GAWLER TELECOMMUNICATION UNIT
PREVIOUSLY ADELAIDE WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY (W\T) STATION
GAWLER, SA, DURING WW2

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visits since 21 November 2003

 

WAAAFs and RAAF members of the Gawler Telecommunications Unit in 1945. The entrance to the underground bunker was via the small timber building in the background.

Left to Right: Back Row: Unknown, Elspeth Scott, Unknown.
Centre Row: Lorna Russell, Bella Roberts, Dorothy Roberts, Unknown, Bet Probert, Betty Watkins, Iris Ball, Myra Pattullo (or
Pettulo), Lois Jones.
Front Row: Dot Lovell, Addie Williams, Ursula Regan, Joan Lucas, Dave Rumball, Pam Collins 

Adelaide Wireless Transmitting (W/T) Station commenced operations on 10 February 1942. Sgt. K.J. Martin from the Directorate of Signals in Melbourne was attached to 4 Embarkation Depot to supervise the erection of the W/T Station buildings and installation of the equipment. The Adelaide W/T Station became operational on 16 March 1942. Sgt. K.J. Martin was in charge of the W/T Station.

The following are excerpts from military documents covering semi-underground buildings in Australia during World War 2.

COPY ONLY

Original on 171 56/1        

this copy for 171/1/1493       

UTILIZATION OF SEMI-UNDERGROUND BUILDINGS

D.A.S.P.

Herewith is list of above buildings as requested in your minute dated 29th November, 1943.

signed W/Crd.    
Richmond.    
for G/Capt.    
D.W.B.    

2/12/43

 

(a) COMPLETED AND IN USE Building Details

Drawing No.

Locality Plan

Drawing No.

GAWLER, S.A.

Transmitting Building
(less air conditioning and power plants.)

41/42/2682 R.S. 967

 

(b) COMPLETED BUT NOT IN USE Building Details

Drawing No.

Locality Plan

Drawing No.

GAWLER, S.A.

Operations Building - (less air conditioning and power plants.)

Remote Receiving Building - (less air conditioning and power plants.)


41/42/3102


42/43/166

(43/44/665
(   and
(R.S. 967

R.S. 967

Flying Officer R.R.W. Ridgeway took over as Commanding Officer on 2 September 1942. After his promotion, Flight lieutenant K.J. Martin became the Commanding Officer on 1 October 1942.

In September 1943, a detachment was relocated to Gawler Strip. Adelaide W/T Station changed its name to Gawler Telecommunications Unit on 1 February 1945.

Flight Lieutenant J.L. Galbraith took over as Commanding Officer on 27 September 1943. Flight Lieutenant F.A. Goodrich became CO on 1 March 1944, followed by Flight Lieutenant K. Balmer on 2 January 1945. The last WW2 Commanding Officer was Squadron Leader S.L. Bain who assumed command on 29 March 1945.

The Gawler Telecommunications Unit operated an Operations Building, Remote Receiving Building and Transmitting Building at Gawler in South Australia during WW2. Wireless Telegraphists would work 3 daily shifts in an underground bunker. They would access the underground bunker via a small wooden building on a flat open area of the Gawler base. The Gawler Telecommunication Unit was initially called the Gawler Wireless Telegraphy Station.

Gawler telecommunications Unit was disbanded on 31 May 1946.

Eric Jamieson spent 7 months at Gawler starting in September 1945. Eric told me the following about his time at Gawler:-

At Gawler, the transmitters were housed in an underground bunker which I understand is still there and being used as a residence. It was off Clark Road, Gawler. Its a long time ago so would probably not be able to guide anyone there by notes, but could probably find it if I went there. I have no photos of it.

There were ten Australian-made transmitters (running about 500 watts of AM/CW, plus an AT5/AR8 setup which could be used as emergency air-traffic control equipment (Aeradio). The antennas were mounted on very high wooden poles about 12 inches in diameter at the bottom. We had two 25 KVA alternators for emergency back-up. These used to be run for an hour each week to keep them in good condition but we never had to use them for power failures while I was there.

