Australia was ill prepared when it found itself within reach of the Japanese invaders during WWII. The infrastructure especially in the north of the country where the threat was most immediate was very poor or simply didn’t exist. The only reasonable airfield was in Darwin, but nowhere near the level of development that was needed for the war effort. In March 1942, when the threat of an Japanese invasion looked real, all available means of transport were used to get personnel, equipment and airplanes were send to the Top End.

The Australians tried as quickly as possible to create more airfields, as this was the only sort of transport that could be provided, there were hardly any roads or trainlines, everything had to be done by air. Within a short period of time bulldozers cleared strips of lands for planes to land, however, they often were of such a poor quality that planes could not safely land or take off from here, furthermore there were no or hardly any facilities in the middle of nowhere where these fields were erected. There is a report on the move of the Dutch 18th Squadron from Canberra to McDonald that provides insight in the logistical nightmare of getting to the Northern Territory and consequently they basically had to build themselves a camp around the airfield.

In all over a dozen WWII airfields were created in that way in the Top End and many of them were at occasions used by the Dutch. After the 18 NEI Squadron RAAF was fully trained and operational they moved from the training base in Canberra to McDonald Airfield and from here to Batchelor Airfield. However, sometimes their planes were directed to other airfields because of congestion or bad weather. At other times planes were more or less running out of fuel on their way back from Java and just tried to land wherever they could. Finally they also went on missions with other squadrons and started or ended their operation at other airfields.

Here are links to the main airfields used by the Dutch

The18 Squadron NEI RAAF moves to McDonald Airfield, NT (also includes Pine Creek Airfield)

The Dutch at Batchelor Airport in the Northern Territory

WWII Gould Airfield used by the Dutch for maintenance

WWII Pell Airfield, NT – used for maintenance by the Dutch

Adelaide River War Cemetery