No. 8 Airfield Construction Squadron RAAF
From Our Contribution
No. 8 Airfield Construction Squadron laying sections of Marsden Mat during the rebuilding of the airstrip on Tarakan Island - June 1945, AWM 108750
No. 8 Airfield Construction Squadron evolved from 8 Mobile Works Squadron, which was formed at Ascot Vale on 1 Jan 1943. Destined for North-Western Area, the unit first moved to Flemington, Victoria, while a small detachment travelled to Gawler, South Australia. At Flemington the Squadron collected its equipment and prepared both personnel and stores for the trip north. On 4 May 1943 the advance party reached Venn Airstrip, Northern Territory, and commenced work. Their first task was the construction of a road between the bases at Long and Fenton, which was completed after one week. Meanwhile, a detachment travelled to Manbulloo for maintenance work. During August a detachment proceeded to Melville Bay to sink water bores and assemble facilities for a full-scale move to Melville.
The Squadron was re-named 8 Airfield Construction Squadron on 15 Jul 1944 and, after a year in the Topics, returned to Melbourne for a two-month break and a re-organisation. Members were then underwent ground combat training as they were destined for the islands. After a period improving facilities at Bankstown NSW, in February 1945 the unit began loading Liberty Ship SS Helena Modjeska, and on 6 March it departed from Sydney for Morotai via the Coral Sea, Finschhafen, Hollandia and Biak, arriving on 20 Mar 1945. On 1 May, the Squadron had moved again, disembarking at Tarakan, where roads and bridges damaged or mined by the Japanese had to be repaired.
The Squadron was constantly threatened by the remnants of the Japanese forces on Borneo. On the night of 31 May 1945, infiltrators attempted to overrun the unit camp, resulting in one Australian and four Japanese being killed. Two months of hard work produced a barely serviceable airstrip. The unit redeployed to 8alikpapan, making landfall on 9 July, and was then tasked to complete the return taxiway at Sepinang, followed by a 7,000 foot (2,134 m) runway at Manggar, in addition to maintenance of major roads. The Squadron was disbanded at Mt Druitt, New South Wales in December 1945.
Content comes from Units of the Royal Australian Air Force - A Concise History - Vol 9 Ancillary Units, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1995. Details for the ship Helena Modjeska' movements come from WWII Merchant Ship Movement Records - Australia.