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Home > Travelogues > 2009 Travelogues Index > Adelaide River and Fenton Airstrip Northern Territory
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Adelaide River and Fenton Air Base – key locations in the defence of Australia during World War II

Leaving Litchfield we returned to the Stuart Highway.  Coomalie World War II Air Base was not far south from the junction of the Batchelor – Litchfield Park Road with the Stuart Highway, where the airstrip is visible along the east side of the road. Adelaide River is 29 kilometres south of this junction.  The main street runs alongside the Highway in the centre of town and there was plenty of long rig parking along either side.  It was Saturday morning and market stalls were set up on the lawns between the highway and the street.   The local roadhouse/hotel was advertising a special on Barramundi and chips – so guess what we had for lunch?   A tasty addition to our usual lunchtime salad. 

During World War II there were up to 30,000 Australian and United States soldiers based near Adelaide River.   Adelaide River is the site of one of the largest war cemeteries in Australia with 434 graves, graves of 64 civilians killed in war service and a memorial to 293.  Graves are indexed at Adelaide River War Graves.  

Where are the largest War Cemeteries in Australia?

We took Dorat Road as the quiet and scenic alternative to the Stuart Highway.  This loop was once the Stuart Highway betweenAdelaide River and Hayes Creek.   Although the surface of the road looked good, it proved very bouncy when towing so driving was slow and not easy.  For those towing, the Stuart Highway to Hayes Creek would be a preferable choice. 

 

Robin Falls is one of the features accessed from Dorat Road.  Small free campsites are spread along the creek but they were too small for us and most were already taken.  This camp ground is unserviced.  We were not able to take the short walk to the tiny falls as there was nowhere to park without blocking the turn around road.  Robin Falls is in a part of Litchfield National Park.

 

TheDaly River road is also accessed from Dorat Road.  Nearing Hayes Creek, there were a number of active gold mines. 

Continuing south from where Dorat Road turns towards the Stuart Highway at Hayes Creek, we visited Fenton Airfield.  There is a short drive in to the air strip from Oolloo Road through a cattle station gate.  With two well signed access roads which join prior to reaching the air strip, the southern one is in better condition.     

Read about the World War II air raids on Australia from Wikipedia

The entrance to the air strip is separate to the air base access track where signage shows a map of the old base.  We did not visit the base as the road in was rough. 

 

Read more about the History of Fenton

 

The strip was bombed seven times during 1943, but the base continued to be the source of many successful air raids to the Indonesian and adjacent islands.   There is also an ‘aircraft graveyard’ where wrecks were deposited.  The airfield was used principally by the RAAF and USAAF as a heavy bomber strip for B-24 Liberators. 
Cattle now roam on the two kilometre long air strip which is still in very good condition. 
travasmtc2009a034001.jpg tn_fenton2.jpg tn_fenton3.jpg tn_fenton4.jpg tn_fenton5.jpg tn_fenton6.jpg tn_fenton7.jpg tn_fenton8.jpg
Signage at the air strip shows the air strip and a series of loop roads of taxiways, around sixty aircraft dispersal bays, some with revetments (earth banks) against which the planes were parked still intact.
Our journey continues as we head back to follow the Stuart Highway south to the Carpentaria turnoff at Hi-Way Road house near Daly Waters.  We again are reminded of the sacrifices of lives during the water effort to successfully defend Australia at Adelaide River and Fenton Airfield.  We then relax in the warm waters at Douglas Hot Springs (Tjuwaliyn). 
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Fenton Airfield has been closed to the public and gates are locked.  This key airfield in Australia's war history can no longer be accessed by the public.   August 2013.