No. 1 Repair & Salvage Unit RAAF

From Our Contribution

1 RSU.jpg
They lived under canvas but still had a shower to help combat the humidity and sticky climate.

Brief History

No. 1 Repair and Salvage Unit was formed at Daly Waters on 18 Mar 1942 and during May 1942, the stores and transport sections of the Unit were formed in Melbourne. The advance party of the Unit, left Melbourne and arrived at Katherine, on 19 June to set up the Unit's camp at Manbulloo. The Daly Waters element became a detachment. The main party left Melbourne on 13 July, arriving at Alice Springs on 23 July in a convoy of 72 vehicles and arrived at Manbulloo three days later.

Makeshift stores and transport sections were established alongside the workshops section, as the Unit was to re-locate to Katherine as soon as the camp there was established. During September 1942, the final elements of No. 1 Repair and Salvage Unit moved from Daly Waters to Katherine, leaving behind the stores section which had expanded to become the North-Western Area Stores Pool. This was handed over to 9 Stores Depot on 23 September 1942.

The onset of the wet season brought with it storm events that disrupted operations. During November, work commenced on repairing and overhauling Wright Cyclone engines. This was severely hampered by the lack of machine and hand tools, as well as having to carry out the work in open tents. On 1 May 1943, No. 1 Repair and Salvage Unit was advised of a move. Operations ceased on 3 May and the advance party left Manbulloo in convoy on 30 May 1943 for Darwin. The first of four train-loads of stores and equipment left Katherine for Darwin on the same day. The MV Wanaka arrived in Darwin on 7 June and commenced loading the Unit's equipment the next day. Wanaka arrived off Red Island Point (on the western tip of Cape York Peninsula) at midnight 14 June. A temporary camp was set up at a site occupied by No. 28 Operational Base Unit. Work commenced on the permanent camp at Higgins Field airstrip. Apart from the main Unit at Higgins Field, two detachments were formed, one at Thursday Island and the other at Merauke on the southern coast of Dutch New Guinea . A daily ferry service was inaugurated between Higgins Field and Horn Island for resupply and administration.

The Horn Island detachment was disbanded on 21 Aug 1944 and personnel returned to Hjggins Field. Tragedy struck the Unit on 22 August 1944 when Norseman aircraft A7J-1 force-landed in the sea with four members of the Unit aboard. One member was killed and the other three spent 15 hours in the sea before being rescued. A large bushfire threatened the Unit on 6 Oct 1944. All transport was mobilised to move the petrol dump out of the fire's path and all personnel were called out to fight the lire with beaters. An outbreak of smallpox occurred in the area in October, causing the whole Merauke, Thursday Island, Horn Island and Higgins Field area to be quarantined.

On 5 Dec 1944 advice was received that the first 100 members were to leave Higgins Field by air the next day for Townsville. Personnel left in small parties, mostly by air; the 50 man rear party left Red Island Point on 17 December to embark on SS Islander wh1ch arrived at Sydney on 30 December. On 9 Jan 1945 the Unit received advice that it was to prepare to move with No. 86 Wing. In preparation the technical members of the Unit were attached to No.2 Aircraft Depot to undergo courses on Mosquito and Beaufighter aircraft.

On 29 Jan 1945, 26 a1rmen left Sydney for Brisbane, a convoy then followed on 19 February. On 27 March, personnel, stores and equipment left Meeandah, and these were followed by the advance party wh1ch proceeded from Mt Druitt on 20 April. Others left by rail for Brisbane on 29 April. 'Echelon B' sailed from Brisbane on the Simon Bamberger on 2 May for Morotai. The last unit members left Mt Druitt for Brisbane on 8 May, from where as 'Echelon C', they sailed on the Sea Ray on 11 May.

The Simon Bamberger arrived at Morotai on 15 May, to prepare for the Labuan landing. On 5 June the Unit left Morotai in convoy and arrived at Labuan on 17 Jun 1945, though it was not until 7 July that the area was cleared and Unit personnel were able to move to their permanent camp site. At the end of the War the Unit strength totaled 330.

No. 1 Repair and Salvage unit's workload increased over the months following the Armistice, preparing some aircraft and vehicles for return to Australia and others to go to Japan with No. 81 Wing. The Unit ceased operations on 8 December 1945 and was disbanded on 26 December 1945.

Individual Honours

Unit Personnel


Content has come from Units of the Royal Australian Air Force - A Concise History - Volume 7 Maintenance Units, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1995

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