Bowen Chemical Research Unit, Bowen Aerodrome

RAAF Special Duties Flight Detachment, No.1 Aircraft Performance Unit

Scientific facility

Bowen Airport, Bowen Connection Road, Bowen 4805

The Bowen Chemical Research Unit grew from the Royal Australian Air Force’s Special Duties Flight Detachment, No.1 Aircraft Performance Unit, which had been formed at RAAF Laverton, Victoria. The RAAF unit was part of a larger collection of facilities at Innisfail and the Australian Field Experimental Station (AFES) at Proserpine and specialised in the delivery of chemical and special warfare for research units in the region.


The RAAF unit moved to Bowen in early 1944 and shared the airstrip with the RAAF 9 Squadron. When the 9 Squadron moved out, the Chemical Research Unit took over the airfield and formed as a separate unit on the 15 August 1944. It was eventually disbanded in December 1945.

Following the departure of the 9 Squadron RAAF, the Chemical Research Unit took command of all the facilities on the Bowen Airstrip and in December 1944 it constituated 12 officers and 112 airmen. The unit was equipped with Vultee Vengence A27 and Beaufort A9 aircraft. It was divided into four sections: a headquarters; a flying and technical flight; a meteorological flight; and a medical research section. The headquarters and flying and technical flight were located at Bowen, but the unit aircraft mainly operated out of Cairns.

The main task of the Chemical Research Unit was low-level spraying and low/high level bombing support to the units at Innisfail and Proserpine. Munitions were stored at the Bowen Aerodrome as canisters and bombs. The aircraft would load at Bowen and then drop bombs or spray at North Brook Island, Mission Beach or Mourilyan Harbour and then fly to Cairns. The route was reversed every few days. In the case of inclement weather, the unit would fly out to sea and jettison the ammunition to avoid risk of accident on return.

Ammunition stored at the airstrip consisted of 65 lbs bombs, 44 gallon and 540 lbs drums, mustard gas and other chemicals.


Plunkett, Geoff. & Australian Military History Publications. 2007 Chemical warfare in Australia / Geoff Plunkett Australian Military History Publications, Loftus, N.S.W.