hline.gif (2424 bytes)


Click on the link below to jump to that article:-


208th Coast Artillery (AA Regiment, US Army

94th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment, US Army

Magnetic Battery (aka The Forts)

13th Australian Radar Detachment

445th HAA Gun Station Nelly Bay

First Japanese Air Raid on Townsville 25/26 July 1942

Second Japanese Air Raid on Townsville 27/28 July 1942

Third Japanese Air Raid on Townsville 28/29 July 1942

31st Battalion, No. 4 Signal Post

"Z" Special Unit Commandos invade Townsville Harbour from Magnetic Island

2/3rd Dental Unit, Australian Army

Camp Staffs, 1 L of C Sub Area (North Queensland)

Picnic Bay Red Cross Convalescent Home for Service Women

Arcadia Rest Camp

29 Air Stores Park Recreation Camp RAAF

RAN Station 21, Magnetic Island Port War Signalling Station (PWSS)

Crash of a Beaufort Bomber at Cockle Bay, Magnetic Island on 22 October 1942

Crash of a P-40 Warhawk 3 miles north of Magnetic Island on 11 May 1943

Forced Landing of a Douglas C-47A-5-DL at Young Bay on 8 April 1944

Crash of a CW-22B Curtiss Falcon at Geoffrey Bay on 5 December 1943

Crash of an A-20 Havoc into sea half a mile off Magnetic Island on 29 May 1944

Wreckage of a P-38 Lightning found off Arcadia in about November 1944

Crash of a Mustang in sea between Bay Rock and West Point on 9 August 1945

City of Adelaide at Cockle Bay

"Paluma" did charters to Magnetic Island - support vessel for Coastwatchers



208th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment, US Army

The 208th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment under the command of Colonel William N. Donaldson, Jr (0-8593), left San Francisco, USA on the Troop Transport "Matsonia" (former luxury liner) on 18 February 1942. The 102nd Coast Artillery Battalion (AA Separate) was also on board the "Matsonia".

Convoy 2034 arrived in Brisbane on 9 March 1942 escorted by H.M.S. Achilles and H.M.N.Z.S. Leander and anchored overnight. The "Matsonia" pulled into the docks on 10 March 1942. The 208th moved to Camp Ascot.

The 208th CA AA boarded a train at Ascot Station near Camp Ascot on 16 March 1942 and departed for Townsville arriving there on 18 March 1942. The 208th was placed in tactical locations on arrival in Townsville area including Magnetic Island. The 208th CA AA Regiment was attached to the 40th Coast Artillery Brigade (AA) commanded by General Robert H. Von Volkenburgh.

On 15th August 1942, work was commenced on a submarine cable to Magnetic Island from the mainland by the Communications Section of Regimental Headquarters Battery. When the project was completed it proved a most valuable link in the administrative and alert networks of the defense.


U.S. Army Searchlight locations in about August 1942


U.S. Army radar location in about August 1942


Sound locator of the 208th CA Regiment on beach at Magnetic Island, most likely Horseshoe Bay


94th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment, US Army

15 searchlights of Battery E, of the 94th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment moved to Townsville on 13 September 1942. The 2nd Platoon HQ’s and 4 sections of searchlights of the 94th CA (AA) Regiment moved to Magnetic Island on the "Malita" on 15 September 1942. One searchlight section set itself up near the start of the Horseshoe Bay jetty. The position of the light moved a number of times but ended up at the end of the Jetty. The other three sections of searchlights were scattered around the Island.


Magnetic Battery (aka The Forts)

In October 1942, "F" Heavy Battery, Australian Army, relocated from Skirmish Battery on Bribie Island along with "F" Coast Artillery Searchlight Section ("F" CASL Sec.) to Townsville to establish Magnetic Battery near Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island using two 155mm US guns. The role of this Battery was to keep any raiding enemy cruisers well offshore.

In December 1942, 3 Fortress Company (3 Frt Coy) was formed in Townsville to control the fortress engineers and "F" CASL Sec became 106th Coast Artillery Searchlight Section (1) (16 CASL Sec) under the control of 3 Frt Coy.

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.

There were two large 155mm M1918 Grande Puissance Filloux (GPF) US made guns with 26 foot long barrels mounted on Panama mounts. Magnetic Battery was manned sequentially by men from "B", "L" and "T" Heavy Batteries of the Australian Army's Letter Batteries. Some sources incorrectly suggest that the guns were operated by the Royal Australian Navy.

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.

Equipment used at Magnetic Battery:-

2  155mm guns
2  seacoast searchlights 60 inch
1  set of fire control equipment including:-
     - 2 range finders - optical
     - 1 range finder - RDF (radar)
     - Plotting and Spotting equipment
Ammunition - high explosive shell with the M51 fuze (long range) at the rate of 10 units of fire per gun


Plan:- National Archives of AustraliaPWSS and Command Post Magnetic Battery 01

Plan showing Gun No 1 and Gun No. 2, the Reserve Magazine,
 the DRF Command Post, the PWSS and Command Post


In January 1943, "F" Heavy Battery was relieved at Magnetic Battery by "L" Heavy Battery and 108 CASL Sec. and relocated to Magazine Battery at the Townsville Harbour. "F" Heavy Battery completed construction of the Battery before manning it from March 1943. They took over as the Examination Battery for the Port of Townsville from Magazine Battery. In May 1943, many RAE functions transferred to the RAA and 108 CASL Sec became part of "L" Heavy Battery before being absorbed into the renamed "L" Heavy Battery (Coast) in November 1943. Colonel Howard, CCA, Major Greet and Captain Stewart of 2 Australian Fire Command made an inspection of "L" Battery on 30 December 1943. Major Greet inspected Magnetic Battery again on 15 January 1944. Major Greet and Captain J. I. McKenna, SO of First Army, visited Magnetic Battery on 26 January 1944.

"L" Heavy Battery relocated to Magazine Battery in April 1944 and was relieved at Magnetic Battery by "T" Heavy Battery. It appears that Magnetic Battery and Magazine Battery were both placed on a "care and maintenance basis" from August 1944 and "T" Heavy Battery was absorbed into Coast Artillery Townsville (CA Townsville) at that same time.

There were also two large Sperry 3 million candle power searchlights, one high above White Lady Bay, 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.


Photo:- Magnetic Museum Facebook page
Miriam Hardy collection (Fraley photograph)

Searchlight position between Florence Bay and Arthur Bay


Photo:- Charly's Australian Adventure

Same searchlight position as the above WWII
photo. Note the concrete pad at bottom right of
both photos. Same large tree to the left also.


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


forts01.jpg (37368 bytes)

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


forts02.jpg (29605 bytes)

The Forts in 1964
My brother Brian Dunn admiring the view


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


forts01.jpg (58020 bytes)

Photo of four large guns suposedly sent to Magnetic Island
Photo from North Queensland Military Museum - Incorrect - see below

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 stated 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. The other two guns were used at Magazine Battery on Magazine Hill at the Townsville Harbour.

Another myth busted! - 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. It is actually a different type of 155mm gun. It is a 155mm M1A1 Long Tom field artillery 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


Another myth busted! - Chris Peters had heard an incorrect story that the "Big Gun" near the intersection with Kingston Road, used to be one of about 12 anti-aircraft guns positioned on top of Mount Gravatt during the war years. There were never any anti-aircraft guns on Mount Gravatt. There was only ever one American searchlight (not 12) on top of Mount Gravatt from April to June 1942 operated by the 94th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment. Chris indicated there were more anti-aircraft guns on top of Mt Coot-tha as well which is also incorrect.


