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Lowood Airfield Mt Tarampa (1941-46)

Forest Hill-Fernvale Rd (cnr Daisy Rd), Mt Tarampa

Bombing of Darwin 19 Feb 1942Bombing of Darwin 19 Feb 1942

In July 1941 Lowood district was selected for the establishment of No.12 Elementary Flying Training School.

640 acres of farmland were acquired by the Australian Government at nearby Mt Tarampa for £4,400.

Enlistees were trained in Tiger Moth bi-planes and those showing potential were then sent to advanced training bases.

Following Japan's bombing of Darwin in February 1942, Lowood Airfield was upgraded to an operational base and intelligence centre to monitor and prevent Japanese activities in the region. 


Plans of the complex (left) show there were 138 individual installations of buildings, barracks and bunkers, including an armoury, workshops, photographic unit, post office, living quarters, mess huts, movie theatre, radar hut and tennis courts.

Initially there was accommodation for 540 personnel, later increased to 700. 

In March 1942, USAAF 36th and 80th Fighter Squadrons arrived in Brisbane and were deployed to  Archerfield. Some flying crews with their P-39 Airacobras were sent to Lowood aerodrome for training purposes.

RAAF flight instructors with Tiger Moth trainer at Lowood airfield in 1940RAAF flight instructors with Tiger Moth trainer at Lowood airfield in 1940To provide anti-aircraft protection for the US fighter squadrons, the US Army's 101st Coastal Artillery Battalion and 9th Coastal Artillery Regiment were also deployed to Lowood, 

However Lowood's single unpaved runway and limited facilities did not suit the Americans. The airfield was visible from the air from a considerable distance, with few options to hide or disperse aircraft in the event of an enemy attack.

After less than two months at Lowood, the USAAF 36th Squadron was transferred to Antill Plains (Townsville) and 80th Squadron was sent to Petrie (Brisbane) and then to New Guinea. 


Australian Army ambulance personnel at Lowood airfield in 1940Australian Army ambulance personnel at Lowood airfield in 1940In June 1942 23 Squadron RAAF was transferred from Amberley to Lowood, to fly reconnaisance and anti-submarine patrols. 

In January 1943 71 Squadron RAAF (maritime patrol) was formed at Lowood, flying anti-submarine and convoy escort patrols.

In May an RAAF aircraft from Lowood on anti-submarine patrol spotted a lifeboat containing survivors from the Australian hospital ship 'Centaur' which had been sunk by a Japanese submarine on May 14.

The loss of the ship and 268 of its 322 personnel were unknown at the time and this was the first sighting of survivors. 71 Squadron took part in an intensive search for further survivors and for the submarine responsible, but found only empty life rafts.

Lowood airfield remained in use by the RAAF from June 1942 until it was decommissioned in 1946.  

Myths persist that US military equipment and ammunition were buried at Lowood when the Americans left.

It's likely this idea arose at the end of the war when US forces abandoned vast amounts of machinery and equipment throughout the Pacific islands which was not worth returning to America.

However official USA records show that the two USAAF fighter squadrons were only at Lowood from 28 March to 10 May 1942, while the two detachments of US Army Coastal Artillery were only at Lowood from 6 to 28 April 1942.

At that time every single piece of military equipment was urgently needed for the war effort in the Pacific. Despite extensive searches no stash of US military equipment has ever been found at Lowood.

After decommissioning in 1946 the airstrip became Lowood motor racing circuit.


Certain information used for this page was sourced from

Peter Dunn's Australia @ War website -