9 WIRELESS TELEGRAPH STATION,
THEN CALLED BIRDUM WIRELESS TELEGRAPH STATION, NT
THEN BIRDUM TELECOMMUNICATIONS UNIT, NT
9 Wireless Telegraph Station ( 9 W/T) was established at Birdum in the Northern Territory on 15 July 1944. It was operated by a detachment from 11 Signals Unit RAAF known as the Birdum W/T Detachment. It operated within 55 Operational Base Unit. 55 OBU was the administrative arm for 14 ARD ( 14 Aircraft Repair Depot) which serviced all forms of aircraft from bombers to fighters, be they Australian RAAF, Navy, or the American Air Force.
The W/T Station handled the main weather reports for the South West Pacific area.
Flying Officer R.T. Hughes was the Commanding Officer from 15 July 1944.
9 W/T Station was renamed to Birdum W/T Station on 11 August 1944 and was again renamed to Birdum Telecommunications Unit on 1 February 1945.
Birdum township was located at the southern end of the Darwin south-bound railway, and was basically railway worker's homes and the storage yards for engines, rail trucks, and carriages, boasting a pub. It was known as “ The Pub With No Beer” while Bob Moffat was based there.
Their camp was previously used by an American Army Field Hospital (135 AGH) which had moved further north to Adelaide River. The camp was about 2 miles from Birdum township. It was located on the west side of the Stuart Highway, about six miles south of Larrimah. The Army transport organisation (110 Transport Unit) used Larrimah as their terminal. They were responsible for supplying all food requirements for the area, both Army and RAAF. Goods were supplied, in the main, by road from Brisbane via Mt. Isa, Camooweal and the Berkley Highway, then, a dirt road.
The living quarters at Birdum were army field tents with home-made annexes attached to increase their habitation areas. The mess, kitchen, canteen, HQ building and Officer's quarters were all fashioned from, generally, un-sawn timber and covered in the main with galvanized iron sheets. The signals office consisted of an 18 x 6 metre iron framed corrugated iron clad building, with a cement floor, a door entrance, and glassless window frames. The window gaps were externally covered with Hessian bags which were lowered each afternoon to keep out the dust storms and sweeping tumble weed.
The Signals Office room was laid out with AR7 receivers down one side where watches were kept with Alice Springs, Millingimbi, and Gove in the gulf of Carpentaria, Townsville, Darwin, Truscott (near Wyndham), Exmouth Gulf, Ceduna, Daly Waters and Pearce in Western Australia. The center table was used for clerking, decoding and dispatch. The wall opposite the AR7's contained the landline watches and teleprinter circuits to Darwin. The main activity of the station by the nineteen staff was receiving and re-broadcasting, in special allied code, weather information for the south west pacific area, the info updated every three hours around the clock.
They also handled signal traffic of stores and personnel for units in the area, and aircraft listening watches. This latter involved listening with all receiver gains fully up, awaiting single word breaks in wireless silence from raiding bombers as to whether their raid had succeeded or not. After such a "watch" one's ears would ring for hours. Thunderstorms frequently made the job almost impossible. They also contributed to signal traffic associated with Allied landings such as Tarakan, Labuan and Morotai.
Their Morse keying signals were wired through the bush to their transmitters which were 12 x AT7's and 2 x STC 500 watt units all being housed in a similar building to the Signal Office about 900 meters away. They fed rhombic antennae laid out on 24 x75 feet towers in the bush. Power was provided from 2 x 25KVA Ford V8's and one 18KVA Southern Cross generator sets.
On 1 March 1945 the station had another name change, becoming 55 Operational Base Unit W/T Station. This was at the same time that they moved to a new modern camp at near Gorrie airfield.
I'd like to thank Bob Moffat for his assistance with this home page. Bob is an ex-RAAF wireless telegraphist who spent 15 months service at Birdum and Gorrie W/T Units.
"Units of the Royal Australian Air Force - A
Concise History, Volume 1, Introduction, Bases, Supporting Organisations"
compiled by RAAF Historical Section
© Peter Dunn 2006
This page first produced 26 April 2003
This page last updated 24 March 2013