WOODSTOCK AIRFIELD, QLD
41 KMS SOUTH OF TOWNSVILLE
DURING WW2

 

The three WW2 airfields at Woodstock (Fighter Aerodrome No.2 Project) were located about 41 kms south of Townsville. One of the runways is now part of the Townsville to Charters Towers highway and another is part of the road between Woodstock and  Giru. The third airfield is located in a farm adjacent to the Townsville to Charters Towers Highway.

Air Commodore F.W. Lukis, AOC NE Area reported on 6 March 1942 the need for three fighter dromes apart form the Townsville RAAF Station (Garbutt) itself.

The 91st Engineers and the 46th Engineers both helped to build the Woodstock airfield in April 1942. Members of the 46th Engineers travelled by train from the Melbourne area and arrived at Woodstock on 13 March 1942. The 46th Engineers started work on the three runways on 18 March 1942. The Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Albert G. Matthews ordered three 8 hour shifts so that work could continue on the runways 24 hours a day.  Runway 3 had been cleared by 22 March with the other two scheduled to be cleared within another week. Please note that I have assigned my own numbers to the three airfields as shown on the pictures below for ease of description. The following Google Earth picture shows nominal locations for some of the many crashes that occurred in the Woodstock area during WW2.

The first aircraft landed, probably on Runway 3, on Jonathon Crabb's property on 22 March 1942. Lt. Col. A.G. Matthews and Major William H. Mills were on board this aircraft. The runways were initially just a gravel surface but they were later covered with bitumen by February 1943. Evidence of this bitumen can still be seen in some areas on Runway 3.

 

Woodstock Airfield June 1945

 

In about June 1942 Headquarters 3rd Battalion, along with Batteries D, H, L and M and one platoon each from Batteries A and E of the 94th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment were dispersed to defend Woodstock and Reid River airfields.

 


Google Earth

Location of one of the WW2 airfields at Woodstock. The Woodstock to Giru road is running east to west at
the top of the picture. The Townsville to Charters Towers Road is running north south at the left of the picture.

 

Woodstock Airfield June 1945 - Runway 1

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

View of the highway between Woodstock and Giru facing east south east looking along the original Woodstock Airfield (1)

 


Google Earth

Location of two of the WW2 airfields at Woodstock. The Townsville to Charters Towers road is running north south.
Murrays Road and Crabb Road can be seen in the vicinity. Many of the original taxiways for the three airfields
are still in use today. One can be seen leading off to the north east from the top end of Woodstock Airfield (2)

 

Woodstock Airfield June 1945 - Runways 2 and 3

 

Runway 3 was the first one built on Mr. Jonathon W. Crabb's property (Portions 11V, 12V, 13V, 86V, 87V and 88V). Runway 2 was the next built followed by Runway 1. Jonathon Crabb died some time after his property was taken over by the military. Jonathon Crabb's land was then transmitted to 5 members of his family as follows:-

Portion 11V                     Charlotte Ruth Willison Crabb
Portion 12V                     William Willison Crabb
Portion 13V                     Joe Willison Crabb
Portion 86V                     Isabella Eliza Willison Field (nee Crabb)
Portions 87V and 88V      Elphinstone Willison Crabb

Portion 14V was owned by widower Caroline Wordsworth Chenoweth and Portion 40 was owned by Daniel Jospeh Vergilious Cummins.

During February or March 1942 local farmer William Galliot Field claimed that either Main Roads or Allied Works Council personnel entered his property (Portions 7V, 8V, 9V and 10V, County of Elphinstone, Parish of Magenta) and land owned by his brother John Field (Portion 6V), and property owned by his wife Isabella Eliza Willison Field (nee Crabb) (Portion 86V) and "commenced construction of an aerodrome in the course of which practically all fences were demolished resulting in my cattle straying and many being run over by lorries and otherwise lost or destroyed." His property had been taken over by the Commonwealth of Australia in April 1942 pursuant to National Security (General) Regulations. The total area of these combined properties amounted to approximately 2,600 acres upon which approximately 400 cattle had been grazing. He also claimed that in in late September or early October 1944 he became aware of the fact that some of his cattle were dying and he immediately afterwards discovered that this was probably caused by spraying of a poisonous fluid of young undergrowth by RAAF personnel along the runways and taxiways. Mr Field had specimens of parts of the dead beasts analysed by the Director of The Animal Health Station at Oonoonba, near Townsville, whose findings indicated that the beasts had died from arsenical poisoning from arsenic that had been sprayed on foliage on his property.

