Daisy Road, Lowood 4311
RAAF Station Lowood was constructed in late 1941 for No. 12 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS). It was used by two USAAF fighter squadrons in early 1942, before becoming a RAAF Operational base (OB) for dive bombers. After World War II the single sealed runway and its taxiway circuit were used for motor racing, before the runway was redeveloped as Daisy Road.
The airfield was bounded by Forest Hill-Fernvale Road, Coominya Connection Road, Mount Tarampa Road and McCarthy Road, while dispersal taxiways and 9 dive bomber hideouts were located north of Pakleppa Lane and around a circuit between Mount Tarampa road and Watsons Road. Another taxiway circuit linked both ends of the runway to the tarmac area next to four Bellman hangars at the southwest side of the airfield. Some sections of taxiway and most of the runway are now used as roads, while unused sections of the runway and taxiways are still visible. The concrete slabs of the four Bellman hangars and some camp buildings are also visible on aerials, as are the sites of bomb dumps on the west side of Mount Tarampa.
A semi-underground reinforced concrete Operations building was sited on the north slope of Mount Tarampa overlooking the airfield from the south, and a Wireless Telegraphy (W/T) Transmitting building of similar construction was built east of the airfield, to the west of the intersection of Rifle Range Road and Forest Hill–Fernvale Road. Both abandoned facilities survive on private land.
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.
The Queensland Main Roads Commission (MRC) commenced construction at Lowood in September 1941, after a decision to have No. 12 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) move to Lowood from Bundaberg. Relief Landing Grounds (RLGs) were also approved at Wivenhoe and Coominya (the latter, also known as A-4, was located southeast of Coominya). The camp area was located at the southwest side of Lowood airfield, and the barracks were located south of four Bellman hangers.
In January 1942 12 EFTS moved to Lowood, which at that time was a grass airfield with incomplete hangars, and heavy storms damaged numerous Tiger Moths several weeks later. In February 1942 alterations were made to some huts to accommodate members of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF). That same month a number of US aircraft dispersed to Lowood after a false alarm about an unidentified aircraft carrier being sighted off Moreton Island (it was the US’s first aircraft carrier, the converted collier USS Langley).
The Americans returned on a longer term basis in March 1942, when two squadrons of the US 8 Fighter Group (FG) - the 36 and 80 Fighter Squadrons (FS) equipped with P-39 Airacobras - moved to Lowood. By April 12 EFTS had to move, and by 20 May 1942 it was reported that the airfield had been taken over by the Americans. However, the new residents were unhappy with the field and during May the US requested a new airstrip; as a result one was built west of Coominya (Coominya No. 2, or A-6). The US squadrons moved out (to Antill Plains and Petrie) during April and May 1942.
By 10 July 1942 the RAAF’s 23 Squadron was at Lowood, having moved there from Amberley. There was no dispersal scheme at this point, and a lack of natural cover nearby (the only timber was near the creek to the north, or on Mount Tarampa to the south of the airfield) meant that Lowood came close to being scrapped in favour of Coominya No. 2. Nine camouflaged hideouts for dive bombers were later built near the creek, along with dispersal taxiways.
The RAAF took over Lowood again in September 1942, and by February 1943 Lowood was being developed as an Operational Base (OB), with Coominya No 2 as ancillary landing ground. By 23 May 1943 the MRC was still working on taxiways to the hideouts and by 30 May work had started on a new Wireless Telegraphy (W/T) Transmitting building and a new Operations building. Both of these facilities were of semi-underground reinforced concrete construction, with a curved roof section. The W/T Transmitting building, with a shorter curved roof section than the Operations building, was located about 4km east of the airfield.
The Operations building, sited on the north slope of Mount Tarampa overlooking the airfield, was about 35m by 7m and was camouflaged to resemble a farmhouse. The land was acquired around late January 1943, and three masts forming a triangle around the building are indicated on plans from April 1943. The site was about a kilometre drive south of the entrance to the airfield’s camp area. There was also an observation post near the summit of Mount Tarampa, reached by a gazetted easement which passed just to the west of the Operations building.
By mid August 1943 the Operations building was close to the back-filling stage, and by December that year it and the Transmitting building were reported as 95% complete. Other semi-underground RAAF buildings in Queensland included in the report were the Stuart Fighter Sector HQ (extant) and the Zillmere Remote Receiving building (since demolished). However, fitting out of the two semi-underground buildings was still occurring in early 1945. With the threat of Japanese air attack on Lowood fairly remote at this point in the war, there was probably no rush to complete such buildings. On 9 December 1943 a conference at RAAF HQ had in fact decided, regarding the Lowood Operations building, that “owing to the very dispersed location of this building it may be regarded a shadow operations signals building only” (for use only under conditions of enemy attack).
