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Inverleigh Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Aerodrome

Inverleigh Airfield

  • Airfield
  • North-West

Inverleigh Station, Normanton€“Burketown Road, Normanton 4890

Owing to the unserviceability of Augustus Downs landing ground after rain, the RAAF was faced with the immediate necessity of providing an all-weather strip in the Gulf country of up to 3000 yards (3280 metres) that could be constructed with minimum effort within a short period. Inverleigh cattle station, south-east of Normanton, was already equipped with a small strip from pre-war days, used by Airlines of Australia and other local operators. The civil strip was located on a well-drained gravel rise without overburden, west of the station homestead on L Creek. All that was necessary was to bring in earth moving equipment to extend the strip, provide a cross runway and form taxiways and dispersal bays. It was proposed to establish Inverleigh as the main operational base in the region.

Today Inverleigh airfield is unchanged in layout from the wartime years. Although the buildings-decorated and camouflaged in 1943 by Eric Jolliffe, then Australia's favourite cartoonist-have long since been removed or consumed by white ants, the airfield remains in use as the station strip and it's still possible to follow the taxiways and identify the wartime wind sock post, duty pilot tower footings and machine gun pits at the intersection of the runways.

History

Extension of the Inverleigh station strip was underway by early 1943 before the wet season intervened. In March 1943 a small party transferred from the RAAF 29 Operational Base Unit detachment at Augustus Downs, but it was not until early July that 29 OBU commenced full operations at Inverleigh and Augustus Downs was vacated.

Inverleigh was one of several north Queensland advanced operational bases at which splinter-proof aircraft dispersal bays were planned. Bulldozer excavation of at least 12 large earth-mounded aircraft pens was well advanced by July 1943 when all further work was cancelled. After a letter from General Douglas MacArthur to Prime Minister John Curtin, RAAF North Eastern Area Command issued a directive that 'all construction forces now at Inverleigh be dispatched as rapidly as possible to Higgins and Horn Island to expedite those dromes.' Thereafter Inverleigh ceased to play a significant role in Allied air operations in north Queensland during World War II. The flying doctor service and a civil air mail service received permission to use the strip in August 1943. The airfield has been licensed to Inverleigh pastoral station since 1945.

Source/comments

Pearce, Howard (contributing author).

Main Roads Commission, The History of the Queensland Main Roads Commission during World War II 1939–1945, Government Printer, Brisbane, 1949.

Roger Marks, Queensland Airfields WW2: 50 years on, Brisbane, 1994.

Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.

Last updated
30 June 2014