13th Australian Radar Detachment

13th Australian Radar Detachment (13 Radar Det) was formed at Signal Hill, at South Head in Sydney, New South Wales in December 1943 and relocated to Townsville in May 1944 to man the surface radar being installed on Magnetic Island to cover the approaches to Townsville. Lieutenant Hearne from 2 Australian Fire Command travelled to Magnetic Island in May 1944 to choose the site for the radar. The radar unit was located on a high knoll above Orchard Rocks on the north eastern side of Magnetic Island between Radical Bay and Florence Bay. 

Two personnel from 2 Australian Fire Command were detached to 13 Radar Det on Magnetic Island on 3 July 1944 to help with construction work. A further two personnel were detached to 13 Radar Det on 10 July 1944.

Major Greet and Lieutenant Hearne from 2 Australian Fire Command travelled to Magnetic Island to inspect the Radar Detachment. Major Greet from 2 Australian Fire Command was appointed on 20 July 1944 to supervise the installation of the radar on Magnetic Island. Major Greet travelled to Magnetic Island on 22 July 1944. Major Greet and Lieutenant Hearne inspected construction works on 27 July 1944.

Major Greet took radar equipment to Magnetic Island don 5 August 1944. He returned for an inspection on 10 August 1944. Lieutenant Hearne carried out an inspection on 12 August 1944. Lt Hearne began a series of Radar tests on 22 August 1944. Major Greet and Lt. Hearne travelled to Magnetic Island on 31 August 1944 to inspect the radar site.

13 Radar Det. operated on Magnetic Island until March 1945 when Magnetic Battery was closed down and 13 Radar Det was disbanded.


445th HAA Gun Station Nelly Bay

In February 1943, the 445th HAA Gun Station moved to Townsville and joined 16th Australian Anti-aircraft  Battery (16 AA Bty) establishing four 3.7" heavy anti-aircraft guns at Nelly Bay on Magnetic Island. In September 1943, 16 AA Bty became 16th Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery (Static) also known as 16 HAA Bty (Static) and 445 HAA Gun Stn at Nelly Bay became 445 HAA Tp (Static). 445 HAA Tp (Static) was disbanded in August 1944.


Plan showing location of the various concrete buildings associated with 445th HAA
Gun Station. The 4 gun sites are the small circles near the center of the plan.


Air Observer at the 445th HAA Gun Station at
Nelly Bay. Note the barbed wire fence on the beach.


Remnants of the HAA site at Nelly Bay at the right


Remnants of the HAA site at Nelly Bay


Remnants of the HAA site at Nelly Bay


The late Philip Dulhunty was stationed at this anti-aircraft battery during WWII. He was also stationed at the Anti-aircraft battery at Mount St. John (Gunsite 393) in Townsville adjacent to Garbutt airfield. Philip sent me the following pictures of a nostalgic visit to the anti-aircraft battery location at Nelly Bay a number of years ago.


An overgrown gun pit revetment at Nelly Bay, Magnetic Island


An overgrown gun pit revetment at Nelly Bay, Magnetic Island


One of the concrete gun pits still standing at Nelly Bay, Magnetic Island


A view of the Nelly Bay road, ocean on the left gun pit
on the right, on the road John Bulman and son Tim


John Bulman and son Tim amongst the bougainvillea at Nelly Bay


The following information is from official records of the 208th AAA Group:-

First Japanese Air Raid on Townsville 25/26 July 1942

The following information is from official records of the 208th AAA Group:-

208th CA (AA) Regiment Record of Combat Reports

July 26, 1942 Townsville Area

a.    Amount of ammunition expended - None

b.    Casualties - None

c.    Planes destroyed - None

d.    Alert Time:-     Yellow Alert -  July 25th at 22:30 hours
                             Red Alert -     July 25th at 23:50 hours
                             All Clear -      July 26th at 01:05 hours

e.    Substantiating evidence - None

Initial warning of the raid was received about 6 o'clock as a result of a radio interception which indicated that a force of at least three flying boats had left Gasmata, New Britain, head in the direction of Townsville. The planes were picked up by long range radar about 100 miles off the coast around 2200 hours and subsequently were picked up about 25 miles off the shore by a searchlight radar on Magnetic Island. There was a cirrus cloud layer about 15,000 feet altitude over Townsville and a bright moon. At least two of the three planes arrived in the Townsville area and circled around from south to west to north of the city out of range of the guns and above the clouds.

Subsequently, at least one of the planes came in over the clouds from north to south and dropped a string of bombs approximately 600 yards to the south and parallel to the dock area, all landing in the water. Fragments were recovered from the mud flat at low tide the next day. Although searchlights were in action, due to the clouds the planes were not illuminated, as they were flying at about 19,000 feet. The radar data was not sufficiently accurate to open fire on the one which dropped the bombs.


Second Japanese Air Raid on Townsville 27/28 July 1942

The following information is from official records of the 208th AAA Group:-

208th CA (AA) Regiment Record of Combat Reports

July 26, 1942 Townsville Area

a.    Amount of ammunition expended - 20 rounds

b.    Casualties - None

c.    Planes destroyed - None

d.    Alert Time:-     Yellow Alert -  July 28th at 00:33 hours
                             Red Alert -     July 28th at 02:03 hours
                             All Clear -      July 28th at 03:20 hours

e.    Substantiating evidence - None

The second raid occurred about 0300 hours on the 28th. Again, time of arrival had been indicated as a result of long range radio interception. Again our radar on Magnetic Island picked up the plane at about 40,000 yards and searchlights made a good pick-up off the north end of the island. The plane was flying at about 18,000 feet altitude as it crossed Magnetic Island. Battery "D", the nearest battery to the plane, opened fire at extreme range, the plane turning immediately to the west, and the battery got in only twenty rounds at extreme fuze range. The Aussie site west of "D" opened fire as did the one inland but their fire was extremely inaccurate. The plane was illuminated by the burst of shells from Battery "D" as well as the searchlights but no damage was evident. This plane was reported to have dropped a couple of bombs on a ridge west of Townsville without damage.