 

Properties owned by the Field family. Gilligan Creek runs through Portions 8V and 10V.

 

The Australian Comforts Fund organised a dance for the members of the 46th Engineers in the Country Women's Association (CWA) Hall at nearby Woodstock on 20 May 1942. The Australian Comfort Fund arranged for a train load of girls to be sent out from Townsville.

In June 1942, the Commander AAF directed that Woodstock Airfield and Reid River Airfield were to be used to accommodate a medium bombardment group. Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and the 19th Bomb Squadron and the 33rd Bomb Squadron of the 22nd Bomb Group (Medium) occupied Woodstock Airfield. Camp facilities for 750 men were established at Woodstock Airfield. An Officers Club was also erected in site. It was well equipped with electric lights, a crap table, facilities for ping pong, chess, etc and of course a bar. By February 1943 the operations buildings and camp accommodation for 1,300 men were available at Woodstock Airfield.

The 19th Bomb Squadron of the 22nd Bomb Group (Medium) arrived at Woodstock from Townsville on 4 July 1942. They departed for Iron Range Airfield in far north Queensland on 15 September 1942. They returned to Woodstock from Iron Range Airfield on 4 February 1943 and departed again on 11 July 1943 for Dobodura in New Guinea..

The 33rd Bomb Group of the 22nd Bomb Group (Medium) arrived at Woodstock airfield on 20 July 1942 from nearby Antil Plains Airfield. They departed for Iron Range Airfield on 29 September 1942 and returned to Woodstock from Iron Range Airfield on 4 February 1943. They then departed for Dobodura in New Guinea on 15 October 1943.

The B-26 Marauders of the 22nd Bomb Group (Medium) had returned to Woodstock in February 1943 for repair and overhaul of their 32 remaining aircraft out of the original 56 aircraft.

On about 16 May 1943, the B-25 Mitchells of the Headquarters Squadron and 498 Bomb Squadron of the 345th Bomb Group arrived at Woodstock Airfield from California. The remaining aircraft of the 345th were deployed at nearby Reid River Airfield and Charters Towers Airfield. The 498th Bomb Squadron trained for a few weeks in the Woodstock area for bombing from 8,000 feet.

By mid 1943 Woodstock Airfield and 5 other airfields were identified to be retained for construction and maintenance activities. By October 1943 Woodstock Airfield and two others were handed over to the RAAF for those purposes.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

Historic WW2 Sign located on the Townsville to Charters Towers Highway showing location of the Woodstock Airfield (2)

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

Woodstock Airfield (2) starts here near Murray Street and runs back towards
Townsville and is located on the site of the Townsville to Charters Towers Highway.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

Entrance to the farm adjacent to the Woodstock airfield that was located on the Townsville to Charters Towers Highway

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

One of many well constructed WW2 drains along the side of the Woodstock
Airfield (2) which now forms part of the Townsville to Charters Towers
Highway. This drain particular is located on the eastern side of the Highway.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

The Townsville to Charters Towers Highway can be seen adjacent to this same drain.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

View of hills looking north east from Woodstock Airfield (2)

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

View looking south along Woodstock Airfield (2) towards Charters Towers.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

This photo is taken on what I have labelled Woodstock Airfield (3)
looking roughly north east along the alignment of the airfield.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

This photo is taken on the same Woodstock Airfield (3) looking in the opposite direction along the
original airfield towards the entry gate to the property on the Townsville to Charters Towers Highway.

 

The US Army operated a Teletype Circuit connecting Townsville with Woodstock and then Reid River during WW2.

It would appear that the RAAF had Air/Ground Gunnery and Bomb Ranges (inner and Outer) complete with underground shelters, targets, markers and signals at Woodstock after WW2. Does anyone know where they were located?

RAAF 14 Salvage and Repair Unit was based at Woodstock Airfield for some time during WW2.

The 39th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor), of the 35th Pursuit Group (Interceptor), relocated from Williamstown to Woodstock airfield with their P-39 Airacobras on 20 April 1942.

On 26 April 1942, fifteen Bell P-39 Airacobras of the 8th Fighter Group's 35th Squadron left Woodstock airstrip headed for Port Moresby. P-39 Airacobra #41-6770 crashed on Cape York during the journey to Port Moresby.

David Alexander is trying to find information about James W. Egan, who was a 2nd Lt. with the 35th Fighter Squadron, 8th Fighter Group from January 1942 through to April 1943.  He flew a P-39 and was credited with two aerial victories. 

