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Tindal: A history

Wing Commander Archie Tindal

Wing Commander Archie Tindal

RAAF Base Tindal may well be one of the few airfields ever constructed that never heard the beat of aero engines at its birth.

In 1942 a decision was made to construct an airfield south of Darwin that could operate B24 Liberators against forward Japanese bases and assets in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Its siting near Katherine, some 320km south of Darwin, was ideal. This made it safer from attacks by Japanese aircraft, but not so remote as to be difficult to support.

The airfield was constructed by the American 43rd Engineer Regiment in April 1942 and was called Carsons Field. But by the time it was ready for its aircraft, the war in the Pacific had changed as the Japanese were driven back towards their homeland.

Subsequently, no aircraft ever deployed there. After WWII the airfield was renamed Tindal after Wing Commander Archie Tindal (pictured above right), as a permanent reminder of his heroic actions during the initial raid by the Japanese on Darwin on February 19, 1942.

During the attack on the airfield, WGCDR Tindal manned a Lewis machine gun and opened up on the Japanese Zeroes. He continued the one-sided struggle for some time before finally being shot by a strafing fighter.

WGCDR Tindal’s grave is located in the war cemetery at Adelaide River, approximately 110km south of Darwin. He was the first Air Force casualty on mainland Australia. Generally forgotten and ignored, the base remained quietly basking in the top end sun.

In 1963, development began on Tindal as a “bare base” to operate fast jets to back up RAAF Base Darwin. Darwin was becoming congested through local housing development and an increase in civil aviation, which was beginning to restrict air space available for ADF purposes.

This work was completed in 1970. In the early 1980s the Federal Government decided that the future defence of Australia should be focussed more on the north of the country to protect the Sea-Air Gap and that, as a consequence, there would be more deployment of Defence assets to the north.

Accordingly, in 1984 Tindal began further redevelopment to allow for a squadron of F/A-18 Hornets to be permanently based there.

On October 1, 1988, Tindal became an operational base and the new home to No. 75 Squadron. The operational tempo is invariably high.

It varies from year to year, but the infrastructure that has been developed has allowed for successful operations, including the ADF’s deployment to East Timor and the equally successful deployment of 75SQN to Iraq to be launched from there.

 


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