Camden Airfield and Hut No 72

Camden Airfield Hut No 72 (I Willis)

Camden Airfield Hut No 72 (I Willis)

The last remaining hut at Camden Airfield from the Second World War is still standing. It is Hut No 72. It is located adjacent to the current carpark.

Huts were built at the airfield for the arrival of the RAAF Central Flying School in 1940. Other flying schools were built at Bradfield Park in Sydney and Narromine around the same time. In December 1941 the personnel at the school included 45 officers, 422 airmen, with 48 officers and 81 airmen in various training courses. There were around 35 huts on the airfield that were used to accommodate the personnel and a variety of other uses.

The huts were quite rudimentary with a timber frame, built on wooden stumps. They were unlined and reportedly quite cold on a frosty Camden winter’s morning. They were only ever meant to be temporary accommodation and were erected quite quickly to cope with the large number of personnel that were moved onto the airfield in 1940. Generally each hut was 80 feet long.
In 1942 there were 24 accommodation huts with 3 for officers, 6 for sergeants and remainder for airmen. Officers and sergeants had their own cubicles within the huts and each hut accommodated 16 men. Other ranks had huts that were dormitory style and accommodated 26 men. Other huts were used as latrines, kitchen, messes, canteen, lecture rooms, base headquarters, stores, guard house, laundry, boiler room, recreation rooms, post office, medical hut, dental clinic, chaplain hut, amongst other uses. Hut No 72 was used as a clothing store.

There were 5 rows of huts with two rows of 14 on either side of the parade ground running NE-SE in direction. The huts were built in a U-shape around the parade ground going up the hill towards the entrance of the airfield.

A careful examination of the open ground around the present buildings will reveal the site of the huts to the keen observer. As the ground rises up the hill from the present carpark it is possible to just make out the flat area that each hut occupied in 1942. It is possible to imagine how the airmen moved in and around the site, and how personnel would line up for the daily parade. The noise and hub-bub of the site will talk to the observer as the breeze blows gently through the trees. The ghosts of times past are easy to imagine as the base was part of the defence of Australia.

John Postlethwaite in his The Early History of Southern Cross Gliding Club(2005) has described that even as late as 1953 much of the wartime atmosphere of the airfield was still intact and very much alive. He has described the airfield in the following terms.

The gliding people saw in 1953 was an almost intact example of a WW2 Air Force training base. Near the top of the hill at the bend in the road was a sentry box with boom gate and khaki painted wooden huts stretched in rows right down the hill to the hangers which were full of unwanted aircraft, mainly Avro Ansons. There was a khaki wooden control tower built on tall crossed-braced poles on the high side of the intersection of the main strip and the taxiway (which was the original cross-strip). Hardy souls who climbed this rickety structure all said “Never again!” The sand hills to the south of the field were full of cannon and machine gun rounds where the aircraft guns had been tested. That so much should have remained in 1953 was remarkable. But no one else visited the place and it was like an old movie set of WW2. The gliding people were even given the use of a few wooden huts.

Dick Hutchinson recalls that from the 1950s Hut No 72 was used by the air cadets.

It was one of a number that were made available to them. They were used as barracks, mess and orderly rooms. From the late 1960s Hut No 72 was used as orderly rooms and a classroom. The air cadets moved out in late 1990s when a new building was erected at the airfield.

In 2007 a group of aviation enthusiasts formed the Camden Aerodrome History Hut Association. They aimed to preserve the last original hut on the site of the airfield.

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One thought on “Camden Airfield and Hut No 72

  1. Pingback: Camden: Sydney’s best preserved country town | Camden History Notes

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