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The Forts in 1964 - Left to right, my sister Vicki,
my brother Brian and my father Jim Dunn


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The Forts in 1964
My brother Brian Dunn admiring the view


The Magnetic Battery was built by the Queensland Main Roads Commission using local labour. Construction of the complex started on 28 September 1942 and was finished 10 months later on 10 July 1943.

The Royal Australion Navy establishment at the forts was known as RAN Station 21, the Port War Signal Station (P.W.S.S.) Magnetic Island.

There were two large 155mm guns with 26 foot long barrels. They had a 6 foot recoil and could throw a 105 lbs shell to a range of 18,000 yards.  The guns never fired a shot in anger but it is believed they did once fire a warning shot on a U.S. Navy P.T. Boat that arrived in the bay unannounced.


Truck on Magnetic Island. The back of the truck was filled with large stones to
maintain traction on the track from the Magnetic Battery to Radical Bay

Photo from Ross Thomson of "D" Aust Heavy Battery


There was apparently a searchlight or radar
unit located at nearby Radical Bay.


A couple of articles in the Townsville Bulletin in January 1999 suggested that there may have been four large guns on Magnetic Island not two (see photo below).


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Four large guns reportedly sent to Magnetic Island - Is this correct?
Photo from North Queensland Military Museum

Problem solved: These are actually the guns of "U" Battery in August 1945
at Torokina. The photo was taken by Reg Kidd, the co-author of the
book called  "The 'Letter' Batteries" by Reg Kidd and Ray Neal


An article on page 19 of the Townsville Bulletin on Monday 25 January 1999, included the above photograph. It states that Eric Hall of Gulliver remembered seeing four large guns while riding his bike one day. His father was the Tug Master on board the boat "Marina". One Saturday, the "Marina" towed a wooden barge with two of these guns on board to the north eastern end of Magnetic Island to Rollingstone Bay. Being a Saturday, Eric went on board the Marina to help his father.

I have heard another story that suggests that the Big Gun on top of the Big Gun Butcher in Logan Road at Springwood in Brisbane is one of the guns from Magnetic Island. I have never been able to confirm this and I suspect that it is not one of the guns. (Can anyone confirm the origin of this gun?). This gun was once sitting in a wreckers yard that used to be located in the same area many years ago. The Big Gun was removed from the top of the building that it was on in late June 2003, to make way for a new Big Gun Shopping Centre to be built.


Big Gun in font of Big Gun Butchers at Springwood


Closeup of the Big Gun


I have heard a different story from Chris Peters who told me that the " Big Gun" at Springwood used to be one of about 12 anti-aircraft guns positioned on top of Mt Gravatt during the war years. He indicated there were more on top of Mt Coot-tha as well. Chris believes that one of the guns eventually made it's way to it's present position outside a market as a landmark. I can remember possibly two large guns sitting at the rear right hand side of a wreckers yard on the same site way back in the 1960's.


Can anyone tell me some more about the guns?

Were there two or four guns?

Is the one at Springwood one of these guns?


The artillery detachment looking after these guns comprised:-

- O.C. or Battery Commander Major Nichol
- Captain Wright
- Captain Wild
- Battery Engineer Captain Lovegrove ("Passion Valley")
- Captain Allen
- 4 Junior Officers
- approximately 100 W.C.O.'s and O.R.'s including about 20 A.W.A.S

There were also two large Sperry 3 million candle power searchlights, one high above White Lady, at Horseshoe Bay and the other above Florence Bay.  They each were powered by their own diesel power generator.  There were about 20 engineers looking after these searchlights.

The 13th Australian Radar Unit also had a radar installation high in the hills on a point overlooking Orchard Rocks.


WWII Bunker Tour of Townsville


WW2 Bunkers & Fortifications in the Townsville area



"The 'Letter' Batteries - The History of the 'Letter' Batteries"
by Reg Kidd and Ray Neal


Can anyone help me with more information?


"Australia @ War" Research Products

I need your help


 Peter Dunn 2015


Please e-mail me
any information or photographs

"Australia @ War"
8GB USB Memory Stick

This page first produced 31 July 1998

This page last updated 02 September 2018