Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nowra


We had a night in Nowra this weekend. Not a lot of time for taking photos, but I'll have a few from the road over the next couple of days.

This Navy helicopter is next to the information centre, on the Princes Highway, just up from the Shoalhaven River. The Navy is quite important to the region, and the association between the town and the Navy dates from the Second World War. The following information is from the HMAS Albatross website:

The decision to build an airfield on the land now occupied by the Naval Air Station was taken soon after WWII was declared in 1939. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)occupied the new base on 7 May 1942 and was soon followed by the US Army Air Corps and the Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force.

In 1944, the British Admiralty directed forces to the South-West Pacific necessitating shore base establishments in Australia to support the Royal Navy and its Fleet Air Arm. RAAF Base Nowra was considered ideal because of its proximity to Jervis Bay, which was large enough to accommodate the entire British Pacific Fleet. The Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm began operations at Nowra in late October 1944, and the base was renamed HMS Nabbington. In March 1946, the base reverted to RAAF control "to be retained but not maintained".

In July 1947, the Commonwealth Defence Council approved the formation of a Fleet Air Arm which would be controlled and operated by the RAN. The initial planning included purchase of two aircraft carriers, aircraft and establishment of shore facilities. The carriers were named HMA Ships Sydney and Melbourne, and the shore facilities were at Nowra.

HMAS Albatross was commissioned in August 1948 and the 20th Carrier Air Group, comprising Sea Fury and Firefly aircraft, was brought from England to Australia by HMAS Sydney. These aircraft, operated by 805 and 816 Squadrons, disembarked to Nowra in May 1949. In November 1950, they were joined by the Carrier Air Group of 808 and 817 Squadrons, also flying Sea Furies and Fireflies.

HMAS Albatross has been expanding ever since. As more capable aircraft have been acquired, so ground support facilities have had to be built. In 1955, Sea Venoms and Gannets arrived, requiring radar workshops and test facilities. More aircraft necessitated stricter standards of air traffic control and a new control tower was built in 1958. In 1964 the introduction of Wessex helicopters, with a dunking sonar capability, required a further expansion of services.

In 1965, it was decided to buy American aircraft to replace the ageing British Gannets and Sea Venoms. McDonnell Douglas Skyhawks and Grumman Trackers were chosenand additional avionics facilities were built to service the complex equipment they carried.

The helicopters now based at HMAS Albatross have restored to the RAN much of the anti-submarine capability lost when the Tracker squadron was disbanded in 1983.

In recent years significant redevelopment has taken place, continuing the operation of HMAS Albatross and recognising its strategic importance as the sole Royal Australian Navy Air Station.

1 comment:

Paul @ Leeds DP said...

When I was in the military I traveled a lot by helo, but these days I just see them fly overhead occasionally. I must admit all I know about the RAN I picked up from Sea Patrol.