AT ASCOT IN BRISBANE
On 20 July 1942, General MacArthur moved his Headquarters to Brisbane. MacArthur had an Intelligence unit called Central Bureau which was responsible for the interception and cryptanalyzing of Japanese intelligence. Central Bureau immediately followed MacArthur to Brisbane, establishing its headquarters in a huge house at 21 Henry Street, high on a hill in the suburb of Ascot, not far from the new American airfield at Eagle Farm.
General MacArthur established his Headquarters in the AMP Building in the city area only a few buildings from the Brisbane General Post Office.
Central Bureau had banks of IBM Tabulators, the forerunner of computers, which were used by the cryptanalysts to sort and strip away ciphers which concealed the original text. These machine were set up in the garage at the rear of 21 Henry Street.
An American, Sergeant Donald Moreland of the 837th Signal Service Detachment, helped to set up the IBM equipment in Brisbane. He had earlier been in Melbourne installing the SIGABA cipher machine (ECM Mark II). The SIGABA was used to encipher messages from ordinary or plain text, into a secret language, which is called cipher text, under the control of a key (encipherment).
He had never seen the IBM equipment before and it came without a manual. One of the boxed in the first shipment had a picture on it which was used extensively to attempt to work out how it all went together.
Many of the parts came in numbered envelopes. There were many crates of these numbered envelopes. However there was no parts list and no manual.
Another American called Frazer had previously been trained on the IBM equipment. He was able to sort out the sorter parts from the keypunch parts.
They also had to overcome the issue of the differing voltage and frequency standards between Australia (220 volts, 50 Hertz) and USA 110 volts, 60 Hertz). Special transformers had to be built.
Once it was operational, messages would be punched up onto IBM cards. The cards were then taken to the IBM room for sorting, collating and printing. A system of wires brushed was used to read the cards. They made contact with the slots in each card. This was a precision piece of equipment and timing of the equipment was essential.
This may have been the IBM Tape
Operated Equipment (or something similar)
at 21 Henry Street and then at the Fire Station at Ascot
You can see the punch tape
The IBM machines were later moved from the garage at 21 Henry Street to the Fire Station at Ascot Park. After the IBM machines were removed from 21 Henry Street, the garage was occupied by No. 11 Australian Cypher Section. The garage was filled with Typex machines which were operated by some Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) personnel. The AWAS worked around the clock shifts. Each shift consisted of 12 women and several male cypher mechanics. Their messages went out to Washington, India and to UK - Bletchley Park GCCS. The Officer in Charge was Captain Ian Allen (or Allan)
Bureau re-union at 21 Henry Street on 1 May 1988
Organised by Central Bureau Intelligence Corps Association
Allied Intelligence Bureau
- Electronic Cipher Machine (ECM) Mark II
By Rich Pekelney
I'd like to thank Donald Moreland, Peggy Moore and Helen Kenny for their assistance with this home page.
"The Quiet Heroes of the Southwest Pacific
"An Oral History of the Men and Women of CBB and FRUMEL"
by Sharon A. Maneki
"The Eavesdroppers - The best kept secret
of World War 2"
by Jack Bleakley
by Stephen J. Kelley
published by Aegean Park Press, Laguna Hills, California, in 2001
I am interested in hearing
from any ex members of
Central Bureau who may be able to assist me with
more information for this new home page on CBI
I am also interested in the history of 21 Henry Street
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 9 Apr 2000
This page last updated 14 September 2018