3rd Japanese Air Raid on Townsville 28/29 July 1942

The following information is from official records of the 208th AAA Group:-

208th CA (AA) Regiment Record of Combat Reports

July 29, 1942 Townsville Area

a.    Amount of ammunition expended - None

b.    Casualties - None

c.    Planes destroyed - None

d.    Alert Time:-     Yellow Alert -  July 28th at 23:52 hours
                             Red Alert -     July 29th at 00:01 hours
                             All Clear -      July 29th at 01:11 hours

e.    Substantiating evidence - None

Raid number three took place early in the morning of July 29th by one Model 97 Flying Boat which passed over the center of the city at 19,500 feet. As in the earlier raids, adequate warning was given by long range radio interception. The SCR 268 on Magnetic Island picked the plane up at about 70,000 yards and carried it in. Pick-up by the first light was made at 13,000 yards and from then on the plane was held in steady illumination for 9 minutes. The RAAF had set up a plan whereby two flights of fighters went in the air as the plane approached. As they were P-40's (I believe they were actually P-39's) their rate if climb was very slow. However, one flight was known to be at the altitude of the plane when it approached the city proper so "hold fire" was given to the antiaircraft. While the plane flew directly overhead between the gun batteries at an altitude of approximately 18,500 feet, fuze range came down to 11 seconds but permission to fire was still withheld, the controller being unable to hear the pilot's radio reports of position. After the plane had gotten three-quarters of the way across the city one of the fighters engaged. A burst of 37mm was observed in the tail of the plane causing a fire which apparently extinguished itself. No further MG fire by the tail gunner was observed so it was judged that he was killed. This plane made two passes at the bomber with no apparent fatal results.  As the plane disappeared to the west it was chased by the second plane of the first flight. The fighters claimed serious damage to it as a result of the decreasing altitude. However, the rate of loss of altitude was not greater than would be expected of a plane trying to get away, so that is inconclusive. This plane dropped six or seven bombs in the water south of Magnetic Island, apparently blinded in his aim by the searchlights, about six of which were on it at the time. One single bomb was thereafter dropped in the golf links area (actually in the Oonoonba Experimental Station) in the southeastern portion of the city without damage.

Two Japanese Emily flying boats (W37 & W47) left Rabaul before 5 pm on 28 July 1942. W37 returned to Rabaul after 1 hour with mechanical problem. W47 arrived over Townsville at 12:27 am at 20,000 ft. Four P-39 Airacobras took off 15 minutes before W47 arrived over Townsville. Two P-39’s made 6 simultaneous attacks on the Emily. A brief fire was sighted in flying boat. 10 searchlights coned the Japanese Flying Boat

Pilot Kingo Shoji managed to evade the searchlights and dropped eight 250kg bombs during attacks. Seven 250kgs bombs landed in Cleveland Bay between the breakwater and the southern end Magnetic Island. One bomb landed near the Oonoonba Experimental Station. Radar then tracked W47 for 130kms out to sea.


Showing location that 8 bombs fell during the 3rd Japanese raid on Townsville


Details of the three Japanese bombing raids on the Townsville area.


31st Battalion, No. 4 Signal Post

No 4 Signal Post of the 31st Australian Infantry Battalion was established on Magnetic Island during WWII. No 4 Signal Post on Magnetic Island was recalled on 12 April 1942 and was replaced by an American unit with detector apparatus.


"Z" Special Unit Commandos invade Townsville Harbour from Magnetic Island

In 1943 some ambitious officers of the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) wanted to strike the Japanese in their secure strongholds. 28 year old Captain Ivan Lyon of the Gordon Highlanders teamed up with 61 year old Australian Bill Reynolds and hatched a plan to attack the Japanese in Singapore harbour where they would launch collapsible canoes carrying commandos who would attach limpet mines to the Japanese shipping. The Plan was approved by General Wavell.

It was considered too difficult to sneak into Singapore Harbour from the west, hence SOE decided to send Lyon to Australia to develop a plan to come from the south east. 

Bill Reynolds owned a battered Japanese coastal vessel (21.3 m x 3.3 m) called the Kofuku Maru, in which he used to take scores of refugees out of Sumatra. It had previously been used as a fish carrier. The Krait was shipped to Australia as deck cargo from India. Reynolds later renamed the vessel the Krait

Lyon's idea to attack Singapore was eventually taken up and it was decided by Lieutenant Colonel G.S. Mott, Chief of the Reconnaissance Department, to test the effectiveness of the plan by raiding a tightly guarded allied port.  He mentioned the idea to Lieutenant Sam Carey, of the AIF, who chose Townsville for the attack.  

The attack on Townsville was actually part of the training for Operation Scorpion, a proposed attack on shipping in Rabaul Harbour, New Britain. The following is a transcript from "The Official History of the Operations and Administration of Special Operations Australia (SOA), ... Volume 2 - Operations":-



Prior to leaving New Guinea on 18 Dec 42, Capt. S.W. Carey had discussed with the C-in-C AMF a projected raid on Rabaul Harbour, New Britain, where it was proposed to sink fifteen vessels. At that time the Harbour was accommodating up to ninety large vessels. The C-in-C had approved the project and Capt Carey was given instructions to proceed with planning and preliminary training. Personnel for the project were gathered without delay.

The code name allotted to the project was Scorpion. Members of the party were:

Capt S.W. Carey (Leader)
Capt A.L. Gluth
Capt R.D.C. Cardew
Capt D.M. McNamara
Lt. R.C. Page
Lt. W. Ferguson
Lt. J. Grimson
Lt. J.A. Downie
WO II Barnes T.J.
Cpl Mackenzie G.K.
Cpl Ford R.B.

After consideration by the ISD planning staff, in collaboration with naval experts, it became obvious that the only suitable method of introducing the party was by submarine. This meant that transport from US sources would be required, and it was obvious that difficulties would be encountered, as US submarines were few in the SWPA at that time.

During Mar and Apr 43 the party trained intensely at Z Experimental Station, Cairns. During the training period a successful training attack was carried out on Townsville Harbour, 15 vessels being technically sunk.

Scorpion, however, was cancelled by GHQ in May 43 because of the lack of submarine transport.


The Krait was apparently hidden in the mangroves in Smith's Creek while it was based in Townsville. (Where is Smith's Creek?)


Details of this little known attack, part of "Operation Scorpion" is detailed in the book "Special and Secret" as follows:-

by John Laffin
Pages 124-126

While Lyon fretted to get at the Japanese, a group of disciplined daredevils had come together as Z Special Unit at Z Experimental Station, Cairns in Queensland. Major A.E.B. Trappes-Lomax, one of the unit's founders, was in command. Among his officers was Lieutenant Sam Carey of the AIF, another advocate of raiding the Japanese in the places where they felt most secure.

Carey was peddling the idea of an attack on enemy shipping in Rabaul Harbour as the beginning of a series of operations. As liaison officer between Z Special, which came under the control of the Commander-in-Chief of the New Guinea Force, Lieutenant General Sir Edmund Herring, and the Commander-in-Chief, Land Forces, General Sir Thomas Blamey, Carey was in a good position to put his scheme before the top decision-makers.

In January 1943 he proposed a plan, Operation "Scorpion, " to Blamey. It would involve one submarine and a small group of highly trained operatives. The sub would drop them 16 kilometres off Rabaul and they would paddle their canoes into the harbour. After attaching limpet mines to enemy ships, the Australians would hide on Vulcan Island, which Carey knew well, until the Japanese uproar had subsided. Then the Australians would rendezvous with the submarine. Blamey forecast that the party would be caught and shot but gave the project his backing in a letter giving Carey carte-blanche authority to do whatever he considered necessary during his planning.

By the end of March Carey had assembled, at Z Experimental Station, nine AIF men, Captains R.H.C. Cardew, A.L. Gluth, D. Macnamara, Lieutenants R. Page, J. Grimson and R. Downey, Company Sergeant Major G. Barnes, Sergeant H. Ford and Corporal G. Mackenzie. After nearly three months of rigorous training, Operation Scorpion was ready for action.

Meanwhile, Ivan Lyon had discussed with Colonel Mott his plan for an attack on Singapore. It was Mott's idea to test the effectiveness of well-trained commandos by mounting an attack, using sterile limpet mines, on some tightly guarded Allied port. He was careful to commit nothing to paper, but he mentioned his idea to Sam Carey.

