Royal Australian Air Force No.3 Wireless Air Gunners’ School and No.3 Air Navigation School
- Wide Bay-Burnett
Saltwater Creek Road, Maryborough 4650
The surviving World War II buildings at Maryborough airport were constructed between 1941 and 1944 as part of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No. 3 Wireless Air Gunners’ School and No. 3 Air Navigation School.
Maryborough airport is located on the northeast outskirts of Maryborough, to the east of Saltwater Creek Road. Most of the structures associated with RAAF Station Maryborough, which were located either side of the current airport’s entrance drive, have been removed, but the pattern of the interior roads can still be seen on satellite images.
On the right hand side of the airport’s entrance drive is a former inflammables store (a small square building with a hipped roof with large ventilator); a former motor transport garage (with a skillion roof); and a latrine building with a gabled roof. Just east of these is an adapted P1 hut that was part of the Sick Quarters.
Closer to the runway, and now acting as the airport terminal, is another P1 hut, formerly a parachute-packing shed. To the north of the terminal is a galvanised iron Bellman aircraft hangar, one of four that were built, and north of the hangar is another P1 hut, a former Flight Office.
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. Maryborough was chosen as a base for a Wireless Air Gunner School (3 WAGS) and an Air Navigation School (3 ANS).
Maryborough’s civil airfield was secured for RAAF use in December 1940 under the provisions of National Security (General) Regulations, and the Air Board set about acquiring more land to extend runways and facilities. The training school was opened 18 September 1941 and the first intake was on November 16. Among the buildings erected were ‘P’ series huts, pre-cut of timber and galvanised iron and assembled on site. There are three huts of this type remaining at Maryborough. Two prefabricated Bellmen Hangars (out of four proposed) were also built, and there were three gravelled runways.
On 7 December 1941 the United States of America entered the war. The EATS scheme was suspended for reassessment in response to the perceived threat to Australia. However, Australia decided in February 1942 to continue to send aircrew to Europe and North Africa but retain enough aircrew in Australia to crew home and Pacific based squadrons, and also recall some experienced aircrew.
From April 1942, Maryborough’s activities included Recruit Training. No. 3 Recruit Depot operated at Maryborough until July 1943 and No. 6 Recruit Depot from November 1944 to June 1945. These units gave basic training to about 4000 recruits. Women (WAAFs) were also stationed at Maryborough.
During 1942 a Wireless Transmission Station and Medium Frequency Direction Finding (MF/DF) Station were constructed north of the airfield but neither exists today. The Transmission Station was located on the north side of Bongoola Road, just west of the school, while the MF/DF Station was located on the west side of Claas Road, on the second property heading northeast.
Maryborough aerodrome facilities were also used for airframe overhaul and a third and fourth Bellman hangar were erected at Maryborough in late 1944, although on 15 August 1944 it was decided to close number 3 WAGS Maryborough and train Wireless Operators at Ballarat instead. The facilities at the base were then used by RAAF 1 Radar School. The training school closed on closed on 6 December 1944.
Following the victory in Europe in May 1945 the Royal Navy formed the British Pacific Fleet. In June 1945 the HMS Nabstock unit arrived in Maryborough. This was a MONAB, a mobile naval air base for training crew and the assembly of aircraft for the British Pacific Fleet. A number of Royal Navy Air Squadrons were based in Maryborough until late 1945. The RAAF station was closed after the departure of the last of these, MONAB VI HMS Nabstock in November 1945. Following the cessation of hostilities, control of the aerodrome was transferred to the Department of Civil Aviation on 31 July 1946.
Today the airport is an active civil facility regularly used by private and chartered aircraft and by the Maryborough Aero Club. It has two runways; one is bitumen surfaced and the other is a grassed cross strip. The third (southwest-northeast) runway from World War II is no longer extant.
Second World War RAAF Buildings, Maryborough Airport, Queensland Heritage Register 602556
National Archives of Australia. Item control symbols: 171/54/1 PART 1; 171/54/1 PART 2; 171/54/11; 171/54/12
Australian War Memorial Photographic Collection.