CENTRAL STATE SCHOOL, NORTH WARD, TOWNSVILLE
COMMANDEERED FOR USE AS A COMMAND POST
BY THE 208TH ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTALION, US ARMY
AWAS RECRUIT TRAINING SCHOOL
NORTH WARD AIR RAID PRECAUTIONS
DURING WW2

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The 208th Anti-aircraft Battalion, U.S. Army established their Command Post at the Central State School on the corner of Eyre Street and Oxley Street, North Ward, in Townsville. This information was provided by Dave Dockray. The 208th had guns at Cape Cleveland, Stanton Hill and on The Strand and possibly at the South Townsville State School.

Irving Hamlin was amongst the first Americans into Townsville after Pearl Harbor. He was a member of the 208th Anti-aircraft Battalion, a National Guard outfit from the Hartford, Conn. area in USA. Irving told me that some of the 208th were "bivouacked in a nice little house on stilts. Not bad for army! From day one, our men were busy building bomb shelters and tunnels."

 

The original Central State School was located in the triangle of land
between Eyre Street and Oxley Street behind St. Patricks College.

 

The North Ward Air Raid Precautions ARP organisation used the original Central State School for its meetings and training. On Saturday 3 October 1942 at 3pm the North Ward ARP held a general meeting at the school to hear a lecture by an officer from the Naval Bomb Dispersal Squad. All wardens, messengers, and record clerks of the North Ward ARP and others interested attended a talkie picture show in the original Central State School at 8:00pm on Friday 18 September 1942.

4 Australian Detention Barracks in Charters Towers made the beds that were used by the AWAS Recruit Training School which opened at the original Central State School in Townsville with 64 students. On Saturday 16 January 1943, after three weeks of concentrated rookie training, seventy AWAS recruits "passed out" after attending the AWAS Recruit Training School at the former Central State School. The passing out ceremony was held at the former Townsville Central State School at 3:00 pm after a short march through the streets. An American military band played for them during the march. That was the second training school held for AWAS Recruits in a relatively short time.

Air raid trenches were dug at the original school by parents and past pupils. An article in the Townsville Daily Bulletin of Saturday 7 March 1942 read as follows:-

"Parents, past pupils of the Townsville Central State School and others interested are advised that trench digging will be continued this afternoon and Sunday morning."

On 9 April 1953, work commenced on turning the former North Ward Prison at 4 - 6 Warburton Street in front of the Botanic Gardens into the new "Central Infants' and Primary State School", later the Townsville Central State School. Students moved into the new Townsville Central State School in 1955. The North Ward Prison was built in 1878 but was closed by 1896 after the Stuart Prison was built in 1893. The old North Ward Prison was closed and handed over the the Queensland Police. The previous two storey head gaoler's and turnkey building (see photo below) was then mainly used as living quarters for the Chief Police Inspector in Townsville. Over the years the rest of the prison was demolished, however parts remain today - the head gaoler's building (now the school's administration offices), the foundations of the women's cells and the sentry tower and the prison wall (built of local brick). This wall had been shortened during the construction of the school. The remnants of the former gaol have been declared a heritage site.

The Infants' section of the new Central State School began operation at the start of the 1955 school year with about 180 students.

 

Former North Ward Gaol in about 1885

 

The Strand and Castle Hill in the background with Queens Park near the centre of the photograph in between the Botanical Gardens and the former North Ward Prison site (later the Central State School) on the left and the Sports Reserve on the right. This photo was taken in September 1945.

Note: - There are hotspot links on the above photo for Castle Hill, the Seaview Hotel, the site of the anti-aircraft guns on The Strand, former North Ward Prison site, etc

 

The Strand and Castle Hill in the background of the above photo with Queens Park near the centre of the photograph in between the Botanical Gardens on the left and the Sports Reserve on the right. The 800 Brigade Military Police was based inside Queens Park. This photo was taken in September 1945.

 

Old North Ward Prison site (later Central State School) on the left and
Queens Park on the right and the Botanical Gardens behind the prison.
 

The 800 Military Police Battalion were located inside Queens Park
as shown in the above photo which was taken in September 1945.

 

Close-up of old North Ward Prison site (later Central State School) in September 1945

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2002

Central State School, North Ward built on the former
North Ward Prison site with Castle Hill in the background

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2002

The main original building completed in 1880 for the Head Gaoler and Turnkey at the old
North Ward Prison still being used by the Townsville Central State School

 

 

REFERENCES

Townsville Central State School 4-6 Warburton Street, North Ward - Heritage Listing

The Townsville Daily Bulletin, Saturday 7 March 1942

The Townsville Daily Bulletin, Friday 2 October 1942

The Townsville Daily Bulletin, Thursday 17 September 1942

"AWAS Recruits - Passing out Ceremony Tomorrow", Townsville Daily Bulletin, Friday 15 January 1943

"New School Rising on Old Prison Site", Townsville Daily Bulletin, Monday 11 May 1953

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Mandy Furnell for her assistance with this web page.

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 16 July 2002

This page last updated 03 February 2019