INFO ON NO. 1 WIRELESS UNIT
BASED IN TOWNSVILLE AND
Subject: Re: Townsville
Date: Sun, 26 Jul 1998 10:10:27 +0400
From: C & K Young <email@example.com>
Liked the sites. I have a friend here in Dubai whose father was with No 1 Wireless Unit, the RAAF radio intercept unit based first at French Street and later out at Stuart. It was this unit that intercepted the Japanese bombers' departure messages from Rabaul and allowed the P-39's to be airborne and at altitude in time to intercept the incoming Emilys. (The RAAF radio operators took down the Japanese Kana morse messages verbatim and it was then decoded to straight Japanese and then to English.) The USAAF claimed that they had shot down the Emily they damaged on one such intercept. However, the RAAF unit intercepted its safe landing report at Rabaul the next morning. The American pilot was still credited with the 'kill', both for the propaganda/morale value and more importantly because the RAAF couldn't admit to the world that they were reading the Japanese forces' mail!
The book about the intercept unit gives an amusing account of the concrete block house built at Stuart to resemble a 'Queenslander' wooden house. Some clown mounting a mock attack on the building ran up the steps and nearly brained himself trying to open the 'door'. This block house was located on the site of the present day copper refinery and it was destroyed, (not without some difficulty), when the refinery was built. I understand that it took quite a quantity of explosives to remove it. This RAAF unit was unique in that it was the only Australian unit to accompany Macarthur in the invasion of the Philippines. (Macarthur was almost paranoid about being seen to liberate the Philippines himself - with American forces only - but he valued the work of the radio intercept unit so highly that they went right behind the first invasion forces under the guise of an airfield construction squadron.)
I can remember as a kid going over to the Ross and climbing over any number of bits and pieces of aircraft wrecks there, although I think some of them were post-WW2. One was a Vampire, and I remember one of the older kids finding a pilot's flying boot with a foot still in it. (That would have been 1954 or '55.) I don't think that was from a WW2 crash, but a later one. We also played in the concrete pillboxes that lined the river mouth on the Ross side. What a miserable existence that must have been for the poor buggers who drew that duty in 1942.
Good to hear from you again.
Subject: Re: Tin Hats in Townsville
Date: Wed, 29 Jul 1998 16:52:51 +0400
From: C & K Young <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Before you add my (faded) recollections to your home page, you might do well to check them for accuracy in the book - it's some time since I read it. My friend's name is Rod Trower. I don't know his father's first name, but he was a radio operator in the unit (and his name is in it). The book deals with the unit's time in Townsville in some depth.
Another reference you might like to add is a video made by the ABC titled '44 Days', presented by Geoffrey Robinson, (of 'Hypotheticals' fame). It gives an account of No 75 Squadron's defence of Port Moresby in early 1942 and, with the exception of 'Gallipoli', (which was fiction), is the first time I have ever seen an attempt made to 'Hollywood-ize' an Australian military exploit. There is a lot of footage in the film of the Kittyhawks operating out of Stockroute airfield before they flew north to PNG. It's amazing to see how bare the area was in 1942 - just acres and acres of chinyapple trees. It is quite easy to identify the area exactly thanks to Castle Hill in the background. I imagine the film would be available through any ABC shop. It was made in 1992 as part of the Coral Sea 50th Anniversary. The producer was Jim Salter
Peter Dunn 2002
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