Adelaide River and Fenton Air Base – key locations in the defence of Australia during World War II

Sunday, Aug 16, 2009 at 09:00


Leaving Litchfield we returned to the Stuart Highway. Coomalie World War II Air Base was not far south from where we met the Stuart Highway, with the airstrip still visible along the east side of the road.Adelaide River is 29 kilometres south of the junction of the BatchelorLitchfield Park Road with the Stuart Highway. The main street runs alongside the Highway in the centre of town and there was plenty of long rig parking along either side. It was Saturday morning and market stalls were set up on the lawns between the highway and the street. The local roadhouse/hotel was advertising a special on Barramundi and chips – so guess what we had for lunch? A tasty addition to our usual salad lunch.

During World War II there were up to 30,000 Australian and United States soldiers based near Adelaide River.Adelaide River is the site of one of the largest war cemeteries in Australia with 434 graves, graves of 64 civilians killed in war service and a memorial to 293.
We took Dorat Road as the scenic alternative to the Stuart Highway. This loop was once the Stuart Highway between Adelaide River and Hayes Creek. Although the surface of the road looked good, it proved very bouncy when towing so driving was slow and not easy. For those towing, the Stuart Highway to Hayes Creek would be a preferable choice.

Robin Falls is one of the features accessed from Dorat Road, and we called in to find small free campsites spread along the creek were too small for us and most were already taken. This camp ground is unserviced. We were not able to take the short walk to the tiny falls as there was nowhere to park without blocking the turn around road.

Continuing south from where Dorat Road turns towards Hayes Creek on the Stuart Highway, we visited Fenton Airfield. There is a short drive in from Oolloo Road through a cattle station gate. With two well signed access roads which join prior to reaching the air strip, the southern one is in better condition. Cattle now roam on the two kilometre long air strip which is still in very good condition. Signage at the air strip shows the air strip and a series of loop roads of taxiways, around sixty aircraft dispersal bays, some with revetments (earth banks) against which the planes were parked still intact. The strip was bombed seven times during 1943, but the base continued to be the source of many successful air raids to the Indonesian and adjacent islands.

There is also a ‘aircraft graveyard’ where wrecks were deposited. The airfield was used principally by the RAAF and USAAF as a heavy bomber strip for B-24 Liberators.

The entrance to the air strip is separate to the air base access track where signage shows a map of the old base. We did not visit the base as the road in was said to be rough.

Read more detail about this trip and see all the photos in our 2009 Travelogues

Red desert dreaming

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