TUNNELS/BUNKERS UNDER CASTLE HILL
DURING WORLD WAR 2

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visits since 27 May 2000

 

NEWS FLASH - 7 April 2001

I have recently received information from an ex RAAF member regarding the location of an old WW2 Command Center that he had inspected at Green Street, West End inside Castle Hill in 1958. 

The road up Castle Hill was closed to traffic on about 12 March 1942 to ensure that the construction of military facilities such as the Green Street Bunker were not obvious. The erection of the above-ground Green Street Bunker (Project 81) at West End (near Sidney St.) was approved on 12 March 1942.

Were there other underground bunkers (Command Centres) or tunnels under Castle Hill? There are stories about a tunnel at the Green Street bunker site. There have been stories of a bunker inside Castle Hill near Bundock Street and Sturt Street.

I was told by someone of 2 tunnels at the base of Castle Hill which started from the basement of the Officer's Mess for North East Area Command HQ in Sturt Street. The Officers Mess building later became the RAAF Recruiting Centre in Sturt Street. He said that he had entered the tunnel that went to the basement of Buchanan's Hotel in Sturt Street and it is unclear where the other one went. There was a flight of stairs down to the entry to these two tunnels. There were no indication of the tunnels found when the adjacent Commonwealth Building was refurbished. This building was used as the North Eastern Area Command HQ and is located between the Officer's Mess building and Buchanan's Hotel. 

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Could this be a plan for a bunker in Castle Hill?

 

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Full view of the above plan

I have heard a story that approval was given for the construction of an underground Area Combined Headquarters in Castle Hill in 1943. One of the problems is that many of the wartime infrastructure in northern Australia were built by civilian contractors (such as ex Mayor of Thuringowa Dan Gleeson) and their records are not available. That is if they ever had any records at all.

There would have been many machine gun positions around the lower ridges of Castle Hill during World War 2. I was told of some in the Yarrawonga area and above Smyth Street at Belgian Gardens and of one directly above the Tobruk Baths on the cliffs below the houses. There is still an Ammunition Magazine located at North Ward which was probably used to re-supply these emplacements in that general area.

 

Yarrawonga bunker, Castle Hill, Townsville

 


 

It has been suggested that a tunnel may have gone through Castle Hill and exited near the Townsville General Hospital. Possibly built as part of an early defence scheme for Townsville. Probably just another one of the many urban myths!

 


 

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Is this an entrance to a tunnel into Castle Hill?
Highly unlikely! Now used as a "drain outlet" 

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn, November 2005

Same location in November 2005

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn, November 2005

This feature is located below the 2nd water tank below the start of the "Goat Track"

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn, November 2005

Old concrete stairs down from the water tank area above

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn, November 2005

Inside of the above entrance

 


 

Colin Henschke of the 9th Australian Advanced Workshops AEME was told that the Americans were contemplating or had actually begun excavating a tunnel under Castle Hill. The reason given by the Americans was to save travelling time from one part of the city to another. However, it was not completed. Apparently they had started pulling out and were not then there in such large numbers.

 

Has anyone heard about this story?

 


 

On 26 June 2000, George Redding from 36 Squadron RAAF told me that he remembers going to an area on Castle Hill for an interview at the North East Area Headquarters for the RAAF. George said that all the top brass were right up there on Castle Hill. I am aware that the North-Eastern Area Command headquarters was located in the Commonwealth building at 24 Sturt Street, Townsville. So were there extra facilities associated with this command organisation on or inside of Castle Hill? Was it located at Greet Street or near the semi-fortified stone buildings at West End.

I received a phone call from Bill Fraser, Kenmore from 36 Squadron RAAF on 23 July 2001. He also went to North East Area Headquarters for an interview. He indicated though that it was located on the foothills of Castle Hill in the West End area. It was a very secret location and was well camouflaged. He also said that while they were based at the Stock Route Airfield they were billeted in some houses at Hermit Park. Bill did not remember any underground buildings in that area.

I received a phone call from Wal Moore, Caloundra of 36 Squadron RAAF on 25 July 2001. Wal told me that he went for an interview with North East Area Headquarters at a site in Sidney Street, West End. He said it was a very well camouflaged and secret location. Wal's wife, Fay, was a WAAAF who was living at the WAAF barracks in Anne Street and was taken daily with a cook to the Officer's Mess near the Sidney Street bunker. Fay advised that the bunker at Sidney Street was a Signal Station for North East Area HQ. She also advised that the Headquarters for the Signal Station was located nearby, camouflaged into the side of Castle Hill. Fay's recollection from almost 60 years ago was that this HQ was about 1/4 of a mile up the slopes of Castle Hill and slightly more towards the Belgian Gardens side of the hill. Was this the WW2 Command Center for the Combined Operational Intelligence Centre that was located near the Green Street bunker? Or was it located perhaps at the semi-fortified stone buildings at West End. Or somewhere else?

