Cecil Plains Airfield
- Darling Downs
Cook Road, Cecil Plains 4407
Cecil Plains airfield was built in early 1942 for use by US heavy bombers, in case the Japanese invaded southeast Queensland. It was maintained by the RAAF but was not used until late 1944, by RAAF squadrons flying B-24 Liberator bombers. The airfield is located about 7km north of the town of Cecil Plains, to the west of the Dalby-Cecil Plains Road. Cook Road and Miss Jurgs Road skirt the airfield to its northeast and northwest sides.
The two intersecting sealed runways (45 degree and 135 degree) are still obvious from the air, as are the sealed taxiway that connected the south ends of the two runways, and the two sealed taxiways that curved from the ends of the 45 degree runway northwards to the NW end of the 135 degree runway.
The arrival of US forces in Queensland from late December 1941 led to an increased demand for airfields to accommodate US aircraft. Existing RAAF airfields were used, and new fields were also constructed. Cecil Plains was one of four airfields built for US heavy bombers (Cecil Plains, Leyburn, Jondaryan and Condamine). These inland airfields could be used to launch bombing missions if the Japanese ever landed near Brisbane.
In late March 1942 the RAAF requested that the Department of the Interior construct an airfield at Cecil Plains, just west of the Condamine River. However, the Queensland Main Roads Commission (MRC) was still awaiting instructions regarding Cecil Plains and the other three bomber airfields in early April. By 4 May 1942 one strip had been levelled and cleared at each airfield at Jondaryan, Condamine and Leyburn, with work in progress at Cecil Plains. By 15 May a northwest-southeast (135 degree) strip had been cleared and was available for use at Cecil Plains, while formation gravelling of the northeast-southwest (45 degree) strip was in progress.
The basic approach was to clear one strip; clear and then gravel the runway of the second strip; and then gravel the runway of the first strip. This way, one strip would always be available for dry-weather operation of aircraft during construction. Taxiways would also be gravelled, and both taxiways and runways would later be sealed when tar and bitumen was available. The 135 degree runway at Cecil Plains was 7000′ long by 150′ wide (2.14km by 45.7m), while the 45 degree runway was 5000′ long by 150′ wide (1.52km by 45.7m). Main taxiways were gravelled to 50′ (15.2m) wide, while the taxiways to hideouts, provided at 16 dispersal points, would be 35′ (10.6m) wide.
By 1 July 1942 most of the 135 degree runway had been gravelled (it was useable by 18 July), and taxiways had been cleared. Hideout locations had been selected, with 6 on the western taxiway loop, and 10 on the eastern loop. The hideouts at Cecil Plains were of the slung type, with steel cables supporting camouflage netting. During late 1942 voluntary labour in Dalby was pre-garnishing the netting with steel wool, and this material was also used for dummy trees. After being requested in December 1942 two more hideouts were added to the western loop, but none of the hideouts appear to have been used.
The camp site for the airfield was located east of the runways, near some gravel pits, and construction of an access road to the site from the Dalby Road was still required in July 1942. By early October 1942 work had started on a mess building, and by late December the camp was mostly complete (if not painted) and a weir was being constructed across the Condamine River.
In August 1942 preparations were made to seal the two runways, but a plan of the airfield dated 1 June 1943 notes “sealing in progress". This map showed the location of the 18 hideouts branching off from the taxiways which linked the southwest and northeast ends of the 45 degree runway with the northwest end of the 135 degree runway. A 180 degree taxiway also ran between the southern ends of the two runways.
At this time Cecil Plains was classified as a US Heavy Bomber all weather airfield. However, as the Japanese never invaded Queensland, the airfield was never used by the US and it was unoccupied until late 1944. In July 1943 it was listed as one of 17 unoccupied airfields in Queensland, with buildings and services for 450 men. By 5 December 1944 some hideouts had collapsed in parts, and two 12,000 gallon underground petrol tanks had been installed.
RAAF 12 Squadron was located at Cecil Plains from 19 December 1944 to the end of April 1945. The squadron had previously flown Vultee Vengeance dive bombers, but it received B-24 Liberator heavy bombers in February 1945 while at Cecil Plains. In March 1945 the wheel of a parked B-24 broke through a pipe culvert at the northeast end of the 45 degree runway (used mainly for parking aircraft), and the southeast end of the 135 degree runway also needed repairs by this time. It was stated that the airfield was not built to B-24 standard, but that it could be used provided that aircraft were grounded for a couple of days after 2 inches of rain. The hideouts were overgrown by this time, and the taxiways, although little used, were in good order.
Soon after 12 Squadron had departed, RAAF 102 Squadron was formed at Cecil Plains at the end of May 1945 and their B-24s arrived in July, along with an Avro Anson and a Tiger Moth. The squadron never saw active duty, although 9 of its aircraft flew over Brisbane on 16 August 1945 to celebrate the end of the war. The squadron then acted in a transport role until it disbanded in March 1946. 102 Squadron was therefore still at Cecil Plains in October 1945, when it was reported that the 45 degree runway was in excellent order, and the repaired 135 degree runway was in good order. The airfield was acquired but not maintained by the RAAF after the war, and is now unused.
Marks, RR. 1994. Queensland Airfields WW2—50 Years On, R and J Marks. Brisbane.
National Archives of Australia 42/501/106. RAAF Cecil Plains Queensland Aerodrome Works 1941–1945
Australian War Memorial Photographic Collection.