No 5 AIRFIELD CONSTRUCTION SQUADRON RAAF
5ACS BATTLE HONOURS
No 5 Mobile Works Squadron was formed at Port Moresby on 16NOV42. Its move to Goodenough Island was completed on 11MAY43.
A detachment of No 5MWS was at Milne Bay in early 1943
New Guinea 1942-1944
No 5MSW served in New Guinea from its formation at
Port Moresby on 16NOV42
At Milne Bay Goodenough Island, and Aitape in early 1944.
Dutch New Guinea
No 5MW served at Noemfoor and Biak In late 1944 and early 1945 Borneo 1945
No 5 Airfield Construction Squadron moved to Labuan in mid 1945
No 5MWS / No 5ACS served in operations against the Japanese in the
Pacific Theatre from 1942 to 1945.
Early in 1942, Air Board realised the urgent need for 'an organisation capable of producing airfields in forward areas at short notice while under threat of air attack'
1. On 19th March 1942 the War Cabinet approved the formation of
No 1 Mobile Works Squadron, at Ascot Vale in Victoria on 6th April 1942. Subsequently two works wings were formed consisting of 14 Mobile Works Squadrons and allied units.
2. No 5 Airfield Construction Squadron's family tree can be traced back to a detachment of No 1 Mobile Works Squadron which was formed in July 1942 to construct an airfield at Wards Field five miles from Port Moresby. The detachment was named No 1 Mobile Works Squadron (Special Works Force) and it completed its task in the face of extraordinary difficulties.
3. In November 1942, the detachment became No 5 Mobile Works Squadron and on 15th July 1944, was renamed No 5 Airfield Construction Squadron. This title the Squadron has borne proudly ever since. As No 5ACS, the Squadron became part of No 62 Airfield Construction Wing. With a strength of 800 men.
4. After the construction of the landing strips at Wards Field, the Squadron continued to be active throughout the war years.
5. In February 1943 a detachment of No 1 Mobile Works Squadron went to Goodenough Island, and the Squadron followed it in May 1943. In March 1943, another detachment was sent to Milne Bay.
6. Early in 1944, it became part of the 5th Task Force Engineers in Lae,
New Guinea, and in April 1944 followed the assault troops in at Aitape. The Squadron's equipment was ashore and operating just 3 hours after the assault landing, and in 42 hours the airstrip at Tadji had been rebuilt. The Squadron also took part in the American assault on Noemfoor, and rebuilt the twin airstrips there in nine days, five days ahead of schedule. In spite of this Squadron personnel found time to capture six Japanese infiltrators.
7. On 31st January 1945, No 5ACS were on Biak Island maintaining airstrips,
Re-organizing and training for the Labuan Island venture. The Squadron that went ashore at Labuan on the 10th June 1945 was expert in island hopping tactics, constructing new landing strips and repairing damaged ones. Over a period of three years they had left behind them a trail of strips and camps from New Guinea to the Halmaheras. At Labuan, the Squadron bulldozers and graders again followed the assault troops ashore and within 8 days the first fighters were landing on the new airstrip.
8. On the 11th February 1946, the Squadron left Labuan Island in LST's for Japan to become part of No 81 Fighter Wing and of the RAAF Occupational Force, Japan. The Squadrons task in Japan the reconstruction of damaged buildings, also to work on the airstrips at Bofu and Miho, and all the maintenance work for HQ BCAF in Japan.
9. Air Vice Marshal Bouchier RAF, Commander BCOF Air Forces Japan, described
5ACS in Japan as one of the finest outfits he had ever been associated with. And stated in a document dated 20th March 1946.
It is always invidious to try and single out individuals, officers and other ranks or units for
special mention, particularly here at Iwakuni where everyone from the start has been flat out to help, but I would just like to mention of one particular unit namely No 5 Airfield Construction Squadron RAAF. I do not know what we should have done without them. No job was too big or too small for them. Although little more than an advance party in numbers, this unit under their Commanding Officer has worked wonders, and they are still on the job.
10. The squadron's war service ended in June 1949 when the squadron disbanded at Iwakuni Japan.
11. U.S. General Kenny in command of all allied Air Forces in the S.W.P.A. Never ceased to comment on the capacity of the RAAF works personnel to improvise in the face of great difficulties and get the job done to their exacting commands.
