Royal Australian Air Force Station No. 3 Initial Training School
Kingaroy Airport, Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson Airport
- Wide Bay-Burnett
Warren Truss Drive, off Kingaroy-Cooyar Road, Kingaroy 4610
The pre-existing Kingaroy civil aerodrome was taken over by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in late 1941. The first 96 buildings were erected by 10 July 1942, and No. 3 Initial Training School (ITS) moved to Kingaroy later that year. The wartime entrance was from Buttsworth Road east of the aerodrome, but today the main entrance is from the west via Warren Truss Drive, about 1km south of Kingaroy on the Kingaroy-Cooyar Road.
The surviving RAAF structures include a Bellman hangar. To the northwest of the hangar, north of Geoff Raph Drive, is an inflammable store/morgue with a roof ventilator, vehicle wash bay slab, skillion roofed crash ambulance station, and a skillion roofed motor pool; a small fibro radio telegraph shack also stands to the north of Geoff Raph Drive, to the east of the motor pool. Southwest of the hangar is a flat-roofed meteorological hut (relocated) and a gable roofed locker room; southeast of the hangar is a roofless concrete machine gun test butt building. A gable roofed hospital building, ambulance garage and prophylactic room/isolation ward are located further east, just south of Geoff Raph Drive.
A memorial to 24 RAAF and AIF personnel who lost their lives in accidents in the Burnett during the war is located near the intersection of Warren Truss Drive and Geoff Raph Drive.
At the outbreak of World War II in 1939 urgent consideration was given not only to the construction of aeroplanes, but also to the training of technicians, pilots and aircrew. The Empire Training Scheme (EATS) was set up in late 1939 and was an agreement between Britain and the Dominions, particularly Canada, Australia and New Zealand, for aircrews to be trained in those countries for service with the Royal Air Force. The EATS scheme was conducted through 49 airfields in Australia, Queensland having EATS units at Amberley, Archerfield, Bundaberg, Kingaroy, Lowood, Maryborough and Sandgate.
During 1941 the Kingaroy civil aerodrome was considered as a site for either an Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS), or a Service Flying Training School (SFTS). The RAAF had conducted a reconnaissance of the aerodrome in October 1940, when it had four strips on a grassed airfield. For SFTS (advanced pilot training) purposes, it would need to be extended by clearing and grading the surrounding land. The site received good rainfall for grass, yet was well drained. Other advantages included a nearby railway siding (Taabinga) and two Relief Landing Grounds (RLGs) nearby, at Home Creek and Mannuem. However, concerns about water supply to the site would lead to delays in deciding to proceed with airfield construction.
In April 1941 the option of transferring No. 3 SFTS from Amberley to Kingaroy, thereby freeing up Amberley for other units was discussed. The estimated cost of extensions to the Kingaroy landing area was about £7950, and the cost of buildings and services for a complete SFTS was £260,000. The Air Board agreed to transfer No. 3 SFTS in May 1941, but work on extending the Kingaroy airfield was still being undertaken by the Shire Council, on behalf of the Queensland Main Roads Commission, in late 1941. The RAAF assumed control of the aerodrome in October 1941 (and the Commonwealth officially acquired the airfield in June 1943).
The entry of Japan into the war changed the situation, leading to an increased demand for Queensland airfields for RAAF and US air units. In January 1942 Kingaroy was one of several stations identified for service hospital facilities. The same month 36 splinter proof aircraft pens were authorised under Reciprocal Lend Lease, Project US 129 “Extension to RAAF Station, Kingaroy, Queensland", but most construction was later cancelled.
Its move to Kingaroy having been delayed by a US takeover of that airfield, 3 SFTS was disbanded at Amberley in April 1942, due to the geographical rationalisation of flying training in Australia. US units briefly occupied Kingaroy airfield in June 1942, and RAAF 75 Squadron was also reorganised at Kingaroy in mid 1942, before being sent to New Guinea.
The airfield’s first 96 buildings were erected by 10 July 1942, and a plan of the site in May 1943 shows over 180 buildings, including 4 Bellman hangars, on the northeast section of the aerodrome. A sentry box was located on the north side of the wartime entrance, off today’s Buttsworth Road; the hospital was south of the entrance road (Geoff Raph Drive), with sergeants’ and officers’ messes further to the west, then a parade ground, and then the hangars. A bomb shelter was also indicated south of Geoff Raph Drive, to the southeast of the motor pool building. Airmen’s sleeping huts, kitchens, messes, canteen, gymnasium, chaplain’s hut, laundries and latrines were located north of Geoff Raph Drive, with the headquarters building and meteorological hut further to the west, then the trainees accommodation and classrooms, and then the motor pool. South of the sergeants’ and officers’ messes was a 50′ timber tower with two water tanks (recently demolished), and south of that was a 25 yard firing range, and a concrete machine gun test butt building. West of the test butts were petrol stores, latrines, locker buildings and crew rooms for two squadrons, arranged in a ‘C’ shape open to the south.
