The town of Nowra lies on the southern shore of the Shoalhaven
River, while Bomaderry is on the northern bank. The name Nowra is
from an aboriginal word 'nou-woo-ro' reputedly meaning either
'camping place' or 'black cockatooThe airfield lies 4 miles southwest of Nowra Township in the
Shoal haven district of the South Coast of New South Wales, and 60
miles southwest of Sydney. Jervis Bay airfield lies 15 miles
southeast. Road access to Nowra was via a gravel road, the route
being 6 miles, Bomaderry rail terminus lies 1.5 miles north of Nowra
Township with a direct line to Sydney.
In 1938, a survey of the Shoal haven area was made by the Department
of Civil Aviation for an aerodrome and Royal Australian Air Force
Advanced Operational Base. A site was selected in am area known as
Browns Hole, on the Braidwood Road, six miles from Nowra (This site
would replace an existing unsuitable aerodrome on the edge of Nowra
which was established in 1935). The Government acquired 357 acres of
land at the Site on June 14th 1939, a further 118 acres being added
shortly after war had been declared. Approval to develop the site
for use by the R.A.A.F was given on October 19th 1939, and
permission to use the airfield for civil use, alongside the R.A.A.F
was given to Nowra Municipal Council in May 1940.
The new Nowra aerodrome was opened for civil flying on 21 July
1941. And work was commenced on building a camp area with
accommodation for 734 personnel, this requiring a further 50 acres
acquisition. R.A.A.F Nowra was not to become operational until May
7th 1942. The main role of the base was to provide Torpedo Bomber
training, and a BTU (Bombing and Torpedo Unit) was established,
practice torpedoes being dropped at target ships in Jervis Bay.
Shortly after Nowra opened for business they experienced their first
aircraft accident; a USAAC (United States Army Air Corp) B26 Martin
Marauder crashed while landing and was destroyed by fire, all
survived. The station was to operate R.A.A.F Bristol Bombers, USAAC
and Netherlands East Indies Air Force B26 aircraft over the next two
years, all using the bombing and torpedo ranges. The Nowra runways
were constructed of rolled compacted sand with a top dressing of ½
-1” of rolled tarred gravel, operations by heavy aircraft such as
the Beaufort and B26 were to take their toll, the runways required
In the summer of 1944 an Admiralty inspection team visited Nowra
(and many other sites) to assess the stations suitability for
operating carrier based aircraft of the newly formed British Pacific
Fleet. Nowra was selected and work began to run-down R.A.A.F
operations in preparation for handing over the airfield. All WAAF
personnel departed Nowra during the preparations to hand over the
base on loan to the Royal Navy, and were not to return to Nowra
until 1964. The airfield is 359 feet above sea level with two sealed gravel
runways of 2,430 and 2,150 yards length. Permanent accommodation for
90 Officers and 666 C.P.O.s, P.O.s and ratings is in a camp on the
North-eastern side of the landing area (figures are for 1945).
R.A.A.F Nowra was transferred to RN control on September 15th 1944
but the RAAF were to remain, The Beaufort OUT (Operational Training
Unit) was still there when the advance party of MONAB 1 arrived on
the station on December 22nd with one unserviceable Beaufort
remained in the hangar, the last of the OTU aircraft. It was
eventually flown away in the middle of January. The last of the
R.A.A.F officers and airmen had departed by the end of January 1945,
flying control and meteorological services becoming MONAB 1s
responsibility. Also to operate at Nowra were several MATMUs,
(Mobile Air Torpedo Maintenance Units) No. 6 was to arrive to
augment existing R.A.A.F Torpedo facilities still residence, both
having compounds on the main access road to the airfield, equipped
to handle the 22" American torpedo. Nowra officially became a Royal
Naval Air Station (RNAS) on January 2nd 1945, being commissioned as
MONAB 1, H.M.S.
NABBINGTON was paid off on November 15th 1945,
being re-commissioned the same day as H.M.S. NABSWICK, MONAB 5
occupying the station, moving here from RNAS Jervis Bay The rundown of RNAS Nowra commenced in January 1946 and it
officially closed as a Royal Naval Air Station when H.M.S. NABSWICK
paid off on March 18th 1946, 828 Squadron remained at Nowra until 5
May, finally flying out to HMS Indefatigable. . The Station was
returned to R.A.A.F control the next day, it was immediately reduced
to reserve status, 'to be retained, but not maintained'.
Nowra was to remain unused until May 8th 1948 when advance party of RAN personnel arrived, tasked to reactivate the airfield back which was to be commissioned as HMAS Albatross, the first Royal Australian Naval Air Station.
HMAS Albatross was commissioned on August 31st 1948 and the 20th Carrier Air Group, comprising 805 Sea Fury and 816 Firefly Squadrons were brought from the UK to Australia by HMAS Sydney, disembarked to Nowra in May 1949.
HMAS Albatross continues to operate as the sole remaining RAN Air Station operating rotary wing aircraft of the RAN..