While there’s no trace of it these days, Park Ridge was once home to its very own World War Two airstrip. The airstrip, officially known as A-12, ran parallel with Chambers Flat Rd along the ridge between Bumstead Rd and Park Ridge Rd.
Constructed in 1942, the airstrip is visible in aerial photographs as late as 1955. Nowadays, developments completely hide any traces of the former airfield.
The RAAF identified Park Ridge as a potential site in 1940, but delayed development over concerns due to the steep terrain.
This all changed in December 1941, when Japan entered the war and the Pacific Theatre opened. Australia was on red alert and facing possible Japanese invasion, and soon US troops began arriving in Queensland en-masse.
The arriving US pilots were young and had minimal training. New space would be needed to train and accommodate the new troops and aircraft.
The Americans were quick to take charge. In April 1942 General Douglas MacArthur took control of the RAAF and US Engineers began hurriedly preparing new airfields. The Park Ridge site was chosen for development that year.
The surveyor responsible for choosing the site was Clem Jones, future Lord Mayor of Brisbane. He recalls shifting the airstrip to the west to avoid a house at the northern end.
Airstrips like Park Ridge’s A-12 were an important strategic development for the Allies, whose main operational airfield in the area was Archerfield.
Additional airstrips like the A-12 allowed aircraft to be dispersed across a wider territory – ensuring that any major enemy attack would not cripple the Allies’ air capacity.
They could also be used as training strips for young and inexperienced pilots, giving them valuable experience.
Construction of the airstrip fell to the Thiess Bros, now a major mining company in Queensland.
The strip was hastily constructed and followed a basic design; a gravelled surface over which grass had been allowed to regrow. Reports indicate the airstrip was over 1300m long.
There are varied reports about whether the A-12 was ever used.
Members of the Bumstead family recall seeing ‘planes landing/touch and go’ on the strip. Lifelong Park Ridge resident and neighbour to the airfield, George Breedon, recalls there being varied reports of the airstrip as he grew up.
‘Some said that the strip was never actually used but my father said that he’d seen a plane fly from there in the early 1940’s.’
It wasn’t long before the airstrip was declared operationally useless. The steep terrain that had initially deterred RAAF surveyors in 1940 proved too difficult and the airfield became obsolete. By 1943 A-12 was listed ‘to be abandoned’. However, it did not disappear straight away.
Mr Roger Marks, a historian whose book ‘WW2 Airfields of Queensland’ also documents the Logan Emergency airstrips, is quoted in an interview in Albert and Logan News, dating back to June 7, 2002.
‘They were hurriedly scratched out and prepared,’ said Mr Marks. ‘When the heat went off the decision was made to still attempt to keep the fields cleared and prepared for emergency operations and use them as decoy airstrips.’
The final role of A-12 was to become a decoy strip used to confuse the enemy.
In World War II aerial photographs reveal the stark airstrip against a background of largely undisturbed bushland that once made up Park Ridge.
Special mention must go to Roger R. Marks and John Bencke, whose original research provided valuable information for this article.