In early March 1942, Squadron Leader Geoffrey James Towers (250984), two US personnel, Mr Pettus (a civilian), Major Francis T. Urwin and Mr Mathison of the Queensland Main Roads Commission investigated various sites for airfields near the Townsville area. Mr. Pettus was a representative of Sverdrup and Parcel, an engineering consultant business. Sqn Ldr Towers reported as follows:-

"... On the western side of the Townsville-Charters Towers railway line and road, and on the northern side of Antil Creek. This site is an excellent one. the clearing is light and a full size drome could be rapidly constructed....  Only a thin skin of gravel would be required for runways. The Main Roads Engineer assures me that ample gravel supplies would be available nearby. The water supply could be obtained by sinking spears into Antill (sic) Creek...."

RAAF Headquarters in Melbourne sent a signal to RAAF Headquarters NEA in Townsville on 18 March 1942 as follows:-

"... Aerodromes Townsville area. Approval given construct Woodstock and Cardington as USA Pursuit Aerodromes and work may proceed accordingly. New site Antill (sic) Plains and present aerodrome Garbutt selected as RAAF Fighter Aerodromes. P-O Keays DWB now Brisbane will design aerodromes and arrange detail work in conjunction Doig and Mathison. Advise Doig."

Pilot Officer Jim Trench reported progress on airfield construction to the Air Board as follows on 22 March 1942:-

".. Antil Plains - 2 strips complete (cleared only) third strip ready in 1weeks time."

John Keys reported on 8 and 9th April 1942:-

"... Four strips cleared and grubbed. NE-SW strip in occupation, other strips levelled, too dusty for use. Initial requirement is a skin of gravel."

John Keays reported again on 14 April 1942:-

"... after clearing and grubbing (it was) found to be satisfactory for use without grading. It carries a good growth of grass but once this goes the surface will powder and become very dusty."

The two runways west of the highway and railway line became the two preferred runways of the four available. Pilot Officer J. W. Campbell reported as follows on 25 May 1942:-

"... no excavation work has been done on the runway -  it has been built up with gravel filling to the correct profile. The 35º landing strip has been cleared, grubbed and consolidated to natural surface full width 450' x 4500' long. Appears to be very wet as the SE end. The runway is in use. The administrative building is nearing completion by the MRC. The Americans are camped in the area between the 90º and the 35º landing strip.

"The 144º landing strip has been cleared, grubbed and consolidated to natural surface. Clearing width 350' by length 5300'. Runway is in use. The runway parallel to the road and railway has been roughly graded and rolled, but has now been abandoned..."


File:- NAA

Details of land acquired for the Antil Plains Airfield.
Note the Antil Plains Railway Siding at bottom right.


Land for the Antil Plains Airfield was acquired during WWII under the National Security (General) Regulations. Note that Portions 542 and 543 on the above plan were used as AIF Camps during WWII. Mr. George Arthur Ellis was the owner of Portions 567, 309V, 542, 519, 504, 505, and 506 and Mr. Richard Hogan was the owner of Portions 523, 611, 31 and 11V.

The "History of the Queensland Main Roads Commission during WWII" has the following entry:-

Auxiliary Dromes

The construction of an interceptor fighter field at Antil Plains, near Townsville, was requisitioned early in 1942. This involved the construction of two flight strips each 5,000 feet long and 150 feet wide with approaches, taxiways, dispersal strips, hardstandings, and camp accommodation for two squadrons with access roads, paths, and fencing. Flight strips and taxiways were laid to a strength to accommodate the heaviest types of aircraft.


Photo:- NAA

Antil Plains Airfield - Allied Works Council photo


Plan:- NAA

Plan of the early stages of Antil Plains Airfield


Photo:- NAA

Antil Plains Airfield - note the quarry at the top of the plan


Plan:- via Andrew Chadwick

Plan of Antil Plains Airfield drawn for North East Area Headquarters in September 1943


Australia and Adjacent Islands
RAAF Publication No. 694
January 1946

Antil Plains RAAF ELG   19 27 S
146 50 E
150 4992
No facilities. Trees up to 50' surround strips. Mt. Stuart 1904' immediately to N. Big Jack 1136' NNE. Middle Sister 1394' NNE. Antil Plains township 1 mile south.


