"AIRLIE", CORNER OF PUNT RD. & DOMAIN RD., MELBOURNE,
 COMMANDEERED BY THE MILITARY FOR USE AS
HEADQUARTERS FOR SPECIAL OPERATIONS AUSTRALIA
DURING WWII

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"Airlie", located on the corner of Punt Road and Domain Road in Melbourne, was commandeered by the military during WWII for use as the Headquarters for Special Operations Australia, Section "A" of the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB). The current address for "Airlie" is apparently 254 - 260 Domain Road, South Yarra. Some National Archives of Australia files show it as 200 Domain Road and others show it as 260 Domain Road.

"Airlie" was given to Victorian Police in 1957 and the Police Officers College was opened on 28 November 1958. "Airlie" reverted to private ownership after WWII. It was purchased by the Victorian Department of Health in 1950 and converted to a Tuberculosis Clinic. "Airlie" is now used by the Victorian Police as an Training School for Police Officers known as the Airlie Leadership Development Centre (ALDC).

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

"Airlie" under restoration on 16 October 2009

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Front entrance to "Airlie". Note the two plaques which are shown
in more detail below. Note the main door is now a modern glass door

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Plaque near front door

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Plaque located to the right of the above plaque

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Looking towards the main entry door from the top balcony

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Main Hallway on ground floor of "Airlie"

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Glass feature in roof of "Airlie"

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Ornate door trims on door to one of the upstairs rooms

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Close-up of ornate door trim

 

Special Operations - Australia (SOA) was also known as the Inter-Allied Services Department (ISD or sometimes IASD). SOA was later restructured and became known as the Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD).

On 17 May 1942, two months after arriving in Australia, Lt_Col G.  Egerton Mott, established the Inter-Allied Services Department (ISD) at "Airlie" at 260 Domain Road, South Yarra in Melbourne, Victoria.

Amongst the staff at "Airlie" were 3 Secretaries whose office was in the basement area. (Does anyone know the names of these three secretaries?) Apparently one of the three secretaries returned to "Airlie" after her 50 years of secrecy was over to tell her story of the very secret events that happened there during WWII. The lady, still a spinster, said that anyone visiting "Airlie" had to park more than 400 yards away and walk to the house in attempt to keep its location secret. Agents were in place in a house across the other side of Domain Road (possibly in 225 Domain Road) to watch if official visitors to "Airlie" were followed by enemy spies. This lady was one of three sisters who lived at Aspendale in Melbourne. One of her sisters was apparently a buyer at Myers. Malcolm Jack told me in January 2011, that his father's family once occupied the house at 225 Domain Road and it was known as "Cranleigh" at that time.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Bruce Buchan (closest) and Michael Jaspers inspecting an original Air Raid Precautions
instruction still glued to the tiled wall in the Secretary's room in the basement of "Airlie"

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Air Raid Precautions at "Airlie" signed by
Major Stanley Sibb Caporn (VX43369),
CIC Administration and Personnel

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

A different view of that same end of the Secretary's Room in the basement

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

A view of the other end of the Secretary's room in the basement of "Airlie"

 

Apparently one of the rooms in the basement of "Airlie" was used to interrogate prisoners. One of these who died was a German sympathiser or spy who had a radio transmitter on or near Mount Buller. Apparently one other prisoner died in the basement of "Airlie". There are said to be ghostly presences felt by some of the staff at "Airlie" when they visit the basement area.

When very high ranking officers such as General Douglas MacArthur visited "Airlie", the 3 secretaries were required to stay in the basement. General Douglas Macarthur's office diary does not show any meetings at "Airlie" so it is possible he may not have visited there.

The planning for the daring raid on Singapore Harbour "Operation Jaywick", under the overall control of Lt Col. Mott was carried out upstairs at "Airlie". On the evening of 26/27 September 1943, 3 officers and 3 ratings set off in three frail rubber and canvas folboat canoes from the "Krait", a battered Japanese wooden coastal vessel. They attached limpet mines to a number of vessels in Singapore Harbour. They ended up sinking or damaging approximately 39,000 tons of Japanese merchant shipping

Another interesting feature of "Airlie" is the existence, still to this day, of a tunnel that leaves from the basement area and proceeds under Punt Road and apparently goes to a location under the German Embassy, which is still there to this day in the same house. The story goes that this may have been a listening post to listen to German activities in the basement during WWII. It may actually go back to the WWI era. I wonder if the German Embassy knows that it is still there!!


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Entrance to a tunnel leading under nearby Punt Road from the basement area

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Tunnel leading under nearby Punt Room from the basement area.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Access to the above tunnel by opening the lower casement of this window
and the tunnel is at the left hand side of the area behind the window.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

This room now used as a wine cellar in the basement

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Bruce Buchan (left) and Peter Dunn in the wine cellar in the basement.
Note Bruce's "Don't Mention the War" tee shirt he is wearing!!

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

The front entrance to "Airlie"

 

Entrance to "Airlie"

 

"Airlie"

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Looking towards the old Tennis Court

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

The old tennis court at "Airlie". This land has now been sold and will be redeveloped into a 4-storey, 9-unit apartment block.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

"Airlie"s original barn at the rear of the house

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Inside the barn at "Airlie". Note the pulleys on the ceiling presumably for lifting hay bales etc.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Close-up of one of the pulleys hanging from the barn's ceiling

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

A lifting beam can be seen above the loft window of the barn at the far right of the photo

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Small out-building at the left hand end of the "Airlie" drive way. Seems to be a toilet and storage facility

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn - 16 October 2009

Another view of the out-building

 

SRD was forced to relinquish "Airlie" and 39 Ackland Street, South Yarra then became SRD's new Melbourne Headquarters.

"Airlie" was an AIB establishment and was used by N.E.I. Regional Section and AIB Stores Organisation. Peace officers, orderlies, cleaners and telephone operators at "Airlie" were supplied by the Australian authorities. A Teleprinter Line was used between 260 Domain Road and the Netherlands Radio Station at Craigieburn for the Netherlands Forces Intelligence Service.

It would appear that the British Royal Navy may have use "Airlie" towards the end of WWII.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

Thomson, Judy, "Winning with Intelligence", Australian Military History Publications, 2000

"The Story of the Krait - Tigers & Snakes"

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thanks Bruce Buchan, Malcolm Jack and Dave Moyle for their assistance with this web page.

 

 

 

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Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2006

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This page first produced 22 July 2002

This page last updated 07 June 2013