The surviving World War II building located southwest of the Bellman hangar and south of the (relocated) meteorological building was listed as a locker room (building 197) on the 1943 site plan; and the building (167) to the southwest of the motor pool is listed as an “inflammable store” but it was reportedly also used as a morgue. The building currently located to the southeast of the hospital is on the site of a prophylactic room (numbered 96) in 1943, but it has also been referred to as an isolation ward. The radio telegraph shack, currently located north of Geoff Raff Drive, is not on the 1943 plan.
No. 3 Initial Training School (ITS) was transferred from Sandgate to Kingaroy in late 1942. In addition, a November 1942 US Fifth Airforce report on Kingaroy noted that there was a 30 bed hospital at the aerodrome, that civilian aircraft used the field, and that the RAAF No. 4 Squadron was present. There were dispersal areas for 12 fighters to the east and the west, air raid shelters and trenches, 3 bomb dumps (on the south west and east edges of field) and 14 machine gun posts. A RAAF report in late December 1942 noted that no RAAF aircraft were then operating from the airfield, and that weed growth was an issue. However, in early 1943 RAAF 5 Squadron moved to Kingaroy for several months training alongside the Army, before moving to Mareeba.
In July 1943 the airfield consisted of four strips: North-South (3300′); East-West (4800′); NW-SE (5280′); and SW-NE (4500′), and in August 1943 sleeping accommodation was available for 154 officers, 96 sergeants and 984 other ranks, with enough female accommodation for 96 officers and 120 other ranks. A number of huts had been allocated to Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) members by May 1943, east of the Sergeants’ mess and in the training school area north of the hangars.
By November 1943 Kingaroy was reported as still functioning as an ITS, with an Air Ambulance unit also in residence. By this time the RLGs at Home Creek and Mannuem, and bombing and gunnery ranges near Kingaroy, were not in use. Another 5th Air Force report, in April 1944, noted that civilian aircraft still used the airfield, and that a training school and No. 2 Air Ambulance Unit were present.
3 ITS continued at Kingaroy until the end of the war, and in 1945 Kingaroy was also used for the formation of squadrons, including those flying Beaufighter twin engine aircraft. In May 1945 the airfield consisted of two prepared natural surface strips: NW/SE (4500′) and SW-NE (4000′), and there was hutted accommodation for 1500 personnel. However, by June 1945 Kingaroy was only an Emergency Landing Ground (ELG), and all servicing, refuelling facilities and personnel had been withdrawn. By 12 July 1946 the airfield was no longer required by the RAAF, and maintenance ceased.
Units which used RAAF Station Kingaroy, as listed on the memorial near the intersection of Warren Truss Drive and Geoff Raph Drive, include: No. 3 Initial Training School, No. 4 Radio Installation and MTCE Unit, No. 13 Communication Unit, No. 29 Medical Clearing Station, No. 30 Air Stores Park, No. 46 Operational Base Unit, No. 84 Operational Base Unit, No. 86 Wing HQ, and No. 90 Operational Base Unit. Squadrons included: No. 1 Squadron (Kittyhawk), No. 4 Squadron (Wirraway), No. 5 Squadron (Wirraway), No. 6 Squadron (Beaufort), No. 15 Squadron (Beaufort), No. 75 Squadron (Kittyhawk), No. 92 Squadron (Beaufighter), No. 93 Squadron (Beaufighter), and No. 2 Air Ambulance Unit.
Most of the buildings have disappeared since the war. The former inflammable store/morgue, crash ambulance station, motor pool and meteorological hut are utilised by the Burnett War Memorial Museum Association; one of the Bellman hangars survives, along with a vehicle wash bay, a small radio telegraph shack, a locker building, a concrete machine gun test butt building, and a hospital building with an ambulance garage and a prophylactic room/isolation ward.
Second World War RAAF Buildings, Maryborough Airport, Queensland Heritage Register 602556
Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson Airport, Queensland Heritage Register reported place 602321
Marks, RR, 1994. Queensland Airfields WW2 - 50 years on. R and J Marks, Brisbane.
Ford, J. March 2009. Significance Assessment Report, Burnett War Memorial Museum Collection, Kingaroy, Queensland. For the National Library of Australia.
National Archives of Australia, 7/1/833. RAAF number 3 - SFTS [Service Flying Training School] - Kingaroy Queensland - Aerodrome works. 1940–1946.
National Archives of Australia, 678. RAAF Directorate of Works and Buildings - Engineer Intelligence Section - Kingaroy, Queensland. 1943-1945.
National Archives of Australia, 678. Building Layout - RAAF No 3 Initial Training School - Kingaroy, Queensland [sub item]. 1943
Australian War Memorial photographic collection.