Photo:- Aug 2021

Quarry located about 1.2 kms north of the eastern end of the northern runway


Photo:- Aug 2021

Quarry located just north of the Antil Plains Airfield


There is a small quarry located just north of the northern runway that may have been used during the construction of the Antil Plains Airfield. There was a Civil Constructional Corps CCC Camp located near Antil Plains airfield. On 4 December 1943, Christopher Lewis Selby, a CCC worker at the CCC Camp at Antil Plains was killed at about 8:15pm in a motor vehicle accident near the bridge near the Antil Plains Railway Siding. Christopher Selby and four others were travelling in the back of a Ford V8 lorry on their way from the camp to a dance. Selby and a man called Vaughan were standing at the back of the truck. When they approached the bridge near Antil Plains Railway Siding there seemed to be a fault with the steering wheel of the truck. The driver attempted to bring the truck back on to the road, whilst travelling at about 25 to 30 miles an hour. The truck hit a guide post and crashed. Selby was pinned to the ground by the differential. Two men went back 1 1/2 miles to seek assistance as they were unable to do anything to assist Selby. A big lorry arrived with a number of men. They freed Selby who was unconscious. Selby died in the hospital in Townsville at 1pm on 7th December 1943.


Photo:- Qimagery

A 1961 aerial photo shows the remains of the
 two main runways and taxiways and hideouts


The 36th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group arrived at Antil Plains Airfield on Easter Saturday 4 April 1942. The history of the 36th Fighter Squadron by S/Sgt W.F. Houha has the following entry about Antil Plains Airfield:-

"The first camp at Antil Plains was about fifteen miles south of Townsville, over a road just begun rebuilding, for it was pitted with holes, scarred with deep ruts and thick with heavy dust. The runway was a long, natural plain, banked on all sides by the eternal forest of eucalyptus trees which served during the last days of the stay there as a place of heavily camoflaged, and difficulty accessible revetments. The departmental tents were scattered all along the fifty-five hundred foot strip, and before the telephone system was completed more than ten miles of wire had been laid. There was no water in camp. Drinking water was hauled in from the edge of Townsville, and the creek that edged the camp was used as a bathing place until the total dusty ride into town to get a shower. Grayish-brown, crusty anthills rose by the hundreds out of the parched ground, often to heights of three and four feet or more, and in some places they dotted the aisles of the dust-green forest so thickly as to give the effect of sparsely cobbled streets. The heat was there, but it was lighter, easier heat than that at Lowood. The nights were freer of mosquitoes, altho the first case of Dengue fever came at the Antil Plains Camp."

"The war was nearer, because the    Bombardment Squadron, flying B-26's, was based at Antil Plains in a camp across the runway, and their ships would return after a mission with bullet and cannon holes and shrapnel scars as mute evidence that they had met the enemy......."

The 40th Fighter Squadron of the 35th Fighter Group departed Camden on 14 April 1942 and, after changing trains at Brisbane, reached Townsville at mid-day on the 17th April 1942. They were transported to Antil Plains Airfield that same day. 

Teddy W. Hanks very brief diary entry simply reads:-

"Went on out to Antil Plains. We moved in with the 36th Squadron. Within a very few days, the 36th packed up and departed for Port Moresby. Within walking distance of our camp was an airfield (pasture?) being used by the 33rd Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group, a B-26 Martin Marauder unit. I knew one of the gunners in the 33rd, and soon located him."

The 40th Squadron moved in with the 36th Squadron of the 8th Fighter Group. Within a very few days, the 36th packed up and departed for Port Moresby. Within walking distance of their camp was an airfield (pasture) being used by the 33rd Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group, a B-26 Martin Marauder unit which had arrived at Antil Plains Airfield on 7 April 1942 and stayed there for three months. Heavy rain in June made Antil Plains Airfield unsuitable for operations for many days at a time. Taxiing aircraft would become stuck in the mud. Efforts to free one B-26 led to its nose wheel collapsing. They were forced to relocate the 33rd Bomb Squadron to Woodstock Airfield about 20 miles away on 5 July 1942. The 19th Bomb Squadron relocated to Woodstock at the same time.


