RAAF AMBERLEY – HISTORY | Ipswich Life Magazine
In December 1938, land located on the overflow floodplains at the confluence of the Warrill Creek and Bremer River was gazetted for Defence purpose.
The 880 acres known as Jeebropilly by the First Australians, translates as Swamp of the Flying Squirrels . It comprised two land holdings: the north portion being part of the original pioneer family Collett s property of Amberley named after their county of origin in Sussex England, and the southern portion overlaying the banks of the Warrill Creek subdivision Willow Bank . Construction of RAAF Air Station Amberley commenced in 1939 and operations started in June 1940, with the formation of units to recruit and train RAAF aircrews to fly AVRO Anson and CAC Wirraway aircraft. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 the United States Army Air Corps quickly established an Air Echelon at RAAF Amberley and shipped in many fighter aircraft (Kittyhawks, Airacobra and Dauntlass) in kit form for assembly at Amberley to fly against Japanese forces in the Pacific War effort. Amberley developed into a significant aircraft assembly, salvage and maintenance facility.
In 1942, No 23 Squadron was relocated to Amberley and equipped with Vultee Vengeance and Bell P-39 Airacobra aircraft and dispatched to New Guinea area for bombing support duties. In 1944 the squadron reformed as a Heavy Bomber squadron with B-24 Liberator Bombers and deployed to provide bombing sorties in the South Pacific theatre. At the end of World War II, 82 Wing relocated to Amberley, later equipped with the Avro Lincoln bomber, which pre-empted its transformation in the post-war role as the RAAF s major base for bombing operations. The jet age came to Amberley in 1954 with the arrival of the GAF Canberra Bombers to replace the propellor powered Lincoln.
In 1960, the Australian ARMY established No 16 Light Aircraft Squadron at Amberley equipped with Bell Sioux Helicopters and Cessna Bird-dog observation aircraft. With the prolonged delay in the F-111 delivery, the RAAF leased F-4 Phantom aircraft as an interim replacement for the ageing Canberra bombers, as F-111 aircrews who trained in the United States needed to remain current, waiting for the F-111 to arrive on-base. In December 1971, No 9 Squadron with Bell UH-1 Iroquois Helicopters was relocated to Amberley from service in the Vietnam War.
Finally, in June 1973, the iconic swing-wing General Dynamics F-111C strike aircraft arrived at RAAF Amberley to serve with Nos 1 and 6 Squadrons, renowned for their long range strike/reconnaissance capability and publicly for their spectacular Dump & Burn flypasts and air shows and other major events. Also in 1973, No 12 Squadron was reformed with Boeing CH-47 Chinook Helicopters. Then in 1992 No 38 Squadron relocated to Amberley with its DH4 Caribou cargo aircraft.
The new century ushered in new era, with major base re-development, including facilities to accommodate the Australian Army s 9 Field Support Battalion. Then in 2006, air transport capability came to Amberley with the Boeing C-17 Globemaster cargo aircraft to serve with No 36 Squadron, followed in June 2008 with the relocation of No 33 Squadron to operate the new Airbus KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft. In the interim years to 2009, Amberley s air power capability actually decreased with the transfer of Black Hawk helicopters of No 9 Squadron and the Chinooks of No 12 Squadron to the Australian Army, and the disbandment of No 38 (Caribou) Squadron.
A major transformation in Australian air power began in March 2009 with the arrival of the first five F/A-18F Super Hornets to replace the aging F-111s, which were withdrawn from service in June 2011, after serving the RAAF for 38 years.
In retrospect, the first aircraft to land at Amberley in 1939 was a DH Hornet Moth owned by the construction contractors. Seventy years later the biplane type has morphed into the Super Hornet and RAAF Amberley has evolved into Australia s major Defence base.