No. 73 Operational Base Unit RAAF

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Brief History

Australia's sheer expanse of sparsely populated landscape posed all sorts of challenges to the movement of aircraft with relatively modest operating range. Safety was paramount, to provide emergency and designated landing grounds to support the safe transit of aircraft from one side of the country to the other.

The No. 73 Operational Base Unit was formed at Corunna Downs, Western Australia, on 18 Nov 1942, with an establishment of five officers and 57 airmen. The Unit was set up to service and provide fuel for the RAAF, United States Air Force, and the Royal Netherlands Navy operations.

The Departmcnt of Civil Aviation commenced grading the strip on 16 Dec 1942, with work being carried out by civilian labour and local authority plant. Approximately 300 feet (92m) of temporary strip was completed on 20 December and final rolling of the strip was carried out using service tractors. Early in January 1943 a Main Roads engineer tested the subsoil on the runways, locating suitable top-dressing materiaJ for the runways. Owing to the lack of gravel in the natural surface it was decided to use decomposed granite, as this material was readily available in unlimited quantities. The first runway was 7,000 feet (2,134m) long and 250 feet (76m) wide, while the other was 5,000 feet (1,524m) by 250 feet (76.2m) wide In September 1943, both strips were completed; 18,000 feet (5,486m) of taxiway was ready at the end of June 1944.

Operations commenced over Japanese-occupied Netherlands East Indies by aircraft from Corunna Downs. Some of the aircraft types using the airstrip were Hudson, Anson, Liberator, Flying Fortress, Douglas C-47, Gannet, Lockheed Lodestar, Vultee Vengeance, Tiger Moth, Spitfire and Beaufort. On 20 December 1944, a strike force of 30 Liberators carried out a successful mission from Corunna Downs. With the end of the war, 73 Operational Base Unit was disbanded on 14 Jan 1946

Unit Personnel

Ground crew


Content has come from Units of the Royal Australian Air Force - A Concise History - Volume 1 Bases, Supporting Organisations - Australian Government Publishing Service - 1995 pages 62 and 63

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