first heard about a secret airforce base in 1979 during my training
with the Department of Aviation. A number of the instructors had been
in the RAAF during WWII and were involved in the early radar sites. One
such radar was at Corunna Downs. When I transferred to Port Hedland the
opportunity arose to visit the old base. Over the years I have been
able to research and discover more about this site and I have been able
to visit often. During the years many small treasures have been found
from old bullets, dixie tins, bomb fins and even an ID Disc.
base was established late in 1942 with the commencement of building the
runways. During the initial phases of the allied strikes back at the
Japanese, the USAF 380 Bomber Group operated from the base. As the war
pushed the enemy further back, the RAAF 25 Squadron flew missions from
Corunna. The planes often flew from Cunderdin into the base to fuel and
bomb up, before departing to strike the enemy in Indonesia. The unit's
historical records which can be viewed at the National Archives of
Australia site show many missions to Corunna, including training and
you travel around the old airstrip and onto the taxiways it is easy to
forget that the encroaching bush is reducing the width from 16m to
something that causes scratches on the car as you drive through.
were brought into
Corunna from Port Hedland on the old railway. It is arguable that the
freight loading helped deteriorate the line to a point beyond economic
It is often said
that other Pilbara towns were bombed while the Japanese were searching
for Corunna Downs. However, there is no real evidence to support this.
The base was so secret that it is unlikely the Japanese even knew
it existed. One of the RAAF signallers wrote to me saying "The base was
so secret that there were other military units stationed there that we
didn't know about until a life fire exercise".
There are also many
rumours about a bunker too. This appears to be a myth, though probably
founded in some truth. A bunker can be anything from a small sandbagged
hollow to a full blown concrete building (such as at Rottnest). At the
old radar station there is a depression that was some sort of shelter during the
war. This is what I think is the bunker.
And stories abound of
guns and vehicles. I know in the early 1980's that live mortar rounds
were graded up when a new track was made into the site. I have seen the
list of inventory that the RAAF had at Corunna during the war, and
there weren't that many trucks or cars. Perhaps the Americans left
something, but I am sure that enterprising Australian soldiers and
airmen would have utilised them.
Try standing in one
of the revetments at night and close your eyes. Imagine the noise of
men refuelling and loading bombs. Imagine the scream of 4 powerful
motors turning the propellers and the blast of wind as the plane rolls
forward. Imagine the relief at war's end and how quickly everyone wanted
to leave and never return. Perhaps this is why so much has been lost
here to send us