Sunday History Photo / NT

Submitted: Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 03:43

Member - Doug T (NT)

Adelaide River became a place of some importance during the war. It was the tactical forward supply base for the large number of Army units camped along the road to Darwin, and was also a major communications base.
After the bombing of Darwin in February 1942 the Northern Territory witnessed a persistent air struggle. Japanese aircraft continued to bomb Dar¬win and other bases while Australian and American air units flew from the Territory to bomb Japanese targets. The threat of Japanese invasion resulted in the establishment of a network of Allied bases between Darwin and Katherine. By October 1942 Japanese air attacks had diminished in scale and frequency, and fighter squadrons were defending the Territory with increasing efficiency. During 1943 enemy targets were attacked repeatedly. Late in May 1943 four additional American Liberator squadrons were sent to Darwin. These penetrated deep into Japanese held areas. On 30 June there was a massive Japanese raid on Fenton airstrip near Pine Creek which was repulsed with heavy Japanese losses.

Jap Air-Raid hit Gasoline Storage, Fenton
Jap Air-Raid hit Gasoline Storage, Fenton

Air-Raid hit Gasoline Storage,Photos sent from USA
Air-Raid hit Gasoline Storage,Photo's sent from USA


Adelaide River's role in the war commenced in December 1939 when the Minister for the Army approved a scheme to develop the town and its surrounding district as a farm and rest area. The aim was to provide small quantities of fruit and vegetables and a weekend retreat for service person¬nel in Darwin. Land was cropped for melons, cucumbers and beans with the first successful harvest taking place in 1940. During 1941 thirty-one acres were being farmed.
Three 'Sidney Williams' corrugated galvanised iron huts were erected to serve the farms and poultry was added. The farms steadily grew in size and were successful despite the lack of staff and difficulties with fertilisers. By July 1942 the Australian Army Service Corps was cultivating 47 acres at Adelaide River.

No 1 Australian Farm Company
No 1 Australian Farm Company


Adelaide River became after 1941 a most important military base. A major reason for this was the existence of the railway, which after the bomb¬ing of Darwin provided a supply line to replace the precarious sea link. The whole line had to be reballasted to support the enormous increase in traffic, eight times greater in 1941/42 than 1938/39.
Early in 1942 the North Australia Railway Line was divided into four strategic districts so that locomotives and rolling stock could be effectively dispersed. Adelaide River became the 'rear echelon' of an operational area. A large ordnance depot and supply complex with refrigerated stores, an ab-batoir, rations, clothing and engineers stores was set up and defended by infantry and artillery units. Concrete block houses covered the approach road and the strategically important railway bridge. Storage and supply depots were situated on two spur lines to the north of the town. The railway yards were extended to provide a siding for the hospital train and an additional locomotive siding and a large military hospital was constructed to the south of the river. The railway bridge had longitudinal timber decking laid between and on either side of the rails so that it could be used to cross the river when the low level road bridge was cut during the wet season.

The Army location statements and orders of battle give some idea of the enormous number of men and women at Adelaide River. In April 1942, for example, there were an infantry company, a supply personnel company, a field bakery, a field butchery, a bulk issue petrol and oils depot, an ammunition supply section, a farm section, an army general hospital, a dental unit, an ambulance train, a medical stores section, an ordnance depot, an ordnance workshop, an army post office, and a detention barracks. There were also American units in the area, including during early 1942, a full field artillery regiment.

At Snake Creek, some two kilometres to the north of Adelaide River, was a large armament depot. A double-track rail siding was set on either side of a road with the combined road-rail system following the natural contours of the site. Big ammunition stores were set into the side of the hills, in order to muffle explosions during accidents and raids and for protection from aerial reconnaissance. Some stores had thick concrete walls and steel girder roof supports. Others had pillarless semicircular roofs, the design for which was developed by American army engineers. Provision was made by means of overhead beams for block and tackle unloading of large shells for naval guns. Explosives were supplied for Snake Creek for the string of airfields between Pine Creek and Darwin. In addition, there were store rooms, laboratories, administration and signals offices, mess huts, accommodation huts, and ablution blocks. Rows of tanks on surrouding hills gravity fed water to kitchens, showers and fire hydrants. The larger buildings were covered with camouflage nets.

1 of many Armco Shelters for Ammo
1 of many Armco Shelters for Ammo

Landing Platform, Snake Creek
Landing Platform, Snake Creek

Laboratory Blast Walls
Laboratory Blast Walls

Sorting 1000Lb general purpose bombs Snake Creek
Sorting 1000Lb general purpose bombs Snake Creek


The military hospital at Adelaide River was capable of handling large numbers of patients and dealing with a variety of cases. In March 1942, 22 nurses and 50 patients travelled from Darwin to Adelaide River and before long all other Darwin hospital staff followed. The hospital was initially located on the north side of the river where the land, according to a matron, was Very low lying with thick bush'. She continued that 'sanitary and bathing conditions were shocking, or perhaps I should say non-existent'. The site was also between stored petrol supplies and an ammunition dump. After six weeks it was moved to the south side of the river. Engineers built wards and laid water pipes. A 1200 beds hospital was set up. The nurses accommodation area was over two kilometres away so trucks conveyed them to and from the hospital.

Communal showers, facilities were rugged with see-through shower at 119 AGH
Communal showers, facilities were rugged with see-through shower at 119 AGH

119th AGH looking  South
119th AGH looking South

Transport from quarters to wards,
Transport from quarters to wards,


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AnswerID: 463129   Submitted: Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 08:23

blue one replied:

Good read

Thanks Doug
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AnswerID: 463140   Submitted: Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 10:02

On Patrol & TONI replied:

Hi Doug
our recent stay at Adelaide river was very informative indeed and we will not forget your tour and commentary of the area, a very interesting place.

It was interesting to learn just how important the place was in the "Battle of Australia" because Darwin was too exposed to readily defend the north.

Is Mt Bundy getting back to normal again.

Thanks again Doug.
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FollowupID: 737044   Submitted: Monday, Aug 22, 2011 at 00:26

Member - Doug T (NT) posted:

Been a good run of tourists since you were here, but is now slowing down , just 1 Van and 2 campers in tonight, and a Connections Bus with 3 passengers .

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AnswerID: 463154   Submitted: Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 11:47

B1B2 replied:

G'day Doug,
What good shots from the USA, never seen them before. When at Adelaide River last year, I took photos of the air raids list at the war cemetery.
Raid No57 - 30-6-1943 @ 1230 Fenton Field was attacked by 21 Fighters and 27 Bombers, it was defended by 38 Spitfires of which 7 were destroyed, and 4 destroyed on the ground. Japaneses losses were 3 F-6B Destroyed, 2 B Probable and 1 F-5B damaged. I am not sure of what the type of bomber is from the abbreviations.
We saw the armco shelter by the railway line, I should have guessed it was for ammo.
A nice touch fitting a ladder to the nurses truck:-))

Cheers,
Bill
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FollowupID: 736970   Submitted: Sunday, Aug 21, 2011 at 11:50

B1B2 posted:

Doug,
the penny dropped, Japanese losses 3 F (fighters) 6 Bombers destroyed. 2 bombers probable, 1 fighter and 5 bombers damaged.

Cheers Bill
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FollowupID: 737045   Submitted: Monday, Aug 22, 2011 at 00:39

Member - Doug T (NT) posted:

Bill
If you email me I will send you a large map plan of the Snake Creek area.

dtilley5@bigpond.com

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