Photo:- Gerald T. Sharp, Roger R. Marks Collection

Men of the 33rd Bomb Squadron standing in front of
 one of the giant termite mounds at Antil Plains Airfield


Photo:- Walter Gaylor Collection

Men of the 33rd Bomb Squadron resting at Antil Plains in April
1942. Their shower facilities can be seen in the background.


Photo:- David Pratt Collection, via Rodney G. Cardell

A B-26 Marauder #40-1421 dispersed amongst the trees
at Antil Plains Airfield and covered by some camouflage netting


Photo:-D. Pratt ex RAAF via Roger Marks

B-26 Marauder #40-1421 of 33rd Bomb Squadron taxiing from its dispersal area
 on the western side of runway 36° at Antil Plains Airfield in about June 1942


On Sunday 26 April 1942, the first section of the Advance Detail of sixty-odd men of the 36th Fighter Squadron flew to Port Moresby in two transport aircraft. A second group left 24 hours later. The second unit of the Air Echelon landed at Seven Mile Airfield at 6pm on 27 April 1942.

The History of the 36th Fighter Squadron shows that ground elements of the 36th Fighter Squadron arrived back in Townsville on the ship Tasman on 30 June 1942. They boarded a train and were taken to Antil Plains airfield. They boarded trucks and were taken to the camp formerly occupied by the 40th Squadron. They were met by the pilots and the men who had returned from Port Moresby by air transport and the men who had been on duty at Horn Island since 1 April 1942. The 36th then moved to Ross River airfield, arriving there on 2 August 1942 where they used the new runway that was nearing completion on the edge of Townsville.


Photo:- Chris R. Kilgus Collection

A 30 calibre machine gun position protected aircraft of the
33rd Bomb Squadron, dispersed in the bush near the airfield.


Three Platoons of Battery "G" of the 208th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment were based at Antil Plains Airfield. Each Platoon has 4 x 50 calibre machine guns.

Air Board Agenda No 4518 for the meeting of 29 December 1942 recommended the following works at Antil Plains Airfield for a total cost of £65,000:-

(a) Completion, improving and sealing the existing taxiway system.

(b) Completion of the 32 bomber aircraft hideouts for all-weather operation (Gravelled but not sealed).

(c) Construction of two hardstandings, gravelled and sealed, adjacent to the runways, each to take 25 aircraft.

The above work was approved by the Minister for Air on 2 January 1943. The Project was referred to the Works Priorities Sub-Committee and was recommended for A-1 priority under Item No. 2216. At the request of Engineer Headquarters, USASOS, SWPA, however further action was suspended pending consideration of a proposal to transfer the project to Charters Towers. Subsequently, Headquarters, US Army Forces in the Far East advised that owing to the change in the tactical situation, the Fighter Pilot Replacement Centre originally scheduled for Antil Plains was to be established at Charters Towers and that the original project approved by the Minister for Air should by cancelled.


Photo:- RAAF Official NLA of 16 May 1942

Showing all the runways of Antil Plains Airfield


Photo:- RAAF Official NLA

This photo shows the 144º runway and the runway in the road reserve.
The Antil Plains Railway Siding buildings can be seen at the bottom left.


The following is a replica of a report by Wing Commander
Bill and Flying Officer Grange dated 24 October 1943:-

ANTIL PLAINS (Hrg. No2349 Acqu. No. 2599)

Report of an inspection by W/Cdr Bill and F/O Grange.

SITE: unimproved and lightly timbered. Prior to RAAF occupation used for grazing purposes.

RAAF works on the site include:

(a) Two sealed strips and taxiways as shown on the layout plan.

(b) Buildings comprising CA Series Tropical and prefabricated huts.

(c) Water filtration plant at Sach's Creek.

The area has been fenced but the construction of further "Cocky Gates" is necessary to make the area entirely stockproof.

Two of the owners affected Messrs Ellis and Hogan have requested restoration of grazing rights and the matter is being considered in the light of Operational requirements by HQ NEA.

The activity has not been occupied by any unit for the past three months.

ACQUISITION of the site is not considered necessary.