Carey chose Townsville, a major garrison town with a busy harbour full of troop transports, merchantmen and naval escort vessels. The place was vulnerable to Japanese air and submarine attack, so security was tight. The narrow entrance and approaches were mined and a mine control-point was located at the extreme end of a long breakwater. If the observers stationed there saw Carey's canoes they would assume them to be enemy intruders and electrically detonate the mines.

In five canoes, each crewed by two men, the Scorpion raiders left their base on Magnetic Island and paddled slowly into the target harbour at midnight on June 20, 1943. Carey and Mackenzie attached limpets to two American Liberty ships and a Dutch ship while Cardew and Barnes fixed their mines to two destroyers and another ship. Gluth and Page went for a ship named Akaba but as it had a barge moored alongside they were forced to fix their mines above the waterline. Downey and Grimson limpeted two ships and were in the process of treating a third when a sailor, smoking as he leaned over the side, asked, mildly, "What are you doing there?"

''Just paddling around," Grimson said casually.

The sailor casually flicked his cigarette butt into the water. "Good night, mate," he said and disappeared.

Their limpeting complete, Carey's men met at Ross Creek, dismantled and hid their boats, had breakfast and headed for Townsville to sleep.

The first alarm came at 10 am, when the skipper of the Akaba reported "something strange" under the ship. Other ships notified local HQ of "suspicious objects," which were soon identified as limpet mines. Top-secret priority messages were flashed to Canberra and Melbourne, including one to Colonel Mott's office. Mott was diplomatically unavailable. MacArthur's Intelligence Chief, Colonel Alison Ind, knew where the blame lay: "Find Lieutenant Sam Carey," he said.

Awakened from sleep at 3pm, Carey was placed under arrest and escorted before senior naval officers. The AIF officer explained his mission but even when he produced General Blarney's "letter of authority" the Navy was not mollified. Carey offered to remove the mines but the angry captains of the ships affected would not contemplate the idea. They did not believe that these mines were inert and feared that Carey might accidentally set them off.

Finally run to ground, Colonel Mott was curiously vague about authorisation for the exercise but forthright and emphatic about the efficiency of Carey's team. The Navy released the army lieutenant, but only on AIB's assurance that he would be transferred to New Guinea. Thus, Carey was deprived of an opportunity to lead a similar raid in deadly earnest against the enemy.

GHQ commented that the Carey exercise had been irregular but the senior planning officers were by then convinced that a raid against genuine enemy targets was worth attempting. Ivan Lyon and his team had been in training for some time and made use of all the lessons learned from Carey's ''destruction of Townsville harbour."


hline.gif (2424 bytes)


Captain Carey, then Professor Carey, visited Townsville in September 1977 and recalled:-

"Had we been spotted, we would have been blown out of the water. But it was necessary to do what we did. We limpeted every ship in port, including those lying outside. Instead of high explosives the mines contained sand. The mining was discovered when one ship, rising higher in the water as unloading progressed, revealed a line across her stern linking limpets to port and starboard. All hell broke loose."

The day after the "attack", Captain Carey was invited to the board room of HMAS Arunta. It was one of two warships in port at the time. Arunta's Captain was amazed that Carey's team had "mined" every merchant ship in the harbour, right under their noses. He was even more amazed when Carey asked to borrow a boat so that he could delouse HMAS Arunta. While showing Arunta's Captain, the mines on his ship, he was even further embarrassed when Carey pointed out that the second destroyer, HMAS Parramatta was also "mined".

The "Z" Special Unit commandos were later based in Cairns at the "House on the Hill". One night they penetrated the defences of Cairns airfield.  One RAAF person who was on night assignment woke up in the duty hut the next morning and found a tag tied to his big toe, which said "You have been killed, take this tag to your Commanding Officer". Everything on the airfield including trucks, tractors and aircraft had a tag attached stating that it had been destroyed. No one saw them come or go. They must have come in from the sea and access the airfield via the mangrove swamps.

"Z" Special Unit commandos eventually carried out their raid on Singapore harbour during Operation Jaywick.  In September 1943, the Krait, made a long voyage to the Singapore area where a team of commandoes in canoes entered Singapore harbour and destroyed much Japanese shipping by attaching limpet mines to the the hulls of the Japanese ships. They returned to Australia in the Krait through enemy waters without any loss of life.


2/3 Dental Unit

In July 1943, 2/3 Dental Unit moved to Townsville to replace the 2/4 Dental Unit. Sections of the 2/3 Dental Unit rotated between various camps in the Townsville area including Magnetic Island.


Camp Staffs, 1 L of C Sub Area (North Queensland)

In May 1942 Headquarters, 1 L of C Sub Area at Townsville established Camp Staffs at Townsville and Sellheim. A Camp Staff was established on Magnetic Island in May 1943 where a rest camp was setup possibly for the men operating the facilities associated with the Magnetic Battery. In James G. Porters book "Discovering Magnetic Island" he refers to:-

"Not until the second World War did Florence Bay hum again to the sound of many voices - those not too unfortunate soldiers and sailors who were posted to the Fort Battery overlooking the enticing beach below. Two of the present scout huts were constructed at that time as a recreation base for the servicemen".

So it would appear that the initial rest camp established by the Australian Army Camp Staff was at Florence Bay. Thirty six acres of land in that area was handed over to the Boy Scout's Association by the Lands Department on about 4 September 1945 on a 30 year lease for a nominal rental of £1 per year.

Private James Reginald Dunning (NX155094), a member of Camp Staff Magnetic Island was court martialled on 22 August 1945.

By mid 1944 the Camp Staff at Magnetic Island were absorbed into the Arcadia Rest Camp at Arcadia and the Camp Staff at Townsville and Sellheim were reduced to Camp "Q" Staffs. By March 1945 Camp Staff in Townsville were withdrawn as transit troop numbers had reduced significantly and 13 Personnel Staging Camp at Oonoomba and 19 Personnel Staging Camp at Julago looked after the transit troops.


Picnic Bay Red Cross Convalescent Home for Service Women

The Red Cross Convalescent Home for Service Women was opened in the Magnetic Hotel (also known as the Picnic Bay Hotel) in Picnic Bay, Magnetic Island in January 1944.


Photo:- Sgt. Rosalind Eunice Noakes (92455)

Picnic Bay Red Cross Convalescent Home for Service Woman.
Note the walls and front entrance to the hotel are all blanked off.


The Picnic Bay Red Cross Convalescent Home for Service Women closed it doors  at the end of October 1945. Over 1,100 patients enjoyed an average stay of a fortnight at the seaside holiday destination. All the patients were very appreciative of their time at the Convalescent Home and its surroundings. They all spoke highly of the manner in which they had been catered for by Matron G. Robinson who had been in charge of the home for over 12 months. She was assisted by Nursing Sister Grattan.

With the exception of the cook and laundress, the duties of the home had been carried out by eight Red Cross Aids, who were supplied by all the Southern States, including Tasmania. Apart from the swimming in the Picnic Bay Baths, the entertainment in the evenings, had been a feature of the management.


