AIRCRAFT ERECTION DEPOT TOWNSVILLE
OR AIRCRAFT ASSEMBLY DEPOT TOWNSVILLE
DURING WWII

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On 1 December 1941, Richard G. Casey, the first Australian Ambassador for US (Australian Legation), Washington D.C. sent a Secret Cablegram to the Secretary of the Australian Defence Committee stating:-

"I am asked by United States Army Air Corps to obtain urgently motor transport from R.A.A.F. if facilities exist at Townsville for assembling 54 United States single engined dive bombers now crated and on sea route. In certain eventualities ship might be diverted to Townsville and aircraft assembled (largely wings and engines fitted) at Townsville and flown to the Philippines."

The Secretary, Department of Air responded on 2 December 1941 as follows:-

Although present facilities at Townsville are somewhat limited for the rapid assembling of so large a number of 54 dive bombers we would be glad to arrange such assembling as expeditiously as possible. Transport could be provided by R.A.A.F. supplemented by hired vehicles. Request urgently following information

A. Type of aircraft engine and airscrew

B. Safe range of aircraft

C. Octane rating of gasoline and normal cruising consumption

D. Whether U.S. Army Air Corps erection party and crews are accompanying aircraft and if so the number.

If U.S. erection party is not available we could supplement R.A.A.F. personnel at Townsville from south. Advise diversion of ship at earliest to enable all arrangements to be made.

A Teleprinter message dated 8 December 1941 from the Secretary, Department of Defence Co-ordination to Secretary, Department of External Affairs advised:-

"Project I: Strengthening and extension of aerodromes at Rabaul, Port Moresby, Townsville, Batchelor (Darwin) and certain intervening landing grounds between Darwin and Townsville. The building of erection depot, including certain accommodation requirements for aircraft landing Townsville by sea. Estimated costs 457,000 Pounds. This work is now in hand by Australian authorities."

The US Air Force Aircraft Erection Depot was built as Project No. 1 in Townsville in early 1942. It comprised one large hangars and a number of smaller buildings as per the plan below.

 

Aircraft Erection Depot Townsville - Project No. 1

 

Southern end of the northern hangar of Air Force Project No. 1 on 4 December 1942

 

This may be the same hangar on 25 June 1943. It was the hangar for
Engineering, 2nd Service Squadron as per the sign above the opening.

 


Photo:- via Kevin Parkes

The northern hangar associated with the Aircraft Erection Depot Townsville
can be seen to the left of the road leading to Garbutt Airfield on 19 March 1942

 

The hangar of the WWII Aircraft Erection Depot. The area was used for scrapping
 the long nosed Lincoln bombers that had been retired from 10 Squadron RAAF in 1962.

 

The escort carrier USS Copahee (CVE-12) moored on the starboard side of the eastern breakwater Pier, Berth No, 5 at Townsville Harbour at 0004 hours on Sunday 26 September 1943 and completed unloading 45 A-20 Havocs, 2 P-47 Thunderbolts and 8 P-40 Warhawk aircraft by 1555 hours that same day. Interestingly enough by 1730 hours on Monday 27 September 1943, 13 P-39 Airacobras and 1 Japanese Zero had been loaded onboard USS Copahee. The Japanese Zero XJ001 was rebuilt from the wrecks of five Mitsubishi A6M3 Type 32 Zeke's inside Hangar 7 at Eagle Farm airfield in Brisbane.

 

The Mitsubishi A6M3 Type 32 Zeke rebuilt by the Allied Technical Air
Intelligence Unit in Hangar 7 at Eagle Farm Airfield in Brisbane

 

The escort carrier USS Fanshaw Bay unloaded her cargo of aircraft at Townsville after a voyage which departed San Francisco on 16 January 1944.

USS Prince William left Naval Air Station, Alameda, California  transporting 311 officers and men, 17 P-38-5's, 16 A-20-6's, 3 P-61-A's and 15 P-47-D's to Brisbane. On 3 May 1944 its destination was changed from Brisbane to Townsville. At 1830 hours on 7 May 1944, the USS Prince William moored to the Platypus Channel Eastern Breakwater Pier, at Townsville and commenced unloading aircraft. USS Prince William departed Townsville for San Diego on 10 May 1944.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Kevin Parkes for his assistance with this web page.

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 7 August 2014

This page last updated 08 June 2017