It was noted at the date of the inspection that the Water filtration unit was being used by the AWC and it was apparent that a considerable amount of the limited supply of water normally used by Hogan and Ellis was being taken.



A Report by Major C.B. Cosgrove, Acting Adjutant General, Air Corps for Major General Lincoln dated 27 May 1942 showed the following USAAF Units assigned to North Eastern Area on that date:-

33rd Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group (I)
36th Pursuit Squadron, 8th Pursuit Group (I)
683rd Ordnance Company (Avn) P, 8th Pursuit Group (I)
40th Pursuit Squadron, 35th Pursuit Group (I)
679th Ordnance Company (Avn) P (1 Platoon), 35th Pursuit Group (I)


The Headquarters United States Army Forces in Australia Station Lists show the following entries for Antil Plains:-

17th Edition 11 Jun - 19Jun 1942 33rd Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group (M)
1st Platoon 683rd Ordnance Company Avn F
18th Edition 19 Jun - 26 Jun 1942 33rd Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group (M)
1st Platoon 683rd Ordnance Company Avn F
25th Edition 29 Aug - 8 Sep 1942 39th Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group
679th Ordnance Company (Avn) F (1 Platoon)
3rd Platoon 683rd Ordnance Company (Avn)
26th Edition 8 Sep - 19 Sep 1942 39th Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group
679th Ordnance Company (Avn) F (1 Platoon)
3rd Platoon 683rd Ordnance Company (Avn)



Australian Army Units in the Antil Plains area

7th Infantry Brigade Group (Australian Army) established itself in the Antil Plains area in mid May 1942 and acted as the division reserve for the Defence of Townsville with the Inner Defence Line in Townsville manned by the 11th Infantry Brigade Group and the 29th Infantry Brigade Group. The 7th Inf Bde Gp relocated to the Rollingstone area in mid to late May 1942 to prepare positions along the northern approaches to Townsville.

The 61st Battalion of the 7th Infantry Brigade moved north to Townsville by train in May 1942. An advance party left Brisbane at 2000 hours on 7 May 1942 and arrived in Townsville at 0615 hours on 9 May 1942.

Troops and equipment of the 61st Battalion travelled from the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds and Yandina on a number of trains, at least 7 trains, between 9 May 1942 and about 12 May 1942. Personnel on No. 12 train arrived at Antil Plains Siding at 0915 hours on 12 May 1942 and moved into a position 3 miles back and on Sach's Creek, where Battalion Headquarters took up a temporary position until approximately 1245 hours when Battalion Headquarters was then established on the left bank of Sach's Creek. W/T Communications was established with Brigade Headquarters at 1400 hours on 14 May 1942. The 61st Battalion established an Army Signals Underground Communications Centre in the Antil Plains area. It was just a hole in the ground with a tin roof - see photo below.


Members of the 61st Battalion building an underground signal exchange at Antil Plains


Other troops of the 61st Battalion on other trains stopped at other nearby stations and were taken by truck to Antil Plains, where they established their initial camp amongst the thousands of tall ant hills. The Spinifex grass caused the soldiers quite some annoyance, as it would stick in their socks. As they wore shorts and socks, the Spinifex nettles would often penetrate the skin on their legs. Snakes were also a problem. On one day private Mick Brown shot a 7 foot brown snake . 

They were at Antil Plains just after the Battle of the Coral Sea, which was at a time when the perceived threat of a Japanese invasion was very high. So for the short week or so that they were at Antil Plains, they spent a lot of time patrolling the area as there were concerns that the Japanese may drop parachutists in the area or land aircraft on the highway.

At 1030 hours on 14 May 1942, a recee party comprising the Brigade Commander, Brigade Major, Brigade Machine Gun Officer and Battalion Commanders left for Rollingstone. A short time later, Brigadier Field then chose Rollingstone just 50kms north of Townsville as the most likely spot for the defence against a Japanese landing. The 7th Militia Brigade moved to Rollingstone on 15 May 1942 and dug in their defensive positions along the coast at Rollingstone. At 0745 hours on 15 May 1942, Brigade was advised that all companies were to prepare to move to Rollingstone according to movement instructions.