Photo:- Sgt. Rosalind Eunice Noakes (92455)

Service women relaxing at the Picnic Bay swimming enclosure


Arcadia Rest Camp

Arcadia Rest Camp was established on 18 August 1942 at Arcadia on Magnetic Island for rest and recreation for military personnel serving in the Townsville area during WWII. It was run by the Young Women's Christian Association YWCA, Young Men's Christian Association YMCA and the Australian Comforts Fund ACF. It included a Women's Service Club. The Australian Red Cross may have also had a presence at the Arcadia Rest Camp.


Plan:- NAA file

Arcadia Rest Camp


Photo overlay from Maurice Hayler

Photo overlay of the WWII Plan showing former location of the Arcadia Rest Camp


The Arcadia Rest Camp was able to accommodate 105 males and 51 females. The huts in the Rest Camp were named after places of interest in the Middle East.

Corporal Marjorie Logan (AWAS) was the editor of the "Magnetic Mail", the Australian Army newsletter published each week at the Arcadia Rest Camp. The newsletter was started in about August 1944 about one month after Cpl. Logan's arrival on the island. Cpl. Logan was the N.C.O. is charge of the eight AWAS on the camp staff at that time. The "Magnetic Mail" comprised two typed sheets of foolscap containing social and sporting news, a lost and found column, gossip and usually a serious article covering topical questions and post war issues. Cpl Logan who was extremely interested in rehabilitation, hoped that her newsletter would lead to discussion groups forming at the rest camp. The newsletter proved to be very popular and staff members used to post copies home to their relatives.

A rest camp was established by the Australian Army Camp Staff at Florence Bay for the soldiers and sailors working at the Magnetic Battery area. By mid 1944 the Camp Staff at Florence Bay were absorbed into the Arcadia Rest Camp.


Dungong Chronicle: Dungong and Gloucester Advertiser (NSW), 2 June 1944


Every 48 hours, 100 Service men and women on leave, cross from Townsville to the Australian Comforts Fund's rest camp at Arcadia. Magnetic Island, 4 miles off the Australian coast. Never is there an empty bed. They all have a complaint - only one. "Two days is too short."


The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 19 September 1944

Soldiers Like his Camp Life

MELBOURNE, Monday. - Magnetic Island, off Townsville, formerly a winter tourist resort, is now a luxury rest camp for men and women of the Services.

It has deck chairs, good beds, morning and afternoon teas, and supper.

A.W.A.S. wait on tables, and officers eat with the men and wash their own dishes.

Reveille is not until 9 or 10 a.m. if the troops do not mind missing their 8 a.m. breakfast.

Army and Air Force girls on teh beach, in bright play-suits, give Magnetic Island a holiday atmosphere.

It has been conducted as a rest camp for two years by the Y.M.C.A. and Australian Comforts Fund.

More than 24,000 men and 6,000 women of the Services have stayed there.

The weekly average is 300.


Townsville Daily Bulletin, 20 September 1944


'The Army as I Like It' is how most soldiers describe a rest camp situated on Magnetic Island off Townsville.

It is no wonder either as this unique camp— the only one of its kind in Australia— provides service men and women with a holiday worth many pounds at the ordinary resort.

Anti-aircraft soldiers — Gunners G. Coman, R. Watson and R. Yardy— are typical visitors to the camp. Their two days there every five or six weeks is the highlight of their static and hum drum service life on an ack-ack station.

They can travel to the island in one of the three drafts weekly which are arranged by Army Amenities and conveyed across the seven miles of water by a special Army Water Transport launch.

An hour's run brings them to the camp's Jetty where scores of people are waiting to meet the launch. The gaily coloured playsuits worn by most of the girls are a pleasant introduction and give a peace-time touch to the scene.

Let us follow the three gunners— 'Bluey' Coman, Ralph Watson and
Dick Yardy as they walk to the camp along the narrow, bumpy track, barely wide enough to accommodate a van or car, which winds round a steep, boulder-covered cliff.

Their first glimpse of the rest camp is of a long, low structure with a thatched roof, nestling among a group of tall feathery-topped palms, which shade numerous rotundas containing large comfortable deck chairs, cool and popular resting places.

On arrival, blankets, a sheet, pillow case and mosquito net are issued, and the gunners are allotted beds in one of the dozen or so sleeping cottages, which consist of an inside room, front and back verandahs, and bathroom. Five or six sleep in each hut –which are fronted by a wide gravel pathway paradoxically named Halfaya Pass. The huts themselves bear names familiar to every Middle East veteran. Tobruk, Bardla, Crete, Canea, Tel Aviv. 'Bluey', Ralph and Dick get three of the beds in 'Bardia,' a cottage which proudly claims Vice-Regal patronage. A Governor-General and several State Governors have stayed in the cottage. Another group of huts are called Lae, Salamaua, Buna, and other names famous in the earlier New Guinea fighting.

The huts have proper beds — not stretchers — cupboards and dressing tables, and the usual furnishings found In a good boarding house.

Its two years ago— 18th. August, 1942, to be exact— since the Y.M.C.A.
and A.C.F. commenced a long term lease of this former guest house well known to holiday-makers from all parts of Australia. In that time, 24,000 men and 6000 women of all services have stayed at the camp. An average of 300 personnel are accommodated every week.

Working on a quota based on units strength, Army units manage to give their personnel two days at the island camp every fire or six weeks. Service women, particularly A.W.A.S., are more fortunate, having two days there every fortnight or three weeks. Vast majority of visitors are Army personnel with fair numbers of R.A.A.F. and W.A.A.A.F. and a sprinkling of Navy men.

Almost as soon as they have made their beds and changed Into shorts or bathers, the ringing of an old ship's bell, brings our three soldiers, with 100 or more other men and women to some tables placed in the shade of a huge mango tree. There they have morning tea. This cup of tea and hot buttered scones or biscuits, provided morning, afternoon and at supper time. 'Bluey,' Ralph and Dick feel that this place is home all over again. Meals are made from normal rations brought from the mainland every day by a special Army launch. Supplemented by a special A.C.F. Issue of rations, expertly cooked and served on china, army fare gains a new attractiveness. Of course, the A.W.A.S. waiting on tables are an important factor in this too. Men and women, officers and other ranks all eat In the same dining room. Everyone washes their own dishes, and naturally with so many handling them, there are many breakages, replaced by the Y.M.C.A. and A.C.F. Time and again the person responsible has wanted to pay for a replacement but this has always been refused.

So long as they do not mind missing breakfast which is served punctually at 8 a.m., 'Bluey,' Ralph and Dick are surprised to find that they can sleep in till 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Only duty 'required of them is that they made their beds and sweep their huts every morning. After that their time is their own.

In this area swimming is in full swing while southern States and even Brisbane are still shivering. A short walk brings them to a wide cove with a shark proof net suspended between two rocky headlands. A fringe of palm trees provide welcome shade on the sand, but many scorn this in an endeavour to acquire a handsome tan. The hot white sand contrasts vividly with the cool sea lapping at its edge.

The Y.M.C.A. and A.C.P. supply swim suits and sports gear of all types to those who wish to use it. Tennis is so popular that a booking system has been introduced; each group of four players has the court for an hour.

True, there are the four familiar Army boilers seen in every camp; A.C.F. and Y.M.CA. signs and posters, are a war time reminder, and the long troughs filled at meal times with boiling water for washing the dishes would never be seen in the ordinary boarding house, but the holiday spirit prevails and the atmosphere of peace is not far away. This is largely due to the efforts of the Y.M.C.A. and A.C.F. who have preserved the boarding house in its original form. No new buildings have been added. Crockery, cutlery and linen are still the same, and the same gong which announced dinner to the holidaymakers of the years before September 1939 summons Australian service men and women to their meals.

