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    Gurney Airfield (No. 1 Strip, Fall River) Milne Bay Province PNG

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RAAF August 27, 1942

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5th AF March 7, 1943

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Stan Cannon 1943

Location
Lat 10° 18' 41S Long 150° 20' 2E  Located two miles inland from Milne Bay on the Lever Brothers coconut plantation near Ladava. Also known as "Gurney Field".

Construction
Single runway, built by the US Army 46th Engineering Regiment. Construction began on June 28, 1942. Aided with limited heavy equipment: two graders, several dump trucks, a power shovel and some bulldozers, the first airfield built in the Milne Bay area.

On August 7, 1942 B-26 "Martin's Miscarriage" 40-1411 piloted by Captian Winfred O. Craft landed on the runway to test it for medium bomber operations.

The airfield comprised of two parallel runways running roughly east to west. The first runway was 6,000' x 150' surfaced with sealed bitumen. The second runway was 5,340' x 100' surfaced with marston matting. Taxiways and revetments extended off both sides of the runways.

Wartime Usage
Code named "Fall River", to confuse the Japanese about its location Defended by 40mm Bofor and 50 caliber gun emplacements manned by Australian A-Troop of 2/3 LAA and American 104 Coastal Artillery Battalion. It was the primary airstrip used during the Battle of Milne Bay. After the battle, it was further developed.

Bob Crawford (75 Squadron, page 98):
"It was called Fall River in those days.  The strip was gouged out of a coconut plantation. It was very wide bordered by trees and ran roughly east to west into the bay.  It was dirt and metal matting - a good strip but treacherous in wet weather."

Naming Honor
On September 14, 1942, the strip was re-named Gurney, to honor RAAF Squadron Leader C.R. Gurney, a pilot and former Qantas pilot who was killed in the crash of B-26 40-1426.

RAAF Units Based at Gurney Field (No. 1 Strip)
75 Squadron (P-40) 7 Mile Drome July 1942 - Sept 1943 Goodenough
76 Squadron (P-40)
32 Squadron (Hudson) August 5, 1942 -
10 RSU
100 Squadron
USAAF Units Based at Gurney Field (No. 1 Strip)
8th FG, 35th FS (P-40)
8th FG, 80th FS (P-38, P-39) 12 Mile Nov 8, 42 - Feb 23, 43 Mareeba

Japanese missions against Gurney (No. 1 Strip) & Milne Bay
August 4, 1942 - April 14, 1943

Aircraft Destroyed on the Ground at No. 1 Strip (Gurney)

LB-30 Liberator AL515
Pilot Eaton force landed August 20, 1942 destroyed 24 during air raid

P-39 Airacobra Serial Number 41-38499
Destroyed January 17, 1943 during Japanese air raid

P-39 Airacobra Serial Number ?
Destroyed January 17, 1943 during Japanese air raid

NAA "RAAF Aerodrome, Jackson, New Guinea 7/1/617 PART 1", p 23
"First Australian Army dated 28th April 1945 - It is desired to point out that should serious damage occur this Headquarters has no constructional facilities available to repair the runway etc. and similarly at Milne Bay, if the 869th U.S. Eng. Batt. withdraw, this Headquarters has neither plant nor personnel to maintain Gurney aerodrome."

Today
Still in use today as Gurney Airport. Also known as "Milne Bay Airport" or "Gili Gili Airport". The runway measures 1,690m x 30m at an elevation of 67'. Airport codes: ICAO: AYGN and IATA: GUR.

References
NAC - Gurney Airport (Alotau)

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Last Updated
December 30, 2013

 

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