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"ALWAYS FIRST"

The book "ALWAYS FIRST" Written by David Wilson is the history of the RAAF Airfield Construction Squadrons 1942-1974, and is based on official records and personal memories.
The book is published and distributed by:
Air Power Studies Centre, RAAF Base Fairbairn, ACT 2600 Australia
Tel: 02 6287 6563, Fax: 02 6287 6382
STEWART McGLASHAN SPEECH
RAAF MOBILE WORKS WINGS: The Needs of War. (from Wings Magazine)

The man who directs this RAAF Mobile Works Wing activity in New Guinea is tall, laconic W/C W. A. C. Dale a practical flying man as well as a civil engineer. He doesn't talk much about his job, but he is very proud of the way the American engineers have recognised his wing.
A Mobile Works Wing is divided into four construction squadrons, a survey and design section and a works supply unit. Each squadron is self contained and capable of complete operation away from the main body.

There is keen intersquadron rivalry and when they work alongside on neighbouring runways they are racing all the way. Diplomats say they usually tie. But I don't think the men would enjoy racing against time in this country but for the map, which shows that country's strategic position in the war. They know if they work hard it makes time pass and they know the calendar is with them. That leave down south with the family on the beach or in the lounge is well earned. Nobody earns it better.

And that possibility of a scrap is not so remote as comfortable southern units might imagine. Months after the Jape evacuated Lae a group of stray Nips "ratted" A.I.F supplies. Only recently Mobile Works Wing guards captured 2 Japs near their camp at an advanced operational base.

According to operational procedure, Mobile Works survey units go in soon after the landing troopsthough in practice. This is not always necessary. These units choose the airstrip sites, run out their survey lines, end design a field to fit topography and operational purpose. When the construction squadrons arrive, they move into an area of virgin country through which jeep tracks wind over the kunai, plain and narrow survey tunnels pierce jungle and sago swamp.

Within a few hours the bulldozer blades are battering at the jungle, ripping gashes across the kunai grass, or the caterpillar wheels are pushing against the centuries old coral. Then graders, rollers, water carts, stone spreaders, and bitumen sprayers roll into smooth the way for the aircraft, petrol tenders, fire wagons, servicing parties, crew cars, and ambulances. This goes on 24 hours a dayby floodlights at night.

Meanwhile other Mobile Wing personnel labour at the humdrum but essential job of laying concrete floors for ablution buts, putting in water supplies, digging latrines, knocking together hessian and prefabricated offices for the squadrons al. ready moving in to use the strip as soon as it is finished. At least 75% of this work is done by white Australians in a climate similar to the ginsling noon siesta atmosphere of White Cargo. City and country boys of temperate Australia are earning their credits in the honour rolls just as surely as the combat troops. Yet these boys can spendas they did in New Guinea recentlytheir leisure hours building a church and recreation room.

Behind the machines and sweat stretch the thin, taut supply lines that keep the forward areas          going. Sometimes these lines snap. Speed is the essential. A tree can be waving in the jungle air at dawn and form the uprights and cross beams of a mess but by sundown. The forgotten men here are the saw millers. They sweat in unpleasant jungle hideouts turning green timber into green planks, joists, and stanchions for the temporary needs of war.