'There's no catch in this place,' said Gnr. Ralph Watson, speaking also for his two companions, Gnrs. 'Bluey' Coman and Dick Yardy. 'You can do just what you like. And that's why its so popular, with everyone.'

Former Sydney rice mill worker Gnr. Watson, of Crow's Nest, has been in the Army almost three years. In that time he has been stationed at various ack-ack stations on the eastern coast of Australia. His left arm was still in plaster following a fracture he received playing football several weeks ago. A keen footballer, Ralph played Rugby Union regularly in peace time. A brother was killed in action two years ago at Gona in New Guinea, another brother is serving with the R.A.A.F.

These three gunners are from an anti-aircraft station which went into action against Jap bombing aircraft more than two years ago.

Red haired, pleasant faced, Garby Coman, called 'Bluey' by everyone comes from Coominya, Southern Queensland. In the days when the tide of war was creeping close to Australian shores, he was one of the party which took heavy anti-aircraft guns across the water to this Island. 'Bluey' helped 'mount those guns with a short distance of the rest camp. Another Rugby enthusiast, he plays regularly with the unit team. A farmer before enlisting three years ago, 'Bluey' is still single and intends returning to the land. Being an expert axeman, he has taken. part in many woodchopping competitions in the Coominya district.

Vastly different from his two comrades, tall, quiet and studious Dick Yardy of Port Macqnarle. N.S.W. was a school teacher in civil life. Married, Gnr. Yardy has had two years in the Army. He has a sister serving in the A.A.M.W.S.


Photo:- Townsville City Libraries

Arcadia Rest Camp on Magnetic Island


Photo:- AWM

The Recreation Hall at the Arcadia Rest Camp on 23 June 1944


Photo:- AWM

Captain O. Brown, Commanding Officer of the Arcadia Rest Camp painting plant drums


Photo:- State Library of Victoria

Soldiers arriving at the Australian Comforts Fund Arcadia Rest Home on Magnetic Island


Photo:- State Library of Victoria

YMCA Welfare Officer, Mr. S. J. Reed welcoming new arrivals.


Photo:- State Library of Victoria

The men being issued with blankets and sheets at the
 reception hut called "Halfaya Pass" on their arrival.


Photo:- AWM

Service personnel outside the reception hut called "Halfaya Pass"


Photo:- AWM

Service personnel on the verandah of "Bardia". Mr. S.J. Reed,
the Supervisor of the Rest Camp can be seen at the far left.


Photo:- AWM

Convalescing patients relaxing on the beach at the Arcadia Rest Camp


Photo:- NAA

Captain Naja Alice Janssen V345007 (AWAS Commander),
Mrs Hewitt, Dame Annabelle Jane Mary Rankin DBE, Mrs Reed
(YWCA Supervisor and probably wife of YMCA Welfare Officer,
Mr. S. J. Reed), at Arcadia Rest Camp in November 1944


Dame Annabelle Rankin was Queensland assistant-commissioner of the Young Women’s Christian Association, which was in charge of organising the YWCA’s welfare efforts for servicewomen. She would travel to military bases in North Queensland and northern New South Wales, and she also accompanied Eleanor Roosevelt, and Lady Gowrie, wife of the Australian Governor General, during their visits to the troops in Australia.


Photo:- AWM

WAAAF personnel relaxing on the beach during their
stay at the Arcadia Rest Camp on 23 June 1944


Photo:- AWM

Service Personnel having fun on a see saw at the Arcadia Rest Camp on 23 June 1944


29 Air Stores Park Recreation Camp RAAF

29 Air Stores Park RAAF established a Recreation Camp on Magnetic Island. The Townsville City Council gave permission for them to erect six tents at Arcadia on Alma Beach.


RAN Station 21, Magnetic Island Port War Signalling Station (PWSS)

The Royal Australian Navy establishment co-located with Magnetic Battery was known as RAN Station 21, the Port War Signal Station (P.W.S.S.) Magnetic Island. Amongst other duties, they ran an Examination Service for the Port of Townsville.

Naval Telegraphist Wesley John Le Cornu (PA3607) from Underdale in South Australia spent time at RAN Station 21 on Magnetic Island. He also served at the RAN Wireless Station, at 121 Upper Blackwood Street on Stanton Hill in Townsville. I was contacted by the late John Le Cornu on 6 April 2009 as follows:-

"The Navy Station on Magnetic Island was on a hill just north of the army artillery base and just above Horseshoe Bay. We monitored and identified passing ships and those entering port waters. There was a lot of traffic in those days."

Jeff Doonan, who is Wesley John Le Cornu's son-in-law, told me on 12 June 2020:-

"My father-in-law (now dead) was 'John' Le Cornu a navy radio expert who helped set up the Signals Station on Magnetic Island. He said that there were permanent staff including telegraphists working on Magnetic Island. The hill where the Signals Station was is referred to as LeCornu Hill in the museum on Magnetic Island."

After the war "John" Le Cornu set up ham radios at his home in St Ives using the type of extensive aerial systems that he had developed during the war. He could talk to anyone anywhere in the world. Magnetic Island had such an impact on John that he honeymooned there after the war. In June 2020, Jeff Doonan told me that 40 years previously while at John's home in St Ives, he was helping John to cast fishing line up into trees (they lived on the edge of Karingai Chase National Park) and then he used the fishing line to carefully pull aerial wire into the tree canopies. It was a random process with John then spending weeks repeatedly cutting one inch off the wire length and then testing the radio signal strength. He explained that this technique was used to get great results on Magnetic Island during the war.


Crash of a Beaufort Bomber at Cockle Bay, Magnetic Island on 22 October 1942


beaufort.jpg (13398 bytes)
Bristol Beaufort


Six aircraft from 100 Squadron RAAF led by Flight Lieutenant Bonython were ordered to carry out a mock torpedo attack on shipping in Townsville Harbour at approximately 1100 hours local time on 22 October 1942. After this they were to make a bombing attack on the rusted hulk of the "City of Adelaide" in Cockle Bay, Magnetic Island. This attack was to be carried out by flights in echelon right.

Flight Lieutenant Bonython briefed the crew an hour before the take-off with the exception of Flying Officer Avery. F/Lt Bonython contacted Avery before taking off from Garbutt Airfield and briefed him individually. Lieutenant Glueck from the Mobile Torpedo Section, US Navy flew as a passenger with Flying Officer Avery to gain first hand experience of the actual method of torpedo attack as used by the RAAF.

At approximately 1110 hours local time, the attack was made on ships in Townsville Harbour. Fighter Interception that had been arranged with Fighter Sector Headquarters was encountered at this time and continued until after the accident.

After this mock torpedo attack, flights in Vee formation climbed to 1,000 feet with F/Lt Bonython's flight being 200 feet higher than Flying Officer Mercer's flight which was directly behind and below Red flight (F/Lt Bonython). This was to practice fire control, control being from Red flight leader's aircraft.

At approximately 1120 hours the order was given by F/Lt Bonython to all aircraft over the R/T "Increase power to 35 inches and prepare to attack ship with bombs". Blue flight dropped back and formed echelon right. Sergeant Forrest flying in No. 3 position in Red Flight also went into echelon right in his flight. Flying Officer Avery in Beaufort A9-26 was already in echelon right and did not have to change his position.

