With the clear blue water crashing on the beach in every direction and perfect tropical weather, Horn and Thursday Island’s tourists might be surprised to learn the local Torres Strait Islander community has significant links to World War Two history.
Air Force executives recently visited the islands, located 796 kilometres north of Cairns, and met with Elders, the Horn Island Mayor and veterans to attend a ceremony and unveiling of a war memorial.
Commanding Officer of No. 35 Squadron (35SQN), Wing Commander (WGCDR) Ben Poxon said the islands were utilised as a forward operating bases providing anti-aircraft coverage and a stationing point for No. 32 Squadron until 1942.
“Horn Island was the second-most attacked location after Darwin and accommodated approximately 5000 troops over the course of the war,” WGCDR Poxon said.
“Still today, crews from 35SQN regularly land at the airfield.
“We are championing the ‘Our Place, Our Skies’ initiative and passionate about encouraging Indigenous participation in the ADF.”
For this visit, two C-27J Spartans deployed from Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Amberley with Air Commander Australia Air Vice-Marshal Steven Roberton, Officer Commanding Number 84 Wing Group Captain Nicholas Hogan and, support and maintenance staff on board.
Indigenous Liaison Officer Flight Lieutenant (FLTLT) Kristal House said the Torres Strait Islanders have a close connection with the Australian Army’s 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment, and the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Cairns, and it’s important for Air Force to build on this.
“Air Force’s relationship with the community on Horn and Thursday Islands is invaluable and the local traditions are recognised with the highest respect,” FLTLT House said.
“The ADF is proud of its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have contributed to the defence of Australia in times of peace and war.”