- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
- Naval Aviation
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Albatross (Shore Establishment), HMAS Melbourne II, HMAS Sydney III, HMAS Nabbington
- June 2004 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Reprinted from a Welcome Aboard pamphlet (date unknown)
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 RAAF occupied the new base on 7 May 1942 and were soon followed by the US Army Air Corps and the Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force.
In 1944 the Admiralty directed forces to the SW Pacific area, necessitating the provision of RN naval air bases in Australia. RAAF Base Nowra was considered the ideal choice 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 HMAS Nabbington. In March 1946, the base reverted to RAAF control ‘to be retained but not maintained’.
On 3 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 provided for the purchase of two aircraft carriers, necessary aircraft and the establishment of shore facilities. The carriers were later named HMAS Sydney and HMAS Melbourne and the shore facilities were at Nowra.
HMAS Albatross was commissioned on 31 August 1948 and the 20th Carrier Air Group, comprising Sea Fury and Firefly aircraft, were 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 21st 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 to service the more sophisticated equipment. In April 1955, Sea Venoms and Gannets arrived and so radar workshops and test facilities were required. More aircraft in the skies necessitated stricter standards of air traffic control and a new control tower was built in 1958. Wessex helicopters with a dunking sonar capability required a further expansion in servicing techniques and skills in 1962.
In 1965 it was decided to buy American aircraft to replace the ageing British Gannets and Sea Venoms. Douglas Skyhawks and Grumman Trackers were the choice and additional avionics facilities were built to service the complex equipment these aircraft carried.
Albatross took delivery of the Seahawk helicopter in 1988, which restored to the RAN much of the capability lost when the Grumman Tracker squadrons were disbanded in 1983. Meanwhile, the modernisation processes continued. The wartime living accommodation was replaced with modern brick buildings.