About 3 to 4 minutes later, F/Lt Bonython, who had increased his power to 40 inches to draw away from the other aircraft, dived on the target, released his bombs, climbed away turning left as he did so to observe results. Nothing was observed except a considerable amount of white smoke which was believed to be bomb smoke.


Photo:- Pat Spence

The rusting hulk of the "City of Adelaide" in Cockle Bay in 1977


Land observers saw Flying Officer Avery in Beaufort A9-26 diving to attack beneath the leading aircraft. Shortly before reaching the target he started a normal controlled turn to starboard and according to the land observers he appeared to strike the top of the rear mast with the belly. Flying Officer Billing thought it was the port engine. The aircraft then crashed into shallow water finishing some 700 to 800 yards past the target.

All four occupants were killed.

Flying Officer G.D.R. Avery - RAAF - Pilot (Grave No. AC1)
Flying Officer D.C. Bell - RAAF (Grave No. AC2)
Flying Officer L.J. Schwartz - RAAF (Grave No. AC3)
Lieutenant (JG) George Frank Glueck (10246 or 97599), US Navy

F/Lt Bonython inspected the wreckage at about 1400 hours the same day. He found amongst the debris the remains of the two practice bombs which evidently had not been released.

Flying Officer Avery may have forgotten to open the bomb doors, or, just before the point of release he may have encountered slip stream from the first aircraft, which caused him to let go the bomb release in his efforts to control the aircraft. This however does not fit in with land observers' stories that the aircraft was at all times steady in flight, and there was no noticeable waving of wings as would normally be expected if slip-stream was encountered at high speed.

The wreckage of the aircraft was immediately handed over to the Repair Salvage Unit (RSU) for salvage.

The three RAAF personnel were buried at the Townsville War Cemetery at 1600 hours local time on Friday 23 October 1942.

Lieutenant (JG) George Frank Glueck was initially buried in the US Military Cemetery Townsville and then exhumed and reburied at Ipswich US Cemetery on 5 August 1945. His body was exhumed again and taken by ship back to the USA after the war.


hline.gif (2424 bytes)


By Arch and Lorraine Fraley

Page 139
In 1943 Steve Coleman was in Sydney doing an engineering course, when he met a man named Avery who was also doing the same course.  When Mr. Avery found out that Steve came from Magnetic Island, he asked him if he knew of the aircraft that had hit the mast of the "City of Adelaide" in Cockle Bay during bombing practice.   "Yes" Steve said, "at that time she still had the lower steel masts standing erect, and apparently one of the RAAF aircraft hit, crippling the mast and then went into the water or the hill, killing the pilot" Mr. Avery then told Steve that it was his brother who was killed.

Charlie Olsen, who grew up in Cockle Bay, has this to say of his memories of the tragic incident.  "I was there a couple of days after it crashed, and those Beauforts were made of wood, a lot of wood, and all along the high tide mark were these little pieces of wood.  It had splintered up to nothing. I was amazed, there were no big pieces, all these little bits."

"The masts were hollow steel, and when it hit, the plane must have gone down into the ground, I think. Dad got quite a bit of the ammunition and a little piece of the armour proof steel, and a lot of the little aluminium screws and things like that which were part of the fuselage. The RAAF took away anything that was good. There used to be part of a motor sitting out there in the mangroves, not a big part, but we used to be able to see it."

Steve Melvin recovered a seat from the ill-fated plane from the sea, which seems to establish the fact that it went down into the sea, and not the hills.

NOTE:  Arch Fraley was a photographer with the 5th Air Force during World War 2.


hline.gif (2424 bytes)


In Memory of


Flying Officer
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Thursday, 22nd October 1942. Age 24

Son of Charles Nicholas Canning Avery and Mary Elizabeth Avery;
husband of Kathleen Hewetson Avery, of Warwick. B.A. (Queensland).

TOWNSVILLE WAR CEMETERY, Queensland, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number:  A.C.1.


hline.gif (2424 bytes)


In Memory of


Flying Officer
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Thursday, 22nd October 1942. Age 34

Son of William and Minnie Morton Bell; husband of Vera Myrtle Bell, of Manly

TOWNSVILLE WAR CEMETERY, Queensland, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number:  A.C.2.


hline.gif (2424 bytes)


In Memory of


Flying Officer
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on 22 October 1942. Age 33

Son of John Frederick and Louise Marie Adelgarde Schwartz; husband of Vinnie Schwartz, of Cunnamulla.

TOWNSVILLE WAR CEMETERY, Queensland, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number:  A.C.3.



Crash of a P-40 Warhawk 3 miles north of Magnetic Island on 11 May 1943

2nd Lt Theodore S. Zendarski (ASN 0794379) flying P-40E-1 Warhawk # 41-35954 "Texas Longhorn" was participating in an Aerial Gunnery mission flight with two other P-40E aircraft north of Magnetic Island off Townsville in north Queensland on 11 May 1943.

2nd Lt Zendarski completed the target shooting exercise with an Air Target Towing aircraft and lost control when he broke away from a flight of three P-40Es to start a series of slow rolls. Zendarski stalled his aircraft at 6500 ft, which then entered into an inverted spin which was not corrected in time. The aircraft crashed and cartwheeled into the sea about 3 miles north of Magnetic Island at 1210 hours on 11 May 1943 killing the pilot. His body was never recovered.


Photo:- Gordon Birkett Collection

Crew member and artist


Photo:- Gordon Birkett Collection

"Texas Longhorn" in August 1942


The aircraft and Pilot were assigned to the 5th Fighter Command Replacement Centre (5FCRC), Headquarters V Fighter Command, 5th AAF in Townsville.

2nd Lt Zendarski had 272 Hours 55 minutes flying hours at the time of this tragic accident. The two other Pilots of the accompanying P-40E-1s were 2nd Lts Robert Croft and Harry McCullough.

History of Aircraft from Gordon Birkett:- P-40E-1 Warhawk #41-35954 CW1061 Cn19787 BPC RAF No ET600 SUMAC/LEFT Ex-RAAF A29-125#1 9thFS Grp No#86 9thPS/8thFS-49thPG SS New Orleans 4/03/1942 arrived 4/04/1942 Issued 16/05/1943 Off 31/10/1944 #86 "Texas Longhorn"/ Forward Flight Leader Stripe. Shipped New Orleans 2 March 1942 to Australia for RAAF as originally A29-125 #1, re-issued USAAF on 4 June 1942. Flown in at Batchelor on 10 May 1942 with other 9th Fighter Squadron reinforcements #75, #74 and #99. In December 1942, the aircraft was transferred to 5th Fighter Command Replacement Centre (5FCRC) in Townsville (Z319 AP710) from 9th Fighter Squadron, 49 Fighter Group. Engine V1710-39 FY 42-34281 at time of flight. Aircraft had TTHrs 306 at time of accident

Note:- Another source shows this accident happening on 12 May 1943. 2nd Lt Zendarski is listed on the American Battle Monuments Commission web page and the date is shown at 11 May 1943.


