RAAF WORKS UNITS SQUADRON HISTORIES.
Among units in the Armed Services, one of the many things that made the ACSs special was that most other units had roles that were destructive, whereas theirs were constructive, and created lasting assets. The ACSs' monument is the set of military airfields and associated facilities, which they constructed in war and peace in every State/Territory, on the Australian mainland, Japan, Cocos Islands, the SouthWest Pacific, and SouthEast Asia. The ACS worked hard, played hard, and there was no finer unit on parade. Their esprit de corps and family spirit live on at the annual State and biennial National reunions that are organised by dedicated former members such as Les Mitchell and Syd Kildea, respectively President and Secretary of the `Flying Shovels' in NSW.
Between 1942 and 1974 the Royal Australian Air Force Airfield Construction Squadrons operated under adverse physical conditions in peace and war.
Forward airfields, vital to the aerial campaigns in the SouthWest Pacific, were developed, often under fire. In addition to the post-war development of facilities on the mainland, Airfield Construction Squadrons served with the occupation force in Japan, built the airfield at Butterworth during the Malayan Emergency and developed facilities at Phan Rang and Vung Tau in South Vietnam.
The ACS squadrons landed on the beaches with the assault forces at Aitape, Tarakan, Morotai, Balipapan and Labuan Island. The task of the squadrons was to land and immediately follow the infantry and build or re-build airfields, camps, roads and wharves as soon as possible. This was done, in many cases, in a matter of days under the most trying conditions, and under continuous air raids, sniper, and artillery fire while the earthmoving equipment was used day and night.
MEMORIAL SERVICE AND PLAQUE DEDICATION at the AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL
ADDRESS and UNVEILING' of PLAQUE AIR VICE MARSHAL C McK HINGSTON AM Representing Chief of Air Force
Friends and Former Members of the Airfield Construction Squadrons, I am indeed delighted to be afforded the privilege of unveiling the plaque here today at the Australian War Memorial in memory of those who served with these squadrons because the ACS's contribution so thoroughly deserved to be recognised and not forgotten. The history of the ACS's is one of service to meet our nation's needs in an important but perhaps too often an under appreciated aspect of defence capabilities and the legacy left to us is highly significant. That history spanned more than 32 years through to the disbandenment of 5ACS in 1974.
From the formation of No1 Mobile Works Squadron later made 1ACS in April 1942 and of the others that followed to provide an independent construction capability for the RAAF, the size and variety of the jobs they were given together with the environment in which they did them, presented such physical, technical and managerial challenges as to deserve our admiration. Operating under fire in World War 11 in distant challenges in remote locations, the climate making hard living conditions just to name a few.
Now it took a special group of people to meet these challenges and deliver the goods in the way they did. Rough and tough, independent, flexible, and resourceful, professional. Their nature suited the job that they faced, operating as they so often did away from the established Air Force. They worked hard, they played hard, and they had more than their fair share of interesting characters from what I can understand. A down to earth lot, they took people for what they were, especially for their professional ability, not for the rank on their shoulder, perhaps a reflection of the Australian character generally. To them loyalty was a two way business and the ACS's produced a good crop of leaders that worked within the framework some reaching very senior ranks in the RAAF.
The last of the ACS'S was disbanded just over a quarter of a century ago now, and looking back as we are invited to do today on the history and the contribution made by the ACS's, its quite tempting perhaps to focus largely on what the RAAF was, the expertise, the flexible and responsible capabilities, the, challenge resulting to find their way around today and into the future. My own preference is to focus on the legacy rather than the loss. That legacy of course includes a range of lasting assets the airfields and facilities that the ACS has left us. In Japan, Cocos Island, South East Asia, and the Pacific and of course throughout Australia, many of which are still important and of strategic value to the RAAF.
The people are an important focus too. Perhaps forgotten for many years, corrected in part in David Wilson's book "Always First" a couple of years ago. They too, the people, and the skills that they brought into Australian Industry when they left the RAAF, together with the grit, determination, resourcefulness and character that they displayed widely in ACS represents part of that legacy, the heritage so its very fitting I believe that at some stage we will have a special sign here at the Australian War Memorial to ensure they are not forgotten. It is gratifying to see the number of former members of the combined ACS's who have gone to the trouble to make it here for this plaque dedication today.
Ladies and gentlemen, the story of the ACS's is a story of service one that has left us a legacy not only in physical and capability terms, but also in terms of its exemplification of the finest elements of the Australian character.
Ladies and gentlemen, I now have great pleasure in unveiling the Memorial Plaque to those who served in the RAAF's AIRFIELD CONSTRUCTION SQUADRONS.