suspended pending determination of strips.
On 14 October 1942, a letter was sent to the Secretary Directorate of Works, Department of Interior regarding RAAF Station Monomeith Park, Victoria advising that "Requisition No. D.W.B. 38/42-43 for £100,000 for the construction of parent aerodrome, also dispersal facilities for the above RAAF Establishment, in accordance with plans and schedules to be supplied."
War Cabinet Minute No. 2342 to Agendum No. 354/42 approved of an authorised allotment of funds to the extent of £100,000, for the construction of an aerodrome at Monomeith Park, Victoria, chargeable to Division No. 189 - "Reciprocal Lend-Lease" Item No. 2 - "Expenditure on Joint Australian-US Account" and to Project No. U.S. 84 - "Dive Bomber Squadron, Monomeith Park, Victoria."
Following a conference held at the Department of Air on 23 December 1942 a report was submitted by the Country Roads Board for alternative designs for runways at Monomeith Airfield. The Country Roads Board established a construction camp on site and constructed the airfield for the Allied Works Council.
Click on thumbnail to enlarge
Plan for Monomeith Airfield
A number of local residents complained to the Cranbourne Shire Council on 27 September 1943 about "the serious flooding of roads and property that will take place after the air strips on Monomeith Park Aerodrome have been sealed."
NAA Photo File Barcode 163064
Badly flooded rich pastures caused by sealing of the original contour drains
A Department of Air Minute Paper signed by the Secretary dated 18 October 1943 stated:-
"In view of the big improvement in the strategic position since the Monomeith project was approved, and General MacArthur's statement this week, after the Rabaul action, that the Allied Forces had achieved air mastery in the SWPA, the Minister desires that you will examine the matter, to determine whether it is really necessary to retain the Monomeith Park aerodrome (as well as certain other landing grounds established in this State in 1942 and early 1943) under those changed conditions, the Minister being of the opinion that its reversion to the owners may be found to be now justified.
Air Vice Marshall G. Jones, Chief of the Air Staff replied to the Secretary on 21 October 1943 and advised that approximately 3 months earlier "a survey of all major constructional work was undertaken with a view to eliminating and/or rounding off those works which were no longer necessary owing to the improvement on the strategical situation as affecting Australia."
Air Vice Marshall Jones indicated it was decided to round off the works at Monomeith park and preserve the airfield rather than abandon it. That review was approved by the Air Board on 6 August 1943 and received Ministerial approval on 12 August 1943. Air Vice Marshall Jones stated "I do not agree that completed strips should be returned to their owners." The Minister for Air later directed that arrangements be made to enable Messrs. Bourke Bros. to reoccupy the whole of their Monomeith property including all runways, etc.
On 11 April 1944, Minister Drakeford stated in a Department of Air Minute Paper on Monomeith Park Airfield as follows:-
(a) That the fenced strips and associated drainage at Monomeith Park should be retained for RAAF purposes, pending consideration and decisions on the Defence Committee's and General MacArthur's reviews referred to. The owners, however, are to have access (for grazing purposes) to the fenced strips.
(b) That the remainder of the property be immediately returned to the owners (Messrs. Bourke Bros.)
(c) That all outstanding questions, particularly in relation to drainage, be subjects of discussion between officers of the Central Hirings Branch and our Works Directorate with Messrs. Bourke Bros. representative, report to be submitted to me covering results of such discussions. Meanwhile, no further expenditure of Commonwealth funds is to be incurred on this project.
The two runways for the former WWII Monomeith Park airfield can still be seen very clearly using Google Earth.
Another facility in the surrounding area was an Internment Camp near the township of Koo-wee-rup which held Italian internees.
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© Peter Dunn 2006
This page first produced 29 March 2009
This page last updated 28 December 2014