ROBERT BOLTON
911TH SIGNAL COMPANY
4TH AIR DEPOT GROUP
MOUNT LOUISA, TOWNSVILLE

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Subject:    Mt. Louisa Bunkers
Date:             Tue, 23 May 2000 12:31:36 -0400
From:           Robert Bolton <rbolton@webspan.net>

I was with the 911th Signal Company, part of the 4th Air Depot Group, stationed at Townsville from Sept. 1942 until moving to the P.I. shortly after the landing at Leyte. To my knowledge there were no bunkers in or around Mt. Louisa at that time. There was a bomb-protected building on the road into Townsville that was air-conditioned and used for bomb sight repair and for our message center - a very pleasant place to sleep during the blistering summer.

I served under Col. Bertrandias, and he was one of the toughest but fairest officers I ever met. He expected everyone to do their best, and as long as you did you had no problem, yet I saw him very upset when our Engineering Officer was killed while testing a newly repaired A-20. I understand that he eventually became the Air Force Inspector-General before retiring as a Major General.

I just discovered your web site and enjoyed it tremendously.

By the way, I met my wife, a Brisbane girl who worked at the Depot, and we were married in the Cathedral in Townsville. We still have lots of relies in Oz, and try to get back there as often as possible.

Regards -

Bob Bolton

 


 

Subject:    Mt. Louisa Bunkers
Date:             Sun, 28 May 2000 11:48:06 -0400
From:           Robert Bolton <rbolton@webspan.net>

Hi Peter -

I would have replied sooner, but there has been a problem with my server. I hope it's fixed now and that this gets through.

As for your questions - in all the time I was stationed at the depot I heard nothing about bunkers in Mt. Louisa. There were many trails on the hill, and several of our fellows rented horses from a nearby stable and road all over the place, but none of them ever mentioned any bunkers or caves.

The air-conditioned building I referred to was on the road going into Townsville, not far from Ah Moon's grocery, where we got the best milk-shakes and bread anywhere around. 

 

Does anyone know where this was?

 

I doubt very much that Col. Bertrandias is still alive. As he served in WWI he would have to be at least 100 years old, although he was tough enough to last a long time.

The crash in Townsville occurred when our Engineering Officer, a Major Duncan, decided to test flight an A-20 just repaired. There had been a lot of trouble with this type of aircraft, as your record of crashes will show, and he thought he knew the cause.  Unfortunately, when he took off from our short strip he grazed a telephone pole and damaged his tail assembly. Nevertheless, he kept the plane under control and flew out over the bay. The colonel wanted him to bail out but Duncan wanted to get back to the depot so that he could confirm his findings. He landed on the beach but while the plane was still rolling its nose wheel hit a little hummock and flipped it, washing it out as far as the pilot's seat, killing Duncan. As close as I can remember, this would have been in early 1944, but after 55+ years I can't be sure of the details.

We also had a P-39 take off from Garbutt and have the engine conk out not far from us. That pilot bailed out and survived, although badly bruised. The plane pancaked in and exploded, and we had live ammunition going off for a while, but nobody was hurt. I really can't tell you when that happened.

In your list of crashes you mentioned one in which Dick Birnn was killed. This was before I arrived, but my wife knew him and has told me what a fine person he was, and how his death affected the rest of his squadron.

Your letters sent me back to my papers, and I found a unit citation letter from Gen. Kenney for the work we did getting the depot established during the period from Oct.1 to Dec. 8, 1942, so that tells you when we started.

I have a picture of all the VASAC officers posing in front of our club, "The Tropics," which we built ourselves. If I can find some way to get it to you I'll send a copy. I have some aerial shots of the depot which I got in Townsville, of all places. It seems a member of the U.S. photo squadron based at Garbutt decided to stay in Australia after the war and opened a studio on Flinders St., near The Strand. (That would be Arch Fraley). We saw some of his photos in the building at Garbutt when we landed there several years ago. When we found who took them we visited his shop in town. He was still there, though retired, and his son war running the bussiness. It might still be there, which you can check he next time you go back At any rate, he said I could have any of the photos of the depot area I wanted.

You said you live in Brisbane. What part? We have a niece and nephew, Terry and Rhonda White, living in Ascot. You might know the name, since Terry was very active in Queenland politics a few years back. He is also the founder of the Terry White Chemist chain, which is all over the place now.

I have certainly been running on, but we are celebrating Memorial Day over here, which is something like your ANZAC Day, so we have been telling war stories all over the place.

Best regards,

Bob

 


 

Subject:    Mt. Louisa Bunkers
Date:             Wed, 31 May 2000 11:21:42 -0400
From:           Robert Bolton <rbolton@webspan.net>

Hi Mate -

To the best of my knowledge there was no construction of any kind on Mt. Louisa. To us it was just a big hill in back of the camp that was full of snakes. When we first arrived we didn't realize that our base was between the hill and a water source and the sentries spent the first several weeks shooting at snakes coming through the camp to reach their water supply.

The message center/bomb sight repair building was not too far from Garbutt, as I recall, and I can still taste those milk shakes.

I'm sure the crash you referenced was not the one involving Maj. Duncan as he landed on the beach and the wreckage was hauled back to the depot for examination.

The "V" in VASAC is the Roman numeral 5, and the whole thing is Fifth Air Service Area Command, which is what we became soon after arrival, as your data shows.

Glad to know your wife patronized one of my nepew's shops. By the way, the business was sold to a large company called Fauldings, although their son stayed on as managing director of one of the divisions.