Crash of a CW-22B Curtiss Falcon at Geoffrey Bay on 5 December 1943


Photo:- Pete Johnston Photo Collection

 A CW-22B Curtiss Falcon


On 15 June 2012 Dr. Andy Lewis and Dr Richard Braley were determining GPS positions for a snorkel trail at Geoffrey Bay on Magnetic Island near the wreck of the Moltke when they located a coral encrusted aircraft engine with a single intact propeller still attached. After some enquiries with the Maritime Museum Townsville and Squadron Leader Greg Williams of the RAAF, an article appeared in the Townsville Bulletin on 31 July 2012. I was contacted by a number of people later that day to advise me of the article in the Townsville Bulletin.


Photo:- Dr Andy Lewis

The engine and propeller discovered off Geoffrey Bay, Magnetic Island


One of those who contacted me was Peter Johnston who pointed me to the following details from the Aviation Archaeological Investigation & Research December 1943 web site.

Date Aircraft Type Serial Number Sqdn Group Home Base AF Action D Pilot Country
431205  CW-22B 3771 Hq  45SrG   5 DTCEF  5 Sansing, Richard A SWP

DTCEF = Ditched due to engine failure
45SrG = 45th Service Group
SWP = Southwest Pacific

Armed with this information, I searched my records and found that in May 1944, a Captain R. A. Sansing was the Operation Officer based in Igloo 104 in Base Operations (Garbutt), 45th Service Group at the American Townsville Air Depot. (Depot #2) which was located near the base of Mount Louisa. I also found that Captain Richard A. Sansing was involved in the Investigation Team investigating the crash landing of a B-25 Mitchell #41-12920 at Almaden about 100 kms west of Atherton on 28 March 1944.

CW-22B Curtiss Falcon, Serial No 3771 of the 45th Service Group ditched into the sea off Geoffrey Bay, Magnetic Island on 5 December 1943 after its engine failed. Captain Richard Alan Sansing and his passenger were rescued from the water by the fishing boat "Manlen". RAAF Crash Boat (Marine Launch) 08-12 from 41 Squadron RAAF travelled from Townsville and picked up Captain Richard Alan Sansing and his passenger from the "Manlen".


RAAF Crash Boat 08-12 moored in Ross Creek, Townsville


The propeller of the Curtiss Falcon appears to have minimal damage indicating that it was not under power at the time. With the cowl still appearing to be fairly intact, this would suggest a controlled slow entry into the water. If this is the correct incident, it is obvious that Captain Richard A. Sansing survived the crash as indicated by the information above. The propeller and cowling appear to be consistent with that of a CW-22B Curtiss Falcon.

Richard Alan Sansing remained in the United States Air Force after WWII serving in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War and reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He died on 8 September 1970 and is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California, USA, Plot OS-A, 292-B.

CW-22B Curtiss Falcon, Serial No 3771 was involved in an earlier wheels up belly landing on a beach in the Townsville area after an undetermined loss of power at 1540 hours on 29 January 1943 when it was piloted by 1st Lieutenant Donald E. Houseal (0-403901) of the 4th Repair Squadron, 4th Air Depot Group, Air Service Command based at at the American Townsville Air Depot. (Depot #2) located near the base of Mount Louisa. His passenger at the time was 2nd Lt. Norman J. Gebert, Depot Aircraft Inspector (later Assistant Engineer of the 83rd Repair Squadron). The aircraft suffered slight damage to its landing fairing and a bent propeller.

Thirty five CW-22B Curtiss Falcons had been delivered to the Netherlands East Indies Air Force (NEIAF) before the outbreak of hostilities. Another twenty one were en-route to the NEIAF with seven being on board the Sloterdijk and fourteen on board the Tjibesar. The Sloterdijk sailed into Tjilatjap but did not unload its seven aircraft and left for Fremantle on 2 March 1942. The Tjibesar with the fourteen Curtiss Falcons on board was diverted to Australia whilst en-route. On arrival in Australia only 12 CW-22s were handed over to the USAAF. CW-22B Curtiss Falcon, Serial No 3771 was believed to be one of the fourteen CW-22B's landed in Australia in March 1942 on board Tjibesar.

RAAF Crash Boat 08-12 has an amazing record during WWII. It was delivered to Lucinda on 22 November 1942 on board the SS Rona. Crash Boat 08-12 was a two screw vessel with two Chrysler Royal engines, each developing 148 horse power at 3,000 revs per minute. It was 37 feet 6 inches long with a beam of 10 feet and draught of 2 feet 9 inches.

Crash Boat 08-12 and its men saved over 500 lives during WWII. It attended 59 aircraft crashes in its operational area between Hinchinbrook Island and Bowen. It also made numerous trips to islands around Townsville mainly Magnetic Island and Palm Islands to convey people suffering from illness to the mainland. It also figured in towing and salvage work. It was finally handed over to the RAN for disposal on 29 August 1946 for disposal. 28 bodies were recovered by 08-12 from a C-47 Dakota aircraft crash in Cleveland Bay on 7 August 1943. It also rescued 6 persons and recovered 13 bodies from a Catalina crash in Cleveland Bay on 7 September 1943. In another incident 08-12 picked up 18 personnel after a C-47 Dakota #42-24396 of 56th Troop Carrier Squadron, 375th Troop Carrier Group (56TCS, 375TCG), piloted by Charles S. Kelley, which crashed into Young Bay, Magnetic Island on 8 April 1944 after running out of fuel. Crash Boat 08-12 also attended the crash of a Lockheed Hudson off Lucinda Point.

Crash Boat 08-12 made an interesting discovery on 2 October 1945 when it found a crashed Lockheed Hudson which may have crashed around the time of the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942. Does anyone know which aircraft this was?

Crash Boat 08-12 was sold in 1946 to Mr H. E. Morley of Macknade for use as a fishing boat. Does anyone know if it still exists?


Forced Landing of a Douglas C-47A-5-DL at Young Bay on 8 April 1944

Douglas C-47A-50-DL, #42-24396, of 56th Troop Carrier Squadron, 375th Troop Carrier Group, piloted by Charles S. Kelley ditched in 3 to 4 feet of water 100 yards from the shore in Young Bay, Magnetic Island off Townsville on 8 April 1944 after running low on fuel. RAAF Crash Boat 08-12 of 41 Squadron RAAF picked up 18 personnel from the water.


Douglas C-47A-50-DL, #42-24396 in Young Bay, Magnetic Island


Douglas C-47A-50-DL, #42-24396 being floated back to Townsville


Douglas C-47A-50-DL, #42-24396 being floated back to Townsville


RAAF Crash Boat 08-12 has an amazing record during WWII. It was delivered to Lucinda on 22 November 1942 on board the SS Rona. Crash Boat 08-12 was a two screw vessel with two Chrysler Royal engines, each developing 148 horse power at 3,000 revs per minute. It was 37 feet 6 inches long with a beam of 10 feet and draught of 2 feet 9 inches.

Crash Boat 08-12 and its men saved over 500 lives during WWII. It attended 59 aircraft crashes in its operational area between Hinchinbrook Island and Bowen. It also made numerous trips to islands around Townsville mainly Magnetic Island and Palm Islands to convey people suffering from illness to the mainland. It also figured in towing and salvage work.

28 bodies were recovered by Crash Boat 08-12 from a C-47 Dakota aircraft crash in Cleveland Bay on 7 August 1943. It also rescued 6 persons and recovered 13 bodies from a Catalina crash in Cleveland