RESEARCH REPORT ON ARCHERFIELD

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visits since 21 March 2001

 

Subject:     Archerfield
Date:              Thu, 18 Nov 1999 20:19:59 +1000
From:            "Col Clark" <seahawk@ozlinx.com.au>

Hello,

I just checked out your Archerfield Airport site. It looks great, lots of interesting stuff. Last year I returned to school (Logan TAFE) after 20 something years away from formal education. As part of my course I had to research an historical site and present a report.

Attached is my project for what it is worth.

Keep up the good work.

Col Clark

 

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Archerfield Airport

Dairy Farm, International Airport,
Military Base and Historical Site

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By Colin Clark

---------

Archerfield Airport
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Latitude 27 34’18" S
Longitude 153 00’29" E

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Figure 1 Archerfield 1942

Photograph from
"50 Years on", Roger Marks

 

History of Archerfield

Pre 1939

In the late twenties, aircraft plying to and from Brisbane were using a field in the suburb of Eagle Farm for their arrivals and departures. This field, however, was prone to flooding during the wet season and was not close to road and rail at that time. As a result the search began for a more suitable site for Brisbane’s main aerodrome (the word ‘airport’ was not used until a decade later) and, in 1927, a QANTAS DeHavilland DH61 piloted by Captain Lester Brain carried out a trial landing at Franklin’s Farm, Cooper’s Plains.

The Department of Defence considered the site, with its open spaces, no drainage problems and nearby road and rail, as very suitable for an aerodrome and bought the site from its owner, Mrs. Beatty, and cleared the area of all tall trees. The first hangar at the new site was erected by QANTAS and was, at the time, the largest single span hangar in Australia. (This hangar, Hangar 5, is still in use today) QANTAS also moved their hangar at Eagle Farm to the new aerodrome, now known as Archerfield, after Eagle Farm was closed in March 1931.

Archerfield was opened as Brisbane’s main airport on 1 April 1931 and is still in operation, as Brisbane’s secondary (or general aviation) airport to this day. QANTAS were followed by Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith’s airline A.N.A., New England Airways, Airlines of Australia, South Queensland Airways and the Qld Aero Club. Many notable persons used the airport in the early years, these including Lois Bonney who flew her Gypsy Moth solo to England in 1934. (She also flew a Klemm from Archerfield to South Africa in 1937). The most prominent flight was that by Kingsford-Smith in the Lady Southern Cross from Archerfield to San Francisco on 1934, the first west-east crossing of the Pacific Ocean.

Archerfield became an international Airport in December 1934 with the first overseas airmail service from Australia to England and QANTAS inaugural service from Archerfield to Singapore a few weeks later. In August 1939, just a few weeks before the German invasion of Poland which sparked World War II, Archerfield became the home for the first RAAF squadron to be based in Queensland when number 23 SQN RAAF with its 6 Hawker Demon fighters (Figure 2) arrived from Richmond, NSW.

 

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Figure 2 Hawker Demon Fighters at Archerfield 1939

Australia Remembers Airshow

 

1939-1945

The War Years

When World War Two broke out in September 1939, the RAAF took over the Royal Queensland Aero Club facilities at Archerfield, club aircraft were impressed into service and flying instructors were commissioned into the air force. Number 2 EFTS was transferred in to look after flight training. No. 23 Sqn, now officially called "City of Brisbane", also received Australian built CAC Wirraways to defend the city against air attack

In the years between the beginning of the war and the attack on Pearl Harbor, Archerfield was being upgraded as a military base for the RAAF pending completion of the new base at Amberly. In 1940 a new administration block with control tower on top was built and the RAAF built hangars and huts along the southern boundary of the field.

The attack on the US base in Pearl Harbor coincided with another on US bases in the Philippines. The loss of these bases made Australia, especially the north of the country, a valuable staging area for the war against the Japanese. In the following months, military aircraft of several countries competed for space with the civil airliners still operating. One airliner, a Douglas DC3, landing on a wet morning, collided with a Dutch aircraft and an American B17 bomber. Wartime communications being as they are, no one had bothered to warn the airliner’s pilot of the newcomers’ presence.

