visits since 23 July 2010


Tennant Creek - Birdum Inland Defence Road

The Queensland Main Roads Commission constructed the 108 miles long Inland Defence Road from Tennant Creek to Birdum. On 25 July 1940, the Australian Army asked the Commissioner of Main Roads to assist with both plant and personnel to build a section of the road for military purposes in the Northern Territory. It had to be built within 120 days. The Queensland Government agreed to the request. Enquiries were made with staff and various other people familiar with conditions in that area, to determine what may be expected in the way of soils, gravel or metal supplies, class of timber, water supplies etc.

Mr Toyer, the Chief Engineer of the Department of Main Roads in New South Wales made a quick reconnaissance of the area and provided valuable information. Major Dixon of the staff of the Director of Works and Engineer Services, Melbourne, also supplied useful information and acted as the Liaison Officer between the Australian Army and the civilian authorities.

As the available time to build the road was so short, conferences were held with the New South Wales and South Australia authorities who assisted with this project. The Australian Army requirements were for the road to be fully serviceable through the wet season. The road was to be cleared, formed and drained throughout its length, but gravelling was to be limited for the time being to bare necessities.

The Army requirement was to maintain road transport from Alice Springs, the northern terminus of the railway from Adelaide, and to Birdum, the southern terminus of the railway from Darwin. The section of road from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek had already been progressively improved by the Commonwealth authorities. The other half of the road from Tennant Creek to Birdum at that time was a mere track which was impassable in the wet season.

South Australia was allocated the southern section as this was closest to South Australia. The northern section of road works was allocated to New South Wales, which sent its personnel and plant by sea to Darwin and then by rail to Birdum. The central section of 90 miles of road was allocated to the Queensland Main Roads Commission which had rail access to Mount Isa about 566 miles to the east.

On 4 November 1940, in order to expedite the completion of the works, the Queensland Main Roads Commission was asked by the Australian Army to extend its operations southwards to affect a junction with the South Australian work, thus making the Queensland section of the through route now at 100 miles in length.

Branch roads were also constructed to connect Newcastle Waters township, the existing track to Camooweal in Queensland, and also to No. 7 bore, which provided water in an otherwise dry length of 40 miles. The total mileage of road thus built by the Queensland Main Roads Commission was 108 miles.

The only surface water on the whole road works was found in Lake Woods, 6 miles to the west of the new road, a few waterholes in Newcastle Creek, and small temporary lagoons at Frew's Pond and Johnstone Lagoon. Water for stock was provided by bores equipped with windmills, at about 26 mile intervals on the stock route north of Newcastle Waters Township.

The only means of communications from Queensland to the personnel working on the road works was either by specially arranged road transport or by means of the weekly airmail service or by telegram via South Australia.

The Australian Army provided cooked food to the men at about 15 shillings per week per man. They also provided general medical attention and supplied fuels and oils of the mechanical equipment.

The clearing works were carried out using three D7-type Caterpillar angledozers which worked 24 hours a day using hurricane lamps. 


Mount Isa - Tennant Creek Inland Defence Road

402.5 miles long.


Ipswich - Charters Towers Inland Defence Road

The Ipswich to Charters Towers Inland Defence Road was 882 miles long. The 476 mile section from Ipswich to Duaringa was built by the Queensland Main Roads Commission.


Charleville - Blackall Inland Defence Road

187 miles long


Atherton Tableland Roads

Approximately 200 miles of roads.


Eidsvold - Duaringa Road

Approximately 230 miles of road was built by the Queensland Main Roads Commission prior to the war.


Non-refugee enemy alien labour, mostly Italians, were sometimes used to assist with these road works.



The History of the Queensland Main Roads Commission during World War II 1939 - 1945




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This page first produced 23 July 2010

This page last updated 23 July 2010