Batchelor aerodrome is the only airstrip in the world to cross a railway line. Originally built in the mid 1930s, it ended up crossing the railway when it was extended during the war to accommodate the large B-17 “Flying Fortresses” of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF).
Many units in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), USAAF and Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force used the aerodrome to fly missions to the Dutch East Indies and the south-west Pacific. Communication, Wireless and Radar units also assisted the flying squadrons. The 22nd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery was brought in to defend the aerodrome from Japanese attacks.
18 NEI Squadron RAAF
In early 1942, the 18 Netherlands East Indies (NEI) Squadron RAAF was formed in Canberra, with 242 Dutch and 266 Australian air force personnel. The Dutch air crew had escaped to Australia from the Netherlands East Indies when their country fell to the Japanese. Their valuable skills were coupled with Australian ground crew support to form a squadron which flew Mitchell B25 medium bombers from MacDonald and Batchelor aerodromes. They lost 19 aircraft and 102 crew members during their missions. The Dutch were the only nationality other than the Americans to establish a military presence in northern Australia during the war. Many of the Dutch later settled in Australia when Indonesia gained independence after the war.
2 Squadron RAAF
Based at Batchelor and equipped with Lockheed Hudson aircraft, 2 Squadron carried out many offensive operations against Japanese positions and shipping on or near Timor. Although the missions were successful, the squadron lost many crew members. One of those lucky to escape was Flying Officer Sid Wadey. His aircraft was attacked by two Japanese Zeroes during a mission to support Sparrow Force, the Australian battalion tasked with defending Timor from the invading Japanese. The aircraft caught fire and of the six crew members Wadey was the only one to escape through a hatch and parachute to safety. He was found by local Timorese people who took him to safety and arranged for his evacuation.