14MWS NORTH AUSTRALIA
The second phase of the expansion of the works force commenced in January 1943. The administration of individual Airfield Construction Squadrons and the technical oversight of tasks were outside the expertise of a normal Area headquarters. To administer Nos.1MWS, 3MWS, and 8MWS, 9WMU, IIWSU, and 1SDU, Wing Commander D.J. Rooney established 61 Works Wing at Camp Pell, Royal Park, on 7th January 1943. Rooney flew north on
20th January, and was followed by the advance party on the 25th. Two of the more important reactions to the deployment of the wing headquarters were that negotiations commenced to transfer certain construction responsibilities to civilian authority and the units already operating in the Territory were reorganised. Negotiations with the Department of Main Roads, Public Works Department, and the Allied Works Council progressed slowly. However, on 20th September 1943 agreement was reached where the Allied Works Council and the Country Roads Board would concentrate their efforts in the Gorrie Area. The war situation had improved by 25th April 1944, when Rooney was advised that AWC labour was available in the area to commence RAAF projects for which funds were available. On 1st September 1944, 5 Divisional Works Office was `reconstituted for the general supervision of RAAF works' being undertaken in the north west.
On 12th June 1943, discussions were held between Rooney and Group Captain Knox, the Director of Works and Buildings, on relieving 1MWS as an entire unit. It had completed 12 months tropical service. The opportunity was also taken to rationalise the works organisation in the area. 1MWS was to be split into two standard sized squadrons 1MWS and 14MWS. The former proceeded south and 14MWS absorbed all newcomers and those personnel who had not served a full tropical tour. 14MWS was officially raised on
20th July 1943, and took over 1MWS works responsibilities next day.
14MWS continued the work at Millingimbi, employing approximately 25 Aboriginal labourers to complete the task by the end of August. In addition, personnel from the Squadron completed sealing of the Darwin airfield and cleared emergency landing fields in the Daly Waters area however, the main construction emphasis was on the heavy bomber airstrips known as Fenton and Long, approximately 193 kilometres south east of Darwin, where access roads were constructed, the airstrips sealed, and camps built. In addition, a water supply system capable of delivering 13,650 litres of water per hour was installed at Long.
The Fenton/Long area was the target of Japanese air raids during the early mornings of 14th August, 15th September, and 18th September. During the first raid, bombs were dropped near the southern end of the Long taxiway. One of the weapon carriers issued to 14MWS was slightly damaged during the second raid and the officer’s mess was demolished by direct hit from an anti personnel bomb. An unexploded bomb was discovered on the southern taxiway at Long.
Prior to travelling south for rest and re-equipment, 14MWS transferred equipment to 3MWS and on 9th December handed over its domestic camp to 1MWS. On 11th December 1943, the first convoy departed from Fountain Head, bound for Adelaide.