AREA COMBINED HEADQUARTERS
Building at 42 Sturt Street, Townsville
Combined Headquarters Townsville was established on 8 May 1941 in the Commonwealth
Building at 42 Sturt Street, Townsville. The building was originally
the D & W Murray Warehouse. A.C.H. Townsville assumed control of
Operations to seaward within North-East Area on 10 June 1941 taking over from
As of 8 June 1941 Lieutenant
Commander Feldt (ex Port Moresby) was appointed as temporary Naval Officer in
Charge Townsville (NOIC) and as S.O. (I). Lieutenant Commander Luke (ex Navy
Office) was appointed to C.O.I.C. Mr. K. Lee Murray was appointed as Assistant
to the Naval Intelligence Assistant.
The Area Combined Headquarters (ACH)
Operations Room was located on the top floor of the building. On the
same floor was located the Mercantile Movements Section, the Combined
Operational Intelligence Centre, RAAF
Signals and a special separate room for Air Intelligence.
The second floor was used by the RAAF and
the ground floor was also used by the RAAF with one area partitioned off
for the Naval Staff Offices, which included the Naval Officer in Charge
(NOIC) Secretary and Writer, the Code Room and Naval Control Services,
Lt. Commander Eric Feldt, RAN the
Supervising Intelligence Officer (SIO) for North East Area was located
in this area. He was also acting NOIC in May 1941. Feldt was in charge
of the Coastwatchers. Feldt's civilian
assistant was Mr. K.L. "Paddy" Murray.
Air Commodore F.A. Lukis was the senior
RAAF Officer with Wing Commander W.C. Garing as his Senior Staff
Officer. They were part of North East Area
extract from a letter dated 10 June 1941 from ACH Townsville described the
situation at ACH Townsville as follows:-
9. The normal intelligence boards
for the A.C.H. have been completed. The strategic chart is in
course of preparation but it is not considered that the
draughtsman will be able to complete his work before June 20th.
10. Two controllers have arrived
here after having completed a course at A.C.H. Melbourne, period
11. It is submitted that in six
weeks a considerable amount of work should have been completed.
12. The Senior Air Staff Officer
has closely questioned the two officers and the following has
(a) The controllers have not read ACB 0106 whereas they
should almost know it by heart.
(b) The navigation they have been taught is straight from
C.D.118 and is of the type embracing carrier-borne aircraft.
They have not been taught the type of navigation applicable
to Hudsons and Catalinas nor have they been taught to
appreciate the best use of limited numbers of aircraft.
(c) They have never read Air Board Memoranda.
(d) They had one lecture on meteorology.
(e) They did a three-hour "appreciation
flight" to Wilson's Promontory during which they had to
appreciate the difficulties in sighting and recognition of
merchant ships from the pilot's viewpoint.
(f) They have not done any practical air
navigation at all, let alone navigation in bad weather or at
(g) They have not been shown Hudsons or
Wirraway aircraft and did not know what a Catalina was until
they reached this Headquarters.
(h) They do not know anything about
photography or any of the ancillary equipment.
(i) They do not understand the W/T
organisation and have an elementary knowledge of A.O.B.'s.
They had never originated a signal until they had arrived at
(j) They are not pilots and never have been
13. Your urgent attention is drawn to my letter 9/1/AIR(5a),
dated 23.5.41 (Provisional War Establishment of Northern Area -
Townsville-"Establishment HD 49). It would be appreciated if the
best available action could be taken on this letter in view of
the above. As predicted in the above letter, the two Officers
posted enter the category of Plotters rather than Controllers."
14. In the meantime, the S.A.S.O. and the S.O. Training, when
he arrives, will put the two officers we have through a
practical course in the A.C.H. here. It must be appreciated that
this will interfere with other important tasks but is
unavoidable in the circumstances."
15. Whereas the M.M.S. and V.A.I. plot are in full swing
here, the control of air operations at the moment must be
personally supervised by the A.O.C. and S.A.S.O. If we were
committed to full scale air operations tomorrow the present
organisation would break down after a few days."
16. It is considered that the A.C.H. must be brought up to
war establishment as a matter of priority. Until the controllers
of the type set out in my letter 9/1/AIR (5a) are able to run
the detailed operations, then the main tasks of the Air Staff
namely, organising and ensuring the preparedness of operational
squadrons for war, will be seriously hampered."
22. In conclusion it is pointed out that the whole of the
Air Force and Naval personnel are at present
crowded on to the top floor of the building and operating under
extreme difficulty. The A.C.H. is not completed nor properly
manned and therefore can only operate in a most sketchy manner.
It would appear that it will not reach full efficiency
until one month hence."
23. Within one month Northern Area local receiving station
will be completed and occupied. W/T and L/T will be in a 24-hour
operational basis with all R.A.A.F. base stations under Northern
Area command, namely, Darwin, Port Moresby, Townsville and
Archerfield. Similarly, it will be linked with Air Board."
24. No reasonable estimate can be given as to the opening
date of the W/T circuits to the island A.O.B.,s. This is solely
(a) the installation of aerial system by P.M.G. In this
regard Tulagi has been completed and Rabaul is now under
(b) Buildings. This is undoubtedly the worst feature of
the island W/T installations. As yet no work has been done
to provide W/T buildings, with the exception of Vila.
(c) Supply of W/T equipment, which is dependent on Air
Board. Air Board has indicated that island installations
have received priority in allotment."
"26. A permanent remote receiving
station is now being designed but as a permanent station will
not be available for an estimated period of nine months
temporary remote receiving station is being installed at R.A.A.F.
to relocate Area Combined HQ in Townsville
to an underground location inside Castle Hill
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This page first produced 24 February 2002
This page last updated 14 January 2015