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 -1” of rolled tarred gravel, operations by heavy aircraft such as the Beaufort and B26 were to take their toll, the runways required frequent maintenance.


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 H.M.S. NABBINGTON.


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..


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