No 13 Operational Base, Camden,Camden Airport


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Site Name: No 13 Operational Base, Camden,Camden Airport
Site Number: 127
Address: Aerodrome Road, Cobbity NSW 2570
Category: Defence Works
Date: c. 1939
War: WW II
Heritage Listings: None

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The Macarthur’s private aerodrome was upgraded during WWII and new facilities including Bellman hangars constructed, a number of which survive.

The RAAF Air Field Data Sheet for Camden records that the airfield was set in undulating grazing country, lightly timbered. Airfield is encircled by Nepean River except on the N.E. side. Aerodrome is situated in large bend of Nepean River. Apart from the runway shown below the whole of Airfield is covered with natural grasses and used as an all-over aerodrome.

Gravel taxiways with steel mesh branches. 16 hideouts for medium bombers. 1 SP (not camouflaged) 15 conceal only - work suspended NW end of the runway is not visible from the Duty Pilot’s Tower. Road to the aerodrome is sealed 2nd class road. During heavy floods bridge over Nepean River adjacent to Airfield is sometimes submerged for short periods.

Obstructions to flying included the camp area. The number of hangars was not listed on the datasheet.

History / Provenance

In 1812 400 acres of land beside the Nepean River was granted to Rowland Hassall. The property “Macquarie Grove” was named in honour of Governor Macquarie who had granted Hassall the land. In 1877 the land passed intot he hands of the Hon. H.C. Dangar MLC. He introduced a rifle range at the southern end of the property and may also have established the racecourse which lasted on the site until the flying school was established in 1938. After passing through several owners the property was purchased by F.A. Macarthur-Onslow in 1916 in his wife Lucy’s name and settled there.

Around 1921 an Australian who was to become a leading light in British aircraft design, Edger Percival returned home after service with the Royal Flying Corps and opened a small commercial aircraft business. Percival landed on the property during 1924, much to the delight of the three Macarthur-Onslow sons, Denzil, Edward and Andrew. The three boys became flying enthusiasts and, with the help of H.E. Broadsmith, they designed and built their own aircraft, the B4. Broadsmith was one of the partners in an A.V. Roe (Avro) agency under the name of the Australian Aircraft and Engineering Company Ltd.

Edward Macarthur-Onslow was a member of the Camden troop of the 1st Light Horse which used the pastures of Macquarie Grove as a parade ground. Edward bought his first plane, a Hornet Moth, in 1935 and this and the Comper Swift owned by Denzil were housed in the “old tin shed” garage on the property. The family established the Macquarie Grove Flying School.

In 1939 (30 September) the Minister for Aviation, J.V. Fairbairn, opened the Macquarie Grove Aerodrome (and hangars) on behalf of the Commonwealth which had been at war in Europe for almost a month. The three brothers divided their responsibilities as follows: Edward ran the Macquarie Grove Flying and Gliding School, Denzil was in charge of Light Aircraft Pty Ltd while Andrew managed Air Travel and Survey Ltd. The two older brothers joined the Army whilst Andrew joined the RAAF but was killed in a crash in NSW. Following the outbreak of war the flying school activities were scaled down and Edward Macarthur-Onslow offered the aerodrome to the Federal Government for the duration of hostilities.

The copse of trees in the centre of the landing ground, around which the original racecourse had run, was removed and trees in the approach paths to the airstrip were felled. About 50 prefabricated huts were erected “overnight” and the 1st Light Horse Garrison moved in to patrol the aerodrome. Various squadrons moved through the aerodrome,including No 457 Spitfire Squadron which arrived in November 1942. No 15 General Reconaissance Bomber Squadron equipped with Beauforts was formed at Camden in January 1944.

RAAF Station, Camden was handed back to the Department of Civil Aviation on 15 September 1946. (source: Potted History of Camden Airport on Banksown Airport website)

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