Heathfield Station, approximately 80kms SSW of Townsville, was used as a live firing range by the Australian Army during WW2.

From 16 November to 18 November 1942, 158 chemical rounds were fired on Heathfield Station as part of Chemical Warfare testing in the Townsville area. A further 494 chemical shells were fired at Haughton River, Mango Farm, Cape Cleveland on 19 November to 21 November 1942. The two lots of trials were carried out during the month before the start of the wet season. The objective of these chemical trials were to check under tropical conditions:-

Volunteers were present in the target area during the live shooting of the chemical rounds. The MKs IV and Mk VII charged BBC rounds were fired by four 25-pounder guns (Mk II). Thirty volunteers from the 5th Field Regiment participated in the physiological trials. The tests involved measuring a change in their marksmanship. The volunteers exercised their marksmanship with target practice on the 17 November 1942, the day before the chemical tests and then retested their marksmanship after the live chemical firing. The tests indicated that 80% of the men showed some decrease in military efficiency as a result of their exposure.

Captain McAllester and Captain Forbes were two of the officials supervising the trials.

The property owner told me that the rounds during live firing were fired towards Thacker's Ranges or sometimes called Tucker's Ranges area. Ordinary non-chemical live firing was carried out over a number of the war years. He indicated that it was not towards Birthdays Hill.

The Department of Defence shows Heathfield West / Birthday Hills (Serial No 151) as a UXO area. The property owner has found a number of live rounds on Heathfield Station over the years. It was owned by his grandfather father Bill Willich during WW2.

On 21 March 1944, Beaufort A9-452, crashed 5 miles south east of Fanning airfield, on Heathfield Station.



Chemical Warfare in Australia
Australia's Involvement in Chemical Warfare 1914 - 1945

By Geoff Plunkett



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This page first produced 15 November 2008

This page last updated 25 January 2020