In a reference to the Gold Coast that I found on the Web there was mention of a rail line going down there. How far does it go? Many's the time we wished for one when we were making the trip down the Coastal Highway in heavy traffic. We were staying at "The Rocks" in Currumbin at the time. Do you know the place? Incidentally, my wife grew up on a banana plantation up Currumbin Creek until the family moved to Brisbane. We visited the place, which was still there, although they were raising grayhounds at the time. 

It's good hearing from you. We would like to make another trip to Australia, but it's getting to be too long a trek.

Regards -

Bob

 


 

Subject:    Tales of Mount Louisa
Date:             Fri, 02 Jun 2000 10:02:28 -0400
From:           Robert Bolton <rbolton@webspan.net>

Hi Peter -

There are many stories to tell about our Mount Louisa experiences, starting with our first encounters with Australian customs and colloquialisms. One incident that comes to mind happened rather early on - It was on a quiet Sunday afternoon, and we were relaxing after a frantic week of building the depot. We were still living in tents and some of the fellows has latched on to a couple of large boomerangs which they were trying to learn to throw - in the tent area. Our chaplain on that time was an Australian, on loan from the Australian Army, and he was taking a little siesta in his tent. A mis-throw boomerang came down, sliced through his tent, and landed right beside his cot, just a few inches from his head. I still have a vivid picture of him, in his underwear, roaring out of his tent, yelling some very un-Christian but very Australian phrases. Needless to say, there was no further practice that day, nor any other, as I remember.

It is interesting that you refer to the camp as "the Mount Louisa area." We never referred to it by that name. As far as we were concerned it was just the hill behind the camp. I doubt if many of us even knew it had a name. The depot also became familiar to us as the Townsville Air Depot, or T.A.D, to distinguish it from the non-Air Corps units in the area. We even received material fron the States addressed to T.A.D.

Regards,

Bob

 


 

Subject:    More on Townsville@War
Date:             Fri, 29 Jun 2001 13:52:56 -0400
From:           Robert Bolton <rbolton@webspan.net>

Hi Peter -

Just finished looking at your Townsville @ War pages and they brought back many memories. There was also a lot of information I didn't have, even though I was there at the time. Anything definitive about the Mount Louisa bunkers? I've been in touch with Sherman Freer, who was at Tad at the same time as I was, and he didn't know anything about them either.

The photos of the area were particularly interesting. You show the stairs going up Denham Street. My fiancee, now my wife of 55 years, lived at 16 Upper Denham while she was working for the Army at TAD, where she was in charge of Civilian Personnel, working for Capt. J. Seanis. Many a time we sat on a rock outside of her house, which overlooked the school, and from where you could see the harbor.

We used to test repaired air-borne radar in that parking area atop Castle Hill by checking on the ships in the harbor with a Jeep we had rigged specifically for that purpose.

Perhaps the most interesting coincidence involved "G for George," the Lancaster bomber you have a picture of. I was stationed in Townsville when it made that visit, and we were invited to climb all over it. We also saw it fly over town, and we were quite surprised by the relative quiet of its engines compared to ours. Well, several years ago, on one of our visits to Oz, we went to Canberra, and lo and behold, what should we find on display in the War Museum, a little worse for wear, but good old "G for George,", with a plaque that confirmed that it was indeed our old friend. It's still there, for all I know.

You're doing an outstanding job of gathering information about an area that played a most important part in my life, for many reasons. Keep it up.

By the way, the little bio on Brig. Gen A.A. Raimondy was also of interest since "Gus" and I actually bunked in the same barracks.

Regards -

Bob Bolton

 


 

Subject:    More on Townsville@War
Date:             Sat, 30 Jun 2001 09:51:41 -0400
From:           Robert Bolton <rbolton@webspan.net>

Hi Peter -

I was in the 911th Signal Company, assigned to Depot #2, or TAD. Our job was to provide ground and air communication, so we operated a message center. We also were responsible for repair of all Signal Corps equipment used by the Air Corps, including radar. My job was to run the Signal Supply Depot, and to fill in as base Signal Officer in the absence of the CO.

To the best of my recollection, the only thing on top of Castle Hill at that time was the parking area shown in the picture, but since that was almost 60 years ago I can't be sure. We tested air-borne radar up there, which included a newly developed radar gun-sight, and search radar for the P-61 night fighters that were starting to come through the depot.

I was in Townsville when "The Battle of Brisbane" took place, so we only heard rumors, some of which were pretty horrendous. The only thing we had officially was, as company censors, we were to allow no mention of it whatsoever in mail going back to the States. I don't know if any mention of it made the US papers. Certainly nobody that I subsequently spoke to about it had ever heard of it.

Regards -

Bob Bolton

 


 

Subject:    More on Townsville@War
Date:             Sun, 01 Jul 2001 11:00:15 -0400
From:           Robert Bolton <rbolton@webspan.net>

Hi Peter -

I read about the "Battle of Brisbane" in your home page, which is where I first found the details. As I wrote, we were given very little information except instructions to see that nothing got back to the States in our company mail. My wife was living in Brisbane at that time, but she does not remember seing anything about it in the Courier-Mail which was much different from the reports of disturbances which were an everyday occurance. Of course, american servicemen were never identified as such, but the term "allied serviceman" was used instead. We all knew what that meant, however.

Regards -

Bob Bolton

 

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This page first produced 3 June 2000

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