No. 76 Operational Base Unit RAAF
From Our Contribution
No. 76 Operational Base Unit was raised at Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia, on 7 May 1943. Thirty two airmen joined their CO there on 17 May ex MV Koolinda. Work commenced on the establishment of tents and a kitchen the next day. On 21 May nine bombs were dropped into the sea nearby and enemy aircraft were spotted overhead and with the radar on a number of occasions over the next few weeks.
The unit serviced a multitude of aircraft, including Douglas Dakota C-47, Bristol Beaufort, Avro Anson, de Havilland DH-86, North American B-25 Mitchell, Fairey Gannet, Vultee Vengeance, Vought OS2U Kingfisher, Lockheed Hudson, Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar, Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the Consolidated PBY Catalina. This operation was not without difficulty. Heavy rain could close the strip as it was not fully sealed until 9 August. The Unit's refueling launch and dinghy were unloaded and commissioned on 4 Jun 1943, enabling flying boats to be refueled, and the unit accepted the transfer of the Signals Section of 111 Fighter Sector Headquarters on 31 Oct 1943.
Boomerangs from 85 Squadron were based at 'Potshot' to give aerial cover over the United States Navy submarine base at Exmouth Gulf. On 8 May 1944 advance parties from 14, 54 (RAF) and 457 Squadrons arrived at 'Potshot', along with a Western Area Headquarters detachment. 161 Fighter Control Unit arrived by Dakota next day. Nineteen Spitfires from 51 and 157 Squadrons landed on the 10th, 12 Beauforts from 14 Squadron and 17 more Spitfires arrived on 11 May. The strength of the Unit rose to 743 personnel during this period, to maintain the Spitfire patrols and the anti-submarine efforts of the Beaugforts.
During 2 Feb 1945 the facilities of No. 76 Operational Base Unit were virtually razed to the ground by a cyclone. Low lying land around the base was flooded and a barge was washed ashore. Three men were drowned and another injured by a flying sheet of iron. Commercial Qantas flights to England via the base commenced on 2 Jun 1945 and on 22 July the base was used to stage an offensive raid on Semarang, Java. During October repatriated prisoners of war staged through Exmouth. An eight vehicle convoy departed for RAAF Base Pearce on 15 Sep 1946, marking the demise of No.76 Operational Base Unit.
- Robert Alexander MacLean 15 Jun - 18 Sep 1944