FALSE CAPE GUN EMPLACEMENTS
NEAR CAIRNS, QLD
DURING WW2

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Major Ralph Mansfield was the Commanding Officer of H Aust Heavy Battery. The 127 men of H Battery arrived in Cairns by train on Christmas Day 1942. They were the first Heavy Gun Unit in the Cairns area during WW2. They had their Christmas Dinner at a rail siding in Cairns. They then camped briefly at Parramatta Park before moving to False Cape located at the entrance to Cairns Harbour in tropical north Queensland.

Prior to moving to False Cape, Major Mansfield, Capt. Allen, Lt Alcock, Lt. Harvey (RAE) and Artillery Officer Lt. Oakes carried out a survey of the False Cape area to choose gun locations and a suitable area for the camp. Major Mansfield established a temporary Headquarters in Cairns to facilitate the arrangements for transport of supplies and other equipment to establish the battery and associated camp facilities.

 

L to R: Lt Oakes, Lt. Harvey, Major Mansfield, Lt. Alcock, and Capt. Allen at Sunny Bay.

 

Lt. Harvey took the first party of 30 men to False Cape on a borrowed US Navy landing barge. Once they had erected their tents at Sunny Bay, work started on the erection of a small jetty on the beach. A small Caterpillar borrowed from the Civil Construction Cops (CCC) was used to unload equipment and supplies from pontoons.

Reg Rudge, Mulgrave Shire Council Engineer, supervised the construction of the gun emplacements and the camp accommodation by the Civil Construction Corps. He also provided two extra large pontoons and a motorised launch to ferry the guns form Cairns to False Cape. 

 


Photo:- Major Ralph Mansfield

One of the 60 ft X 20 ft timber huts in the Battery Camp at False Cape that each held 20 men.
The many huts were established among the trees to afford very effective camouflaging.

 

The men of H Aust Heavy Battery assisted the Civil Construction Corps to build their huts and the access roads. Drinking water for the camp was pumped from the Browns Bay area. There was a Hospital Hut located 200 yards from the guns and 300 yards from the camp. A small funicular railway was established from the road to the guns and the Battery Observation Post to carry supplies.

There was small hut located behind the Battery Observation Post which was used as a recreation hall and accommodation for off-duty personnel.

There were two 155 mm heavy guns, one 40mm Bofor radar-controlled anti-aircraft gun and two Sperry Searchlights located at False Cape. The two 155 mm guns were located on a raised concrete platform which allowed them to be swivelled a full 180 degrees. 

One searchlight was established on the northern side of the point and the other searchlight was located on the Cairns side of the Point. They were power by very large generators which ensured their effective range of 3 - 4 miles. From time to time, the searchlights would be switched on at night and in conjunction with searchlight batteries in the Cairns area, they would assist lost RAAF or USAAF aircraft re-establish their bearings.

As there was no road from the Cairns area out to False Cape a sailing ship called "Eulalie" was used to ferry supplies and personnel almost daily from Cairns. A 4 x 4 Army truck was available at the camp site for local transport of supplies and personnel.

The HMAS Lucy Star ML 71 would tow large targets in the sea for their gunnery practice.

Sunny Bay Beach was a popular location for recreational activities.

Some pigs were kept and fed with the scraps from the camp. At an appropriate time BBQ Pork was on the menu!! Some calves were also kept and fed in the camp area. Their egg supplies were from about 50 chickens kept in the camp area. Fish traps were located in the bay. Their isolation led to these measures being taken. The animals also provided an element of companionship for the men thus improving morale.

 


Photo:- Major Ralph Mansfield

Battery Observation Post at top of structure. Accommodation for duty
crew below. This building was later used by the RAN. The Observation
Post was located on top of a hill about 200 feet behind the guns.

 


Photo:- Major Ralph Mansfield

155 mm heavy gun at False Cape Battery. Note the camouflage netting.

 


Photo:- Via Russell Bird

Closeup of the 155mm gun at False Cape belonging to H Battery

 


Photo:- Major Ralph Mansfield

155 mm heavy gun at False Cape Battery

 


Photo:- Via Russell Bird

40 mm Bofors gun at False Cape

 


Photo:- Major Ralph Mansfield

Battery Camp at False Cape

 


Photo:- Major Ralph Mansfield

BBQ'd pork!

 


Photo:- Major Ralph Mansfield

Sports Day on Sunny Bay Beach

 


Photo:- Major Ralph Mansfield

Pontoons unloading sand and gravel at Sunny Bay.

 

H Australian Heavy Battery was of twenty six "Letter Batteries" formed on the directions of General Douglas MacArthur. They were were equipped with American equipment. As the threat in Australia diminished H Aust Heavy Battery was then sent to Kane Cope at Milne Bay. S Aust Heavy Battery moved into the False Cape battery after H Battery moved out. Russell Bird, one of the members of "H" Battery, contacted me in 2003 and forwarded the above photographs of Major Ralph Mansfield.

Other units based at False Cape during WW2 were:-

Steve Fowler from Cairns is recording the history of the Gun Emplacements at False Cape.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Steve Fowler and Russell Bird for their assistance with this home page.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"I Didn't Know That - Cairns and Districts Tully to Cape York 1939-1946, Service Personnel and Civilians"
by Vera Bradley 1943 AAMWS

 

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This page first produced 22 December 2001

This page last updated 18 January 2020