His postings were as follows:-

5 Nov 40 Mitchel Field, NY
12 Jan 42 Jim arrives
26 Jan 42 Leaves for Pacific on Maui
6 Mar 42 Brisbane, Australia
26 Apr 42 Port Moresby, New Guinea
30 Apr 42 First mission
7 May 42 First aerial victory
28 May 42 Second aerial victory
29 Jun 42 Woodstock, Australia
27 Jul Townsville, Australia
18 Sep 42 Milne Bay, New Guinea, Malaria
4 Feb 43 Mareeba, Queensland, Australia
25 Apr 43 Jim leaves
10 May 43 Port Moresby, New Guinea

The 33rd Squadron of the 22nd Bomb Group was based at Woodstock from 5 July 1942 until about 29 September 1942.

RAAF Dakota A65-31 (VH-CUC) of 36 Squadron RAAF crash landed at Woodstock airfield on 27 February 1946.

One of the WW2 airfields was located near today's Donnington Air Park which is managed by Ray Smith who was a scout (runner) at the North Eastern Area Command Headquarters in Sturt Street in Townsville during WW2.

In an article in "The Independent News" on Wednesday 9 August 1995, Ray Smith said that he entered the Green Street bunker at West End not long after the war finished and found an old blueprint of the Ross River airfield showing the location of two aircraft that collided just after takeoff. This is probably the collision of two Kittyhawks at Ross River airfield in about April 1945.

 


Photo:- via Ray Smith

The town of Woodstock is located at the top left hand corner of this WW2 aerial photograph.
One of the airfields can be seen at the top of the photograph. The Woodstock to Giru road is
running left to right across the top of the photo and the Townsville to Charters Towers Highway is
running top to bottom at the left of the photograph. The water hole towards the bottom right of
the photo is the remnants of a quarried area used to obtain fill material for the airfields.

 

The US Army Telephone line can be faintly seen running from top left to bottom right in the above photograph. The site of the Donnington Air Park is marked out in biro on the above photograph with the US Army telephone line dissecting the property.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

Sign at nearby Donnington Air Park

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

Blast Tube from a P-39D Airacobra found at Woodstock Airfield (3). It is about 850 mm long.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

Close-up of the end of the above blast tube

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

Name Plate on the above blast tube which reads:-

CAL. OF GUN    50
PART NO.    12-741-081
AIRPLANE MODEL     P-39D

 

I believe that this is the same sort of blast tube at the top right of
the propeller spinner in this photo of a wrecked Airacobra.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

An aluminium panel or hatch cover from an aircraft found on
a local farm. Can anyone please identify this item?

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

Close-up of the aluminium panel or hatch cover

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

Close-up of the aluminium panel or hatch cover

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn April 2008

Another view of the aluminium panel or hatch cover

 

Members of the 22nd Bomb Group inspect an unidentified B-26 Marauder that made an emergency
landing on the Pressed Steel Matting (PSP) at Woodstock in 1942. I'm not convinced this happened
at Woodstock. Can anyone confirm? Was their PSP on any of the runways at Woodstock? The
shape of the hills in the background does look like some of the hill off the end of Runway 3.

 

SQUADRONS BASED AT WOODSTOCK DURING WW2

35th Fighter Squadron, 8th Fighter Group, USAAF

39th Fighter Squadron, 35th Fighter Group, USAAF

19th and 33rd Squadrons, 22nd Bomb Group, USAAF

498th Bomb Squadron, 435th Bomb Group, USAAF

 

MILITARY AIRCRAFT CRASHES
AT WOODSTOCK AIRFIELD
DURING WORLD WAR 2

11 Apr 42 Woodstock USAAF P-39 Airacobra 2nd Lt. Bernard P. Gillingham killed
10 May 42 Woodstock USAAF P-400 ?
7 Jun 42 Woodstock RAAF Wirraway A20-490
7 Jun 42 Woodstock RAAF Wirraway A20-493
2 Jul 42 Woodstock USAAF P-39 Airacobra 1st Lt George L. Austin killed
27 Jul 42 Woodstock airfield area USAAF P-39 Airacobra ?
9 Mar 43 a few miles from Woodstock USAAF B-26 Marauder #40-1480
"Thunderbird", 1 killed
28 May 43 Woodstock USAAF B-25D Mitchell #41-30045
"The Round Robin"

 

REFERENCES

Queensland Airfields WW2 - 50 Years on"
by Roger R. Marks

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Clint Hayes, James Berryman, Ray Smith and David Alexander for their assistance with this web page.

 

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This page first produced 24 September 2000

This page last updated 23 December 2014