IBM "COMPUTERS"
AT ASCOT IN BRISBANE
IN 1942!!

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visits since 15 April 2000

 

On 20 July 1942, General MacArthur moved his Headquarters to Brisbane. MacArthur had an Intelligence unit called Central Bureau which was responsible for the interception and cryptanalyzing of Japanese intelligence. Central Bureau immediately followed MacArthur to Brisbane, establishing its headquarters in a huge house at 21 Henry Street, high on a hill in the suburb of Ascot, not far from the new American airfield at Eagle Farm.

General MacArthur established his Headquarters in the AMP Building in the city area only a few buildings from the Brisbane General Post Office.

Central Bureau had banks of IBM Tabulators, the forerunner of computers, which were used by the cryptanalysts to sort and strip away ciphers which concealed the original text. These machine were set up in the garage at the rear of 21 Henry Street.

An American, Sergeant Donald Moreland of the 837th Signal Service Detachment, helped to set up the IBM equipment in Brisbane. He had earlier been in Melbourne installing the SIGABA cipher machine (ECM Mark II). The SIGABA was used to encipher messages from ordinary or plain text, into a secret language, which is called cipher text, under the control of a key (encipherment).

He had never seen the IBM equipment before and it came without a manual. One of the boxed in the first shipment had a picture on it which was used extensively to attempt to work out how it all went together.

Many of the parts came in numbered envelopes. There were many crates of these numbered envelopes. However there was no parts list and no manual.

Another American called Frazer had previously been trained on the IBM equipment. He was able to sort out the sorter parts from the keypunch parts.

They also had to overcome the issue of the differing voltage and frequency standards between Australia (220 volts, 50 Hertz) and USA 110 volts, 60 Hertz). Special transformers had to be built.

Once it was operational, messages would be punched up onto IBM cards. The cards were then taken to the IBM room for sorting, collating and printing. A system of wires brushed was used to read the cards. They made contact with the slots in each card. This was a precision piece of equipment and timing of the equipment was essential.

 

This may have been the IBM Tape Operated Equipment (or something similar)
at 21 Henry Street and then at the Fire Station at Ascot 

 

You can see the punch tape

The IBM machines were later moved from the garage at 21 Henry Street to the Fire Station at Ascot Park. After the IBM machines were removed from 21 Henry Street, the garage was occupied by No. 11 Australian Cypher Section. The garage was filled with Typex machines which were operated by some Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) personnel. The AWAS worked around the clock shifts. Each shift consisted of 12 women and several male cypher mechanics. Their messages went out to Washington, India and to UK - Bletchley Park GCCS. The Officer in Charge was Captain Ian Allen (or Allan)

 

Central Bureau re-union at 21 Henry Street on 1 May 1988 
Organised by Central Bureau Intelligence Corps Association

 

Allied Intelligence Bureau

 

Defence Signals Directorate
This link to another Internet site contains
information on WWII Sigint units

 

SIGABA - Electronic Cipher Machine (ECM) Mark II
By Rich Pekelney

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Donald Moreland, Peggy Moore and Helen Kenny for their assistance with this home page. 

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"The Quiet Heroes of the Southwest Pacific Theater"
"An Oral History of the Men and Women of CBB and FRUMEL"
by Sharon A. Maneki

"The Eavesdroppers - The best kept secret of World War 2"
by Jack Bleakley

"Big Machines"
by Stephen J. Kelley
published by Aegean Park Press, Laguna Hills, California, in 2001

 

I am interested in hearing from any ex members of
Central Bureau who may be able to assist me with
more information for this new home page on CBI

I am also interested in the history of 21 Henry Street

 

Central Bureau Intelligence Corps Association Inc. Newsletter

 

In Association with Amazon.com

Heaps of WW2
books available at
Amazon.com

                          "Australia @ War"
                          

Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2003

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This page first produced 9 Apr 2000

This page last updated 30 October 2003