Drysdale Mission airfield located in the northern part of Western Australia, was a refuelling and ammunition depot for the RAAF anti-submarine aircraft operating between Darwin and Fremantle. It was situated next to an isolated Benedictine mission on the banks of the King Edward River, about 8 miles the the south of Napier-Broome Bay.

On 2 December 1942, Kenneth McDonald, DFC, of 31 Squadron RAAF described the airfield and base at Drysdale Mission as follows:-

"The mission buildings were on flat country near the river, but the only serviceable grass airstrip was cut into the side of a hill. Its outer extremity ended with a cliff, a sheer drop into the river of about 300 feet, and the other end just finished where it ran straight into the hill. You landed into the hill and took off over the cliff, regardless of the wind strength and direction, there was no choice. And the strip was very short. It might have been all right for Clyde Fenton and his flying doctor DH Dragons, but Beaufighters - they were a totally different proposition. This was the first time Beaus had used the strip."

At that time in early December 1942, the surface of the airstrip was sandy and boggy and a few Beaufighters had to be unbogged.

The first operation mission from the airfield was on 2 December 1942 when Beaufighters of 31 Squadron RAAF attacked and destroyed enemy aircraft on Penfoei airfield at Koepang on Timor.

The Drysdale Mission Staging base, located on Kalumburu Mission, was used by Operational Base Unit No. 58.

The airfield and the staging base at Drysdale Mission in Western Australia were bombed at 0956 hrs on 27 September 1943 by twenty one IJAAF Kawasaki Ki-48 "Lily" bombers escorted by Navy Zero fighters. They bombed and machine gunned the airfield. The ammunition hut exploded when it was hit by a bomb. There were no casualties at the airfield but a direct hit on a slit trench at the Mission itself, killed Father Thomas and five aboriginals.

No. 317 Radar Station RAAF moved from Mascot, NSW to Old Drysdale, WA and then relocated to Sir Graham Moore Island

No. 319 Radar Station moved from Fenton, NT to Drysdale, WA and then relocated to Anjo, WA.


Japanese Air Raid at Drysdale Mission Airfield on 27 September 1943


Crash of a Liberator near Drysdale Mission on 14 August 1943


Crash landing of a C-53
at Drysdale Mission on 28 February 1942



Drysdale 28 March 1942
Drysdale 25 May 1942
Drysdale 26 May 1942
Drysdale 27 May 1942
Wyndham 15 July 1942
Drysdale 15 July 1942
Wyndham & Drysdale 13 November 1942



"Coomalie Charlie's Commandos - 31 Squadron RAAF"
"Beaufighters at Darwin 1942-43"
by Kenneth Neal McDonald, DFC


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This page first produced 1 August 1999

This page last updated 01 September 2018