An advance party of the 9th Battalion of the 7th Infantry Brigade left Bunyaville near Brisbane at 1900 hours on 7 May 1942 headed for Townsville. The first party of the 9th Battalion left Bunyaville for Townsville at 1030 hours on 8 May 1942. Further parties left Bunyaville for Townsville between 0130 and 2030 hours on 9 May 1942. The advance party arrived at Antil Plains area (Stanley) at 0800 hours on 9 May 1942. The final parties left Bunyaville between 0545 and 1600 hours on 10 May 1942. Various parties arrived at Antil Plains (Stanley) on 11 and 12 May 1942 where they camped for several days. On arrival at Antil Plains they dug slit some trenches. At 1125 hrs on 13 May 1942, an Air Raid Alarm was sounded. The all clear was sounded at 1545 hrs. At 1730 hrs on 14 May 1942 another Air Raid Alarm was sounded and the "All Clear" was given at about 1800 hrs. This alarm proved to be false. On the 13 and 14th May 1942 all Companies of the 9th Battalion climbed the high features adjacent to Antil Plains for observation and orientation purposes.

Owen Cary, a Signaller in the 9th Battalion, remembered his time camped near the Antill Plains Railway Siding. The things he remembered were the heat, spear grass and no tents. "There must have been an aerodrome just over the back of us as 'Bel Aero Cobras' (sic) fighter planes used to take off and fly over us, just above tree top height. They seemed to go like a bat out of hell as we weren’t used to fighter planes, or any planes traveling so fast."

The 9th Battalion left the Antil Plains area (Stanley) for Rollingstone at 0930 hours on 15 May 1942.

Parties of the 25th Battalion, 7th Brigade left Eumundi for Antil Plains from 9th to 14th May 1942. On 13 May 1942 a message was received that the 25th Battalion would cease to come under the command of the 7th Infantry Brigade and would remain in the same location. On 14 May 1942, the Commanding Officer took the Company Commanders to Castle Hill and gave a general outline of the roles of the Units as far as they affected the 25th Battalion and then proceeded to Giru - Woodstock area to reconnoiter that area. The rest of the 7th Brigade moved to the Rollingstone area around 15 May 1942. The 25th Battalion left Antil Plains for the Giru Gap area on 23 May 1942 and took up a defensive position astride of the Woodstock to Giru Road.

The Australian Army had a training camp for their "Letter Batteries" somewhere at Antil Plains. The "History of the 'Letter' Batteries in World War II" by Reg Kidd and Ray Neal has the following entries referring to this Training Camp:-


2 March 1944 - Lt. Robinson left Pallarenda Battery for training camp at Antill (sic) Plains.

3 March 1944 - 11 members of unit left Kissing Point for training camp at Antill (sic) Plains.

16 March 1944 - Unit left Antill (sic) Plains for Kissing Point.

The 241st Australian Light Aid Detachment moved to Antil Plains with the 7th Infantry Brigade Group in mid May 1942 and then relocated to Rollingstone.

The Antil Plains area was a proposed Advanced Cage, Field Punishment Centre for Japanese POWs in the event of a Japanese landing in North Queensland.



The airfield is now known as Montpelier Airpark and was used at one stage by Barrier Reef Adventure Trikes (B.R.A.T.S) who flew ultralights. They no longer operate from the Montpelier Airpark. There are a number of light Recreational Aircraft and a gyrocopter located at the Airpark. There are a number of hangars onsite and a model aero club is located at the end of Runway 27. The airfield is now owned and operated by Andrew Hicks. The land between the runways is used for cattle.


Crash landing of six P-39 Airacobras on Cape York
 Peninsula that left Antil Plain Aifield on 1 May 1942

Crash of B-26 Marauder #40-1477
at Antil Plains Airfield on 12 May 1942

Crash of a B-26 Marauder #40-1489
at Antil Plains Airfield on 15 May 1942



"History of the 'Letter' Batteries in World War II" by Reg Kidd and Ray Neal

"Coroner's Inquiry" - Death of CCC worker Christopher Lewis Selby, Townsville Daily Bulletin 14 Jan 1944

"Queensland WWII Historic Places - Antill Plains Airfields"

"Queensland Airfields WW2 - 50 Years On" by Roger R. Marks



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This page last updated 10 September 2021