REID RIVER AIRFIELD
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

 

 

On 29 March 1942, Companies "B", "C" and "F" of the 46th Engineers General Service Regiment moved to Reid River approximately 40 miles south of Townsville and began building three new airfield runways. The first runway at Reid River was was ready by 15 April 1942. The airfield was located beside the Reid River rail siding and near the Townsville to Charters Towers road.

Page 21 of "The History of the Queensland Main Roads Commission during World War II 1939 - 1945" seems to suggest that the Queensland Main Roads Commission also helped to build the runways at Reid River in early 1942.

Company "D" of the 46th Engineers General Service Regiment left Reid River on 10 July 1942 and boarded the ship "Dona Nati" for Iron Range in far north Queensland.

 


NAA Plan

1946 Plan of Reid River Airfield
Click on plan to enlarge

 

2nd Bomb Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group moved from Garbutt Airfield to Reid River Airfield on 9 April 1942. The 18th Reconnaissance Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group moved from Garbutt Airfield to Reid River Airfield on 12 April 1942. The 18th Reconnaissance Squadron was redesignated to the 408th Bomb Squadron on 22 April 1942.

B-26 Marauders of the 408th Bomb Squadron carried out air strikes against the Japanese at Lae and Rabaul from Reid River Airfield on 22 April 1942. Many other air strikes were carried out from Reid River with aircraft refuelling at Port Moresby.

Headquarters 3rd Battalion, with Batteries "D", "H", "L", "M" and one Platoon each from Batteries "A" and "E" of the 94th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment defended Reid River airfield and Woodstock Airfield arriving there in about June 1942 with their 50 calibre machine guns.

The 26th Australian Infantry Battalion and the 19th Australian Field Ambulance both camped in the Reid River area from late March 1942. The 19th Field Ambulance's Casualty Clearing Station at Reid River was redesignated as the 1st Australian Camp Hospital on 5 April 1942. The 19th Australian Field Ambulance relocated to Roseneath closer to Townsville on 9 April 1942.

No 4 Ambulance Train ran its first journey from Charters Towers to Townsville via Reid River on 7 April 1942.

A report dated 15 February 1943 advised that there were three sealed runways at Reid River Airfield, plus camp accommodation for 900 men and complete operational facilities for the airfield.

The 499th Bomb Squadron and the 500th Bomb Squadron of the 345th Bomb Group arrived at Reid River on about 16 May 1943 and remained dispersed there until about 20 June 1943 when they returned to New Guinea.

The 2nd Bomb Squadron of the 22nd Bomb Group left Reid River Airfield on 9 October 1943 for their new base at Dobodura, in New Guinea. The 408th Bomb Squadron of the 22nd Bomb Group left for Dobodura on 15 October 1943.

585th Engineer Company (D. Trk) (Colored) which was a Separate US Army unit not attached to a Battalion or Regiment or Division. arrived on the ship "S.S. Santa Lucia" in Townsville on Good Friday 10 April 1942 (Easter long  weekend). They had to unload the ship themselves as the Australian wharfies had taken a long weekend holiday. The 585th moved to Reid River by train and established their camp. The other negro unit on the ship with them was the 91st Engineer Battalion (Cld) (Const).

The 585th Engineer Company chose their camp site in a grove of large gum trees. Their pyramidal tents accommodated eight men. Each of their officers had his own small gabled tent. The company headquarters was located in another gabled tent. Their camp was located near Company "A" of the 46th Engineer General Service Regiment who were building the nearby airfield runways. The 585th soon had orders to travel by train to Barcaldine.

There was also a large CCC Camp at Reid River located west of the Reid River rail siding.

 

AIRCRAFT CRASHES AT OR NEAR REID RIVER AIRFIELD

Crash of a B-26 Marauder of 2nd Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group at Reid River in March 1942 Crash of a B-26 of 2nd Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group at Reid River on 22 April 1942 Crash of a B-26 of 408th Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group, at Reid River on 15 May 1942

Crash of a B-26 of 408th Squadron, 22nd Bomb Group at Reid River on 23 December 1942

B-25 Mitchell crashed during take-off at Reid River on 14 Sep 1943

 

 


Photo:- Michael Musumeci

WWII Heritage sign marking location of Reid River Airfield

 


Photo:- Michael Musumeci

What remains of one of the runways at Reid River Airfield, now a road into a cattle property.

 


Photo:- Michael Musumeci

Possibly the footings of the rudimentary control tower at Reid River Airfield

 

REFERENCES

The Corps of Engineers - The War Against Japan"
by Karl C. Dod

"The History of the Queensland Main Roads Commission during World War II 1939 - 1945"

"Diary of World War II North Queensland (Update)"
by Peter Nielsen

Defence of North Queensland during WWII
by Howard Pearce

"I'm in the Army Now, Roy S. Weaver Jr's World War II November 1941 - March 1946"
by Roy S. Weaver Jr., Commanding Officer of the 585th Engineer Company (D. Trk) (Colored)

"Queensland WWII Historic Places Reid River Airfield"

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Michael Musumeci for his assistance with this web page.

 

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This page first produced 22 December 2014

This page last updated 23 December 2014