Both the Operations building and Transmitting building still exist today. A Very High Frequency Direction Finding (VHF/DF) Station, used as a navigational aid, was also installed between the Coominya Connection Road and Pakleppa Lane just to the northwest of the airfield, but this no longer exists.
Work on the airfield also continued. A report in May 1943 noted that although Lowood was originally designed as an EFTS, it was now an OB occupied by the RAAF’s 23 and 71 Squadrons. There were about 570 personnel on the base. The land was undulating, and rose towards the south, where the camp was sited on elevated ground. At this time the Operations building appears to have been Building 9, a classroom near the second Hangar from the east. There were no permanent bomb stores in May 1943, although some were later built on the west side of Mount Tarampa. The bombing range was located immediately southwest of the airfield, which was still only grassed at this stage, with gravelled dispersal taxiways to the north. In dry weather Lowood was suitable for fighters and medium bombers, but it was unusable for up to two weeks after heavy rain.
In order to upgrade the airfield for wet weather use, a perimeter taxiway connecting the ends of the runway to the tarmac area near the hangars was planned and the road would also be deviated around the northwest end of the runway, which would be sealed. The taxiway and road deviation were completed by October 1943, and the 128 degree runway, 6000′ by 150′ (1.83km by 45.7m), was gravelled and primed by June 1944. Taxiways were listed as gravelled by this stage, and Lowood was classified as an OB for dive bombers.
Sealing of the runway started in late November 1944, and by January 1945 the new surface was proving hard on the tyres of RAAF 32 Squadron’s Beauforts. The taxiways are also listed as sealed by early 1945. In February 1945 plans were made to clear the approaches to the runway as crash strip extensions, by about 3700′ by 300′ (1127m by 91m) at the northwest end, and 2700′ (823m) at the southeast end. In June 1945 Lowood was occupied by 18 Beauforts with 32 Squadron, plus 4 Survey Flight aircraft.
RAAF units which occupied Lowood during the war included: No. 12 EFTS (Tiger Moths) January 1942 to April 1942; 23 Squadron (P-39s then Vultee Vengeance) June 1942 to early 1944; 75 Squadron (P-40 Kittyhawks- reforming) July 1942; 71 Squadron (Avro Ansons) late 1942 or early 1943 to December 1943, with A-Flight of the squadron there from May 1942 to June 1944; Survey Flight, March 1943 to January 1946; 21 Squadron (Vultee Vengeance dive bombers) late 1943 to early 1944; 24 Squadron (Vultee Vengeance then B-24 Liberator heavy bombers) circa April 1944 to June 1944; 32 Squadron (Beauforts) May 1944 to November 1945; 14 Operational Base Unit (OBU) November 1942 to February 1947; 47 OBU (in transit) December 1943 to January 1944; 10 Repair and Salvage Unit (RSU), September 1942 to November 1942.
Lowood was retained by the Commonwealth for some time after the war, but was not maintained. In 1948 the Commonwealth intended to retain the observation post on Mount Tarampa as a permanent installation, and at this time the Commonwealth was also considering keeping the Operations building, although by 1949 its interior had been stripped. From the late 1940s into the 1960s the runway and taxiway circuit were used for motor racing, and the Australian Grand Prix was held there in 1960. The bitumen runway was later developed as Daisy Road, with some houses facing the runway having bitumen front lawns. No structures survive on the airfield site, although the foundations of some camp buildings, the slabs for the Bellman hangars, and traces of the old taxiways still exist.
Main Roads Commission, Queensland, 1949. The History of the Queensland Main Roads Commission during World War II, 1939–1945. Government Printer, Brisbane.
Marks, RR. 1994. Queensland Airfields WW2—50 Years On, R and J Marks. Brisbane.
National Archives of Australia 774. RAAF Directorate of Works and Buildings - Engineer Intelligence Section - Lowood, Qld 1943
National Archives of Australia 171/56/10 Part 2. DWB [Director of Works and Buildings] - RAAF Lowood Qld - Aerodrome works, 1944-1947
National Archives of Australia 171/1/1493. RAAF Headquarters - DWB [Director of Works and Buildings] - Utilization of semi-underground buildings. 1943-1948
National Archives of Australia Z5. Lowood - Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] site for VHF/DF [very high frequence/direction finding] transmitter site. 1942.
National Archives of Australia LS863. Lowood - Plan of Bomb Shelter Compound and Access on Resub. 3 of Sub. 1 of Portion 287, Parish of England, County of Cavendish.1943
National Archives of Australia QL618/1. Acquisition of land from Walter Utz. RAAF Order. Lowood Underground Operations Building. 1943-1949.
Dunn, P. Lowood Airfield during WW2
State Library of Queensland, John Oxley Library Photographic Collection.