DEFENCE OF TOWNSVILLE HARBOUR
DURING WW2

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visits since 20 October 2000

 

In early 1942 the Commonwealth Government had made plans to be ready to destroy our harbours and airfields. This was at the time leading up to the Battle of the Coral Sea. There was a great fear that the Japanese were about to invade Australia.

Townsville Harbour with swimming enclosure on the The Strand in
the vicinity of the Tobruk Memorial Baths. 

 

tvilleharbour01.jpg (37050 bytes)

Close-up of the above photo of Townsville harbour.
 Note the two flying boats anchored in the harbour.

The District Works Supervisor, Department of Interior (Works and Services Branch), Townsville sent a letter to the Townsville Harbour Board on 16 March 1942, stating that he had been instructed by the Army, Northern Command, to arrange for the boring of 200 holes in 100 piles of the concrete pier, nearest the shore end of the wharf, and that he had arranged for the Main Roads Commission to undertake the work. The Townsville Harbour Board replied:-

"The Board objects to the proposed boring .... for the following reasons:

(1) That the drilling of holes as suggested is likely to induce deterioration of the steel reinforcements to a degree that would be unwarranted if demolition should finally prove to be necessary.

(2) That the construction of the pier is such that entry under the wharf is likely to be impracticable at high spring tides, and during such period the holes would be submerged.

(3) That as the facilities for landing equipment and materials are already very limited, it is undesirable that any action should be taken that may depreciate the capacity of one section of the existing wharfage."

The proposal was abandoned.

On 16 March 1942, the Department of the Interior wrote another "Most Secret" letter to the Townsville Harbour Board, stating that they had been instructed by the Army, Northern Command, to have certain anchorages placed at the Jetty entrance to enable ships to be held there in order to block the entrance if it became necessary owing to enemy action. The Townsville Harbour Board agreed to the request and large bollards were concreted into the stone breakwaters at both sides of the entrance. They were secured by large back stays. Two concrete mine spotting posts were also erected adjacent to to the above bollards along with a timber structure on the concrete pier.

The State Defence Camouflage Committee sent a letter to the Townsville Harbour Board on 10 June 1942, requesting that the Board carry out camouflage work on the walls and roofs of cargo sheds and other buildings as part of the Board's work maintenance program. The Board agreed to carry out this work. This letter was sent just one month prior to the three Japanese bombing raids on Townsville.

In September 1942, the Townsville Harbour Board declined to install a submarine net across the harbour entrance between the two breakwaters suggesting that the Navy was better equipped to look after that matter.

Despite tight security, Townsville Harbour's defences were penetrated on the night of 22 June 1943 when ten members of "Z" Special Unit Commandos entered the harbour in 5 canoes and "blew up" every ship in the harbour.

 

Demolition of our Harbours and Airfields

 

REFERENCE

National Archives of Australia
"Most Secret Works for Defence - Various Locations in Queensland"
Series number:  BP243/1
Control symbol: MS62
Barcode no: 996775

National Archives of Australia
Series No. J1018
Control Symbol LS880
Barcode No. 900126

Series No. J1018
Control Symbol LS880A
Barcode No. 900128

"The History of Townsville Harbour 1864 - 1979"
By H.J. Taylor

 

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 Peter Dunn 2002
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This page first produced 20 October 2000

This page last updated 04 April 2003