Figure 3.  B17 of the USAAF
at Archerfield, 1941

Figure 4 Macarthur at Archerfield, 1943

On 1 July 1942, the RAAF shut down its station and left the airfield to the USAF, the civilian operators and to the repair facilities that carried out the vital assembly and repair of aircraft for the war in the Pacific. The US 5th Air Force had a presence on the airport for the duration of the war and carried out many of the improvements needed to allow Archerfield to service the larger aircraft being developed for and used in the Pacific. QANTAS and ANA carried out repair work in the Kerry Road Igloos built for them by the Americans. Some visitors to Archerfield in the war years included Gen. Douglas Macarthur (Figure 4) and a crewman from a Ventura bomber, a young Gough Whitlam, which sustained damage from a crash during landing.

  

1946-1998

The post war years to the present

In February 1945, the Royal Navy moved its Transportable Aircraft Maintenance Yard number 1, known as TAMY 1, to Archerfield. The Royal Navy base was known as HMS Nabsford and a plaque (Figure 5) commemorating it and the British personnel who served in the Pacific theatre can be viewed in the old administration building along with plaques from the RAAF (Figure 6) and the US 5th Air Force. (Figure 7)

Figure 5

Figure 6

 

Figure 7

Figure 8

The RAAF was to maintain a presence on the airfield until September 1955, when 23 (City of Brisbane) Sqn (reformed at Archerfield in 1947 with CAC Mustangs, Figure 8) was moved to Amberly after converting to Vampire jets. The grass fires started by the Vampires’ jet exhausts on the grass runways necessitated this move.

After WW2 the airlines moved their operations to an Eagle Farm that had been built up and improved by the USAF leaving Archerfield to assume the role of secondary and General Aviation airport. Today it is home to the Department of Emergency Services rescue helicopter flights, the Air Training Corps, the Queensland Flying Museum and, still in their original hangar, the Royal Queensland Aero Club.

Figure 9

Numerous historical aircraft are still to be found at Archerfield including several Tiger Moth biplanes, a Waco biplane, Barry Hempell’s MiG 15 jet fighter, two T 28 Trojans and a large 4 engined DC4 transport similar to the one shown (Figure 9) at Archerfield in 1947.

The Archerfield Airport of 1998 has passed from the control of the Federal Airports Corporation, a government organisation to the Archerfield Airport Corporation, a private concern. Some people fear that the new owner might try and sell off parts or all of the grounds to developers though it would seem that these fears are unfounded. There has been a campaign waged by homeowners, who bought their homes knowing about the proximity to the airport, to try and have Archerfield closed down. This would be a tragedy if it were to occur as Brisbane’s Archerfield Airport has the richest history of any in Australia.

 

God’s Acre Cemetery

No history, no matter how brief, of Archerfield Airport would be complete without mention of the little cemetery inside the airport boundary between the two main gates. A popular misconception is that this is the resting-place of pilots killed in crashes, this however is far from the truth. It is, in fact, the family burial plot of an early pioneering family.

In 1859, 16 year old Volney Grenier was killed during a fox hunt. His father, Thomas Grenier, fenced off this section of his land and laid his son to rest here. Since that time many members of the Grenier family and certain favoured persons of neighbouring families have been buried here, the latest in 1992. Though many graves are unmarked, up to 180 people are estimated to be resting here under the 100 year old camphorlaurel tree.

In 1990, a small band of people formed a restoration committee to undertake the renovation of the site. After much hard work, supported by the then Federal Airports Corporation, the site was ready for its first "Day of Remembrance" on the 30 June 1991. An estimated 600 people gathered for the event which is now held on the last Sunday in June every year.

 

 

Bibliography

Mr. Graham Banks, Operations and Technical Manager, Archerfield Airport Corporation.

Mr. Bob Woodley, Manager, Aircraft Engineers and Associates, Hangar 2, Archerfield Airport.

Australia Remembers Airshow Programme, 1995, Australia Remembers Airshow.

Federal Airports Corporation.

Archerfield Airport Corporation.

 

Glossary of Terms

A.N.A. Australian National Airlines
CAC Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation
EFTS Empire Flight Training School
HMS His (or Her) Majesty’s Ship (Royal Navy)
QANTAS Queensland And Northern Territory Aerial Service
RAAF Royal Australian Air Force
RN Royal Navy (British)
USAAF United States Army Air Force. The US Air Force was originally an arm of the US Army.
USAF United States Air Force

 

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Although every care has been taken in presenting this information some of it may be incorrect or incomplete, hence the creator of this website and/or any researcher or writer mentioned in it disclaim any liability in relation to the information, errors or omissions contained herein. Any person intending to use or rely on this information should first confirm it for themselves from other sources. Nevertheless any corrections or additional information will be most welcome.

 

This page first produced 25 November 1999

This page last updated 21 March 2001