World War II Historic Sites


Numerous allied Air Force bases were established across the Arnhem region during World War II and many of the communities are within easy access of the old air strips, bunkers and the wrecks of aircraft that were shot down during the war.

During World War II, the Gove Peninsula was a key in the defence of northern Australia. Three operational air squadrons were based here:

  • 83 Squadron – flew Boomerang’s
  • 13 Squadron – flew Ventura’s
  • 42 Squadron – flew Catalina’s

There was an airfield on the site of the present Gove airport, and a flying boat base at Drimmie Head. The Peninsula derived its name from a RAAF navigator who died in a mid-air collision in the vicinity.

Yolngu people also took an active part in the action providing invaluable service in a specially created Reconnaissance Unit led by anthropologist, Dr. Donald Thomson to monitor the Arnhem Land coast for Japanese intrusions.

World War II relics can be seen around Gove Peninsula. Historic sites include Drimmie Head where the Catalina’s landed in the bay and taxied onto land and remnants of the ELDO (European Launch Development Organisation) program satellite down range tracking station. The planes featured in the images where all based in Gove.

There is also a War Memorial located at Yirrkala a 20 minute drive from Nhulunbuy Township which is dedicated to the Yolgnu men trained to defend our shores from Japanese attack.

Get in contact with the Arnhem Land Historical Society if you’d like more information or a guided tour contact David Suter on 0419 739 000.