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.
The third construction unit to come under the command of 61 WW was 8MWS. The original members of the unit gathered at Ascot Vale before commencing a move to Gawler, South Australia on 8th January 1943, where establishing a unit was fraught with administrative difficulties. Flight Lieutenant H.V. Davies, who assumed command on 11th February, confided to Wing Commander Rooney on 7th March that the formation of the unit at Gawler had proved `most unsatisfactory' due to the executives of the unit being absent in Melbourne `scrutinising demands or searching for plant and equipment. This means we are out of touch with the plan, and unable to keep control of training.' Pressure on accommodation was, due to 86 Squadron being formed at Gawler at the same time, Davies obtained the agreement of the Director of Works and Buildings to transfer the unit to Travencore, a school located near Princes Park in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton. The movement was completed on 20th March.
The method by which the unit would travel north was a matter of conjecture. The initial proposal was that 8MWS would travel by sea to Millingimbi. Even though the proposal was cancelled the day after it was announced, Davies saw a positive effect in that the unit was `... being given unlimited purchase authority through the area finance officer'. The destination and travel arrangements for 8MWS was still undecided when, on 10th April, Davies advised Rooney that all equipment was being forwarded to the Works Training Depot in Sydney to wait on the availability of shipping. Personnel would remain at Travencore and proceed direct to the ship. As shipping was unavailable until the first week in May, the decision was made to move the unit by road. On 27th April 72 airmen departed in a convoy for the north arriving at the ` 109 Mile' on 13th May. The final draft of men departed from Melbourne on 11th May, six days before 8MWS commenced work for 14 Aircraft Repair Depot at Gorrie. After completing the work at Gorrie, a detachment worked on taxiways and drainage at Venn and similar work at the heavy bomber base at Manbulloo. In addition, the Squadron was heavily involved with the maintenance of the airstrips at Fenton and Long, constructing a road between the two airfields before constructing a priority road to Fountainhead.
The major task undertaken by 8MWS was the construction of the airfield and flying boat base at Melville Bay. On the 7th August, Davies and Rooney flew by Walrus aircraft to Melville Bay, landing at Kevin's Cove. The two men travelled by sea to Yarkalla next day and stayed overnight. Next day they commenced the 42 kilometre walk back to Melville Bay, inspecting prospective airfield sites en route. After camping out overnight, the men arrived back at Melville Bay during the early afternoon of the 10th. Next day, after conducting a series of soundings in the waters of Melville Bay, an inlet named Watson's Bay was selected as the site for the flying boat base. The survey party returned to the 109 mile on the 12th. Four days later the first draft of personnel departed for Melville Bay, travelling on the Southern Cross from Millingimbi. In all there were eight drafts from the ` 109 Mile' to Melville Bay, the last arriving from Millingimbi in the Wanaka on 24th October.
By 1st September three kilometres of road, later named Rooney's Route, had been cleared and the first campsite commenced. Within six weeks the construction of the airstrip had progressed to the stage where the first aircraft, with the Air Officer Commanding North Western Area, Air Vice Marshal Cole aboard, landed on 24th October. By December Dakota aircraft were regularly using the airstrip and at the end of March 1944 the airstrip had been extended to 2,134 metres. Work commenced on the flying boat base on 14th February, and the majority of this work was completed before the Squadron was deployed south during July.
The John Owen arrived on 11th July. After disembarking its cargo, the vessel was loaded with 8MWS stores and equipment. It was not an easy task. Equipment had to be transported by barge from the shore to the ship. During this process one barge capsized and two tractors sank in deep water. One was recovered on the 16th and the ship departed for Port Melbourne. After a pleasant cruise, the main party of 13 officers and 402 airmen disembarked on 29th July. The rear party, having successfully salvaged the remaining immersed tractor, departed by air for Perth on the 24th.