 

If you were part of the North-Eastern Area Command Headquarters I'd like to hear from you

 

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An aunty of a friend of mine used to be the driver for Colonel F.R. North in Townsville. Colonel North was the Commander of TOWNFORCE, one of the 3 main Forces allocated the task of defending Townsville. My friend's aunty told her family that Colonel North had his office inside Castle Hill.

A former member of the Combined Operational Intelligence Centre that was located inside Castle Hill near the Greet Street Bunker told me that Colonel North had an office at the top end of Denham Street in the city.

 

Can anyone tell me more about where Colonel North had his office inside Castle Hill?

 


 

There is yet another story that there was a tunnel from the Victoria Street Bridge in the centre of Townsville that took you up inside Castle Hill. This tunnel was referred to as the "Red Brick Tunnel". There are in fact at least two red brick tunnels that probably date back to pre 1900 times. The other one runs the full length of Stanley Street.

 

Were these large drains used as entry / escape points
for buildings or other new tunnels during WW2?

 

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The Queensland Main Roads Commission played a major part in Queensland during World War 2 building roads, aerodromes, fortifications, railway works, buildings, camps, etc. The following is a paragraph from a booklet titled " The History of the Queensland Main Roads Commission during World War II 1939 - 1945":-

"Fortifications, command post, engine room, and searchlight emplacements were also constructed on Signal Hill. The site selected for the command post was on a pinnacle of rock on the crest of Castle Hill. This necessitated a long and heavy haul of material and men to the parking area at the top of Castle Hill. Thence the material had to be man-handled along a goat track to the site of the job. All concrete had to be mixed by hand and formwork and concrete placed in a very restricted area with a vertical drop on three sides."

Could the following be associated with this Command Post?

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Photo: RAAF Museum, Garbutt

Castle Hill towards the end of the war.

Click here for a larger version of this photograph
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The interesting aspects of this photo are the tent or building on the top of the hill and the strange structure that is sticking out of the cliff face.

Could it be either a shade cover for a viewing port or an air scoop?

 

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A closer view of the bulge

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An even closer look

What is it?

 

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A photo of this area of the cliff from
a different angle in October 2001

 

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An even closer view

 

Another photo of the top of Castle Hill

 

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1952 photograph of the quarry where
the Sturt Street cutting now exists

Click on this to see a larger version of the above photo

The photograph was sourced from a 1952 photography run by the Townsville City Council and the photos are available from the Department of Natural Resources Brisbane.

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What are these holes for? Were they used during the 2nd World War?

Is there a military command room under this hill or
some other form of bomb-proof underground bunker?

 

The filled in area in the Sturt St. quarry in October 2001

Was the US Army Corps of Engineers or the US Navy Seabees involved in constructing these Tunnels or bunkers?

In a 31st Battalion Newsletter, Barry Smith mentions that he was part of a party sent to Princess Charlotte Bay by Sunderland flying boat to investigate the possibility of a Japanese submarine using a refuelling base in the area. On his return he reported to Combined Defence Headquarters in Sturt Street. Where was this HQ located?

 


 

The ARGUS, MELBOURNE, VIC
Wednesday 29 July 1931

GOLD-MINING NEAR TOWNSVILLE.
BRISBANE, Tuesday. - It is reported that a gold-mining claim has been pegged out on Castle Hill, near Townsville by Messrs. Rooney and Doig, who are said to have received encouraging results from a preliminary prospecting of the sites.

Does anyone know where these gold-mining claims were on Castle Hill?

 


 

Ammunition Magazine, below Castle Hill road at North Ward

 

Proposal to relocate Area Combined HQ in Townsville
to an underground location inside Castle Hill

 

Semi-fortified stone buildings
at West End in Townsville

 

What was located at Scully and Francis Streets, West End
at the base of Castle Hill?

 

WW2 Bunkers & Fortifications in the Townsville area

 

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 Peter Dunn 2005

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This page first produced 27 May 2000

This page last updated 28 December 2009