12. Air Vice Marshal Hewitt, Air Officer commanding 9 Operation Group RAAF,
Said "Time and again the performance of our Works Squadrons was absolutely first class. I was concerned they should receive the recognition they deserve; they were WAR WINNING UNITS."
1947 - 1974
13. No 5 Airfield Construction Squadron came to life again on the on the 8th August 1951 when the Squadron was reformed at Bankstown NSW. Its first task was to send a detachment to the Monte Bello Islands from March to November 1952 to work on preparations for the atomic tests.
14. In November 1952, the Squadron moved its headquarters to Williamtown and started work on the new runway and taxiways. From Williamtown detachments were sent to Richmind, Regents Park, Kingswood, Bankstown and Woomera for work as diverse as drainage, road works, and construction of hangers, warehouses, swimming pools and explosive stores.
15. In June 1955 the Squadron moved to Darwin to tackle the biggest task it had so far. An 11000 foot by 200 foot runway with associated parallel and access taxiways, a reinforced concrete control tower, buildings and roads for a radar site and a 50 metre concrete swimming pool; all these were part of the new Darwin works carried out by the Squadron in its nine years there. During this time, construction work was carried out for the Ubon contingent and a detachment at Amberley laid concrete pavements.
16. In August 1955 U.S.A. and British Commonwealth Forces regarded members of 2ACS and 5ACS as elite units and that reputation continued to grow until they were disbanded.
17. Tindal was the next project where a 9000-foot runway and associated taxiways and aprons were built in the period June 1964 to September 1969. Once again, detachments were sent to other areas, this time to Vung Tau and Phan Rang Vietnam, Ubon Thailand, and Darwin and Amberley.
18. At Tindal Due to the climate, refrigeration equipment had to be transported in not for the 5ACS squadron's comfort but to cool water for concrete.
19. In September 1969, with the Tindal airfield completed but for minor tasks, The Squadron moved to Amberley to extend the runway, lay concrete aprons and roads, and put up buildings. On the 29th March 1970 the Squadron sent an advance party to Learmonth to prepare the way for its next task the Learmonth Airfield. The Squadron headquarters followed on 1st February 1971, leaving a small detachment at Amberley.
20. The Learmonth Project involved the building of the campsite and erection of hangers.
Construction of runway and associated taxiways. This included two taxiways to allow high-speed exit from the runway at 50 knots.
Preparation of sites for navigation aids, construction of access roads to the airfield and associated facilities.
Construction of civil terminal apron, associated taxiways, roads and car parks for the Department of Civil Aviation.
Diversion of a major creek.
Construction of levee bank 3 metres wide at the top 15 metres wide at the base and 14 kilometres long.
(In February 1945, a cyclone hit North West Cape producing a 10ft tidal surge over the airfield and drowning 3 airmen in marine section at the Bay of rest)
The Squadron moved 2 million cubic yards of earth.
Constructed 42,500 cubic yards of cement concrete pavements hardstands and taxiways.
Constructed 41,000 tons of asphalt flexible pavements on runway and taxiways.
21. At Learmonth the temperature in and on the earthmoving equipment regularly exceeded 45 degrees operators had to wrap cleaning rags around their legs in the cabins of the scrapers to avoid being burnt.
22. In 1974 the squadron was using 184 items of works plant and 130 vehicles of various types. All this is a far cry from the early war years when the Squadron owned only 2 bulldozers, 2 tractors, 6 trucks, 3 graders, 23 tip trucks of varying ages, and one roller of 1890 vintage. Even the new roller scrounged in Port Moresby ended up having to be towed.
23. 5ACS continued to work itself out of a job even though it was regarded as the best equipped, trained and the most proficient engineering force for airfield construction in the Southern Hemisphere. The unit finished up at Learmonth where the grand final took place on December, 1974
24. Amidst the natural feeling of sadness felt by many at 5 ACS's passing, there is also the feeling of wonder that such a small band of great Australians despite prolonged hardship and adversity in war and peace in such a small field left such an indelible mark to remember them by
25. 5ACS and the other ACS's have left lasting assets and monuments to their work in every State/Territory, on the Australian mainland, Japan, Cocos Islands, the South-West Pacific and South-East Asia.
5ACS HISTORICAL BACKGROUND