56 BATTERY ROYAL AUSTRALIAN ENGINEERS (RAE)
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

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An Australian Searchlight Unit of the 56 Battery Royal Australian Engineers (RAE) was located at Nudgee Beach in Brisbane during WWII. The unit was located on the foreshore between the QATB (Ambulance) hut and the beach. Troop Headquarters for 56 Battery RAE was apparently also located at Nudgee Beach.

 

The QATB Hut at Nudgee Beach

 

Three of the plywood huts of the AWAS accommodation. The QATB hut is at the far right.

 

Nudgee Beach is located between Cabbage Tree Creek and the Brisbane River.

The School of Arts building at Nudgee Beach was also taken over by the Australian Army Searchlight Unit. During this time, the School of Arts relocated to a house owned by the Hough Family in O'Quinn Street at Nudgee Beach.

 

School of Arts building at Nudgee Beach. Note the adjacent covered picnic area. 
This is the most northern of today's covered picnic areas.

 

There was an open air picture theatre located at Nudgee Beach between the School of Arts building and the Searchlight battery. The soldiers would hold concerts in this open air picture theatre.

 

The Kiosk at Nudgee Beach. It was built in about 1930 and was burnt down in the 1960's.

 

Headquarters for 56th Battery was located at Berwick Street in Fortitude Valley. (Can anyone confirm which building the HQ was located in?). The Roman Catholic Church/School in Bage Street, Nundah was the Command Centre for the anti-aircraft installations in the area.

There were also other searchlights attached to the 56th Battery that were moved from area to area in that part of northern Brisbane. There may have been a searchlight from 56 Battery on the high ground in Newstead Park near Newstead House.

Dalmar Taylor (nee Harris) was one of 13 other members of the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) who were attached to the Searchlight Unit at Nudgee Beach. They arrived at Nudgee Beach in June 1943 after completing their searchlight training at Wagga Wagga. They were the first AWAS attached to searchlight units north of the Brisbane River. The male soldiers had been posted to the forward lines in New Guinea. A few male soldiers remained who acted as Orderly Room staff, a cook and two "B" Class soldiers who carried out general duties. The names of some of the remaining male soldiers were as follows:-

 

Henry Turner is at the front of the photograph

 

Once the AWAS had taken over the Searchlight Battery at Nudgee Beach, the mobile units in the area no longer reported to Nudgee Beach.

 

The AWAS of the Searchlight Unit at Nudgee Beach
Dalmar Taylor (nee Harris) is 3rd from the left in the rear row.
Rita Johnson (nee Thomson) is at the far right in the back row.

 

Some AWAS and the large searchlight unit at Nudgee Beach

 

The searchlight battery at Nudgee Beach comprised the following equipment:-

There were no anti-aircraft guns at Nudgee Beach. They were strategically located in nearby areas.

The soldiers and the AWAS would use the QATB hut to do their ironing in the spare room or use the wind-up gramophone.

Lt. Col. Andrew Christie Jamieson was appointed as Officer in charge of the searchlight unit at Nudgee Beach when he arrived there in late 1942. The numbers at the site increased to about 9 males and 13 females. 

When the Hospital Ship Centaur was sunk by a Japanese submarine I-177 off Moreton Island on 14 May 1943, the flash was seen by members of the Nudgee Beach Searchlight Battery. 258 people died in this tragic incident. The members of the searchlight battery were sworn to secrecy the next day during a visit by the security personnel.

The Searchlight Battery at Nudgee Beach ceased to operate in May 1944. Many of the AWAS, including Dalmar Harris relocated to Perth where there were still operational searchlight units.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Noel Wallis for his assistance with this home page. Noel's father, Bill Wallis, was an Ambulance Officer who was stationed from time to time at the QATB hut to render First Aid to the locals.

I'd also like to thank Mary-Lyn Harrison, daughter of Rita Johnson (nee Thomson) for her assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCES

"Memories of Nudgee Beach"
By Noel W. Wallis

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 19 December 2002

This page last updated 17 April 2015