The three of us who ran the station used to call at the Gawler RAAF base and collect our food then proceed to the transmitting station. We worked for 24 hours straight and then had two days off!! The only person to visit us with regularity was the bloke who drove the water truck to replenish our water tank each fortnight. A fuel tanker would come out when needed, to replenish our fuel supplies for the KVAs, otherwise we never saw a soul. It seemed that as long as we kept the station fully operational then no one worried about us at all. It seemed from an RAAF point of view we didn't exist, not that that worried us!

The picture of the WAAAFs and RAAF members referred to the receiving station and from where the telegraphists operated, not the bunker where I was located. In the picture, I think Myra Pettulo (probably should be Pattullo) was the daughter of George Pattullo who was the Clerk of the District Council of Gumeracha where I worked from 1940 to 1942 when I enlisted. George had an artificial leg but he could get round quite well.

There were a number of underground bunkers in the area, some of which I believe held ammunition and bombs. None of the bunkers were well hidden as they were topped by a mound of grass-covered earth, probably 5 feet high.

Our transmitting bunker was entered through an opening in the grass-covered area which had been boarded up to keep the earth in place. We went down about 8 steps to a central room which housed the water tank, workshop bench and spare parts cupboard. Cooking equipment for meals was housed there. The food we collected from the RAAF base was top quality - we even cooked our steak and eggs in butter!

As you entered, to your right was the auxiliary power room with the two 25 kVA alternators, frequency meters and switching equipment. On your left was the transmitting room with ten transmitters and the Aeradio station. To the right as you entered that room there was a bed on which could rest between frequency changes. Frequency changes were requested by telephone. To one side of the AT5/AR8 Aeradio equipment hung a Colt .45 revolver which I suppose was for our protection if we were invaded!

Each of the two main rooms would have been about 20 feet long and 10 feet wide and 8 feet high. The central workshop room was probably 15 x 10 x 8 feet. There was a ventilation shaft leading to the outside from each room and of course we had the main entrance. The temperature was fairly constant and comfortable. So there were 3 rooms.

One story of interest: one night I received a phone call from the Adelaide Frequency Monitoring Station with a message saying one transmitter operating on about 8 megacycles was 60 cycles off frequency and could I bring it on frequency. I said I would check. For frequency setting purposes we used a Bendix BC221 frequency meter which was switched on all the time to achieve the maximum of frequency stability and accuracy.

As I moved to the transmitter I wondered what equipment they had which could read 60 cycles in 8 megacycles, virtually impossible in those days. The frequency meter was zero beat with the transmitter so I did nothing. After a suitable time I returned to the phone and asked the caller to check the frequency. He reported it as being on the right frequency! I didn't say anything but it seemed to me that the Monitoring Station must have been having a quiet night and were looking for something to do. If they thought they would get a bite from me then they were mistaken, as, over the years in the RAAF, I had learned to think first before opening my mouth on such occasions.

The traffic handled by the stations would have been general Morse code (CW)  RAAF traffic, a lot of which was in Cypher (coded). When I was there (from September 1945) World War II had ceased so I don't imagine the traffic to be excessive or overly confidential. Although I could read CW I never bothered to listen very often.

I took charge of the transmitting station with the rank of Acting Sergeant. As I lived only 25 miles from the station, I soon decided that the three shifts we were working were not in my best interests, so I called the other two technicians and after discussion we happily decided on the 24 hours straight and two days off. We could get a few hours sleep in the early hours of the morning when frequency changes were at a minimum. I travelled to and from the bunker by a 250 cc motorcycle.

I also remember the track into the bunker was liberally sprinkled with large three-cornered-jacks. When I left to go home, I would close the gate and then spend the next ten minutes removing the sharp jacks from the motorcycle tyres (using a pair of pliers), as I did not want to cart such pests home.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Eric Jamieson for his assistance with this home page.

 

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This page first produced 21 November 2003

This page last updated 10 August 2004