MALLACOOTA AIRFIELD
IN VICTORIA DURING WWII

 

Mallacoota Airfield was a satellite airfield that allowed detached aircraft carrying out coastal patrols and escorting convoys across Bass Strait to refuel and receive basic maintenance.

The Brisbane Courier Mail reported on 7 July 1939 that "A contract for the preparation of an aerodrome at Mallacoota has been let, at 5,294." The Department of the Interior accepted the Tender from Mrs. Amelia J. McKenzie, of Melbourne for the works at Mallacoota.

An article in the Gippsland Times of 4 December 1939 stated:-

"Contractor McKenzie has made excellent progress with the work at the Mallacoota Aerodrome site. Considering the almost impossible task of working in a sea of mud in rotten ground, it is satisfactory that at present time runways of 800 yards in four directions are available for landing of the aeroplanes."

No.1 Operational Base RAAF (1 OBU) was based at Mallacoota Airfield in Victoria during WWII. 1 OBU reported that there were 194 landings made at Mallacoota Airfield in September 1942, which indicated the importance of this airfield. The report by the Commanding Officer of 1 OBU Mallacoota of 1 October 1944, reported the following "Welfare and Recreation" activities:-

"Picture shows were held on an average of twice a week."

"Several personnel were granted permission to attend a dance at Genoa and a ball at Eden."

"A dance was held in the Airmen's Recreation Huts on 9th September. A shortage of ladies stopped it from being a good success."

On 10 November 1941, five Lockheed Hudsons from 2 Squadron RAAF departed Laverton Airfield at 0815K hours for Mallacoota Airfield in connection with an exercise to test Army organisation regarding supply of petrol and rations at No. 1 Operational Base Unit at Mallacoota. A diverging search was also carried out from this advanced operational base between bearings 120 and 200 from Gabo Island to a depth of 200 miles to seaward. Their objective was to search for surface vessels. All sightings were successfully identified.

On 12 November 1941, 11 Wirraways of 22 Squadron RAAF arrived at Mallacoota Airfield at 0850K hours and were ordered to carry out an "attack" on Benambra for exercise at 1001K hours. The operation involving only 10 of the Wirraways was completed at 1245K hours.

The first flight of 22 Squadron Wirraways at Mallaccota took off at 1410K hours on 12 November 1941 for another exercise to "attack" the town of Grant. Flights of aircraft took off at ten minute intervals. The exercise was completed at 1640K hours.

On the same day, six Lockheed Hudsons from Richmond, detached at Mallacoota at that time, were ordered to carry out a parallel track search from Cape Howe to Cape Banks to a depth of 70 miles to search for surface vessels. This exercise was completed and all the Hudsons returned to Richmond at 2245K hours.

The Mallacoota Hotel was a popular place to stay for RAAF crews who were temporarily detached to Mallacoota Airfield. Air crews would volunteer to do the washing up after meals to fraternise with the two attractive daughters of the licensee, Len Maurice. Another young attractive lady would row across the lake to Mallacoota when the RAAF crews were in town.

On 3 March 1942, Avro Anson W2372 of GRS, crash landed near Mallacoota Airfield.

On 29 July 1942, two Beauforts from Mallacoota and another from Laverton were carrying out a creeping line ahead search, when the navigator in Beaufort A9-42, Doug Bell, sighted at 0355 hours local time, what he thought was a large Japanese submarine five miles away. The submarine was heading south at about 7 knots at a position about 18 miles east of Cape Howe.

The pilot of Beaufort A9-42, Doug Avery, advised his crew that he was going to make a bombing attack on the enemy submarine. Unfortunately the bomb bays failed to open in time during his first attack run at about 400 feet. He climbed to 1,400 feet after a tight turn to starboard. As the submarine began to crash dive, Avery made another attack run, dropping all of his six 250 lb bombs which straddled the target. The crew in the Beaufort felt a huge shock from an explosion and soon realised they may have also sustained some damage to their aircraft.

Les Schwartz, the turret gunner, saw that at least one bomb made a direct hit amidships on the Japanese submarine. The Beaufort circled the area and spotted a large oil slick. When the Beaufort returned to Mallacoota Airfield they found a large hole in the starboard wing and another in the tailplane and some minor shrapnel damage to the fuselage.

The Beaufort crew reported that they had sunk a Japanese submarine. The submarine that they had attacked was later confirmed as Japanese submarine I-11 which, whilst badly damaged, was not sunk.

On 2 November 1942, three RAAF personnel were killed when their Avro Anson DG919 of 67 Squadron RAAF crashed at Mallacoota Airfield.

At about 1101 hours E.A.S.T. Douglas DC-2 A30-10 of 36 Squadron RAAF, crashed on take off at Mallacoota Airfield after failure of its starboard engine.

There were two large concrete RAAF wireless bunkers near Mallacoota Airfield during WWII. The Transmitting Building Bunker which worked in conjunction with the Operations Building Bunker was located to the west of the Mallacoota Airfield and is now located in a dense State Forest area.

No. 67 (General Reconnaissance) Squadron RAAF was formed at Laverton Airfield on 6 January 1943 and operated their Avro Ansons from Laverton, Mallacoota, Yanakie, Bairnsdale and Warrnambool airfields. 67 Squadron was eventually divided into "A" Flight and "B" Flight which operated alternatively from Laverton and Mallacoota airfields.

There was a High Frequency Direction Finding H/F D/F Station at Mallacoota Airfield during WWII. It was located east of the airfield near the beach. In early March 1943, the P.M.G. Department erected the four masts associated with the test oscillator and underground cables for power, telephone and remote control. The P.M.G. were held up with further works, awaiting the construction of the splinter proof concrete hut which was scheduled for commencement in early May 1943. In the mean time guards were placed on the masts and the test oscillator. The concrete D/F building was completed by 12 July 1943. The installation and testing of the H/F D/F Station was completed and the station was handed over to the RAAF Signals Officer at Mallacoota on 14 December 1943.

 

Site of the H/F D/F station to east of the Mallacoota airfield
runways which can be just seen at the left of this plan

 

REFERENCES

"Operations Record Book - Headquarters, Southern Area"

"Song of the Beauforts"
by Colin M. King

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank John Willis for his assistance with this web page.

 

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This page first produced 17 March 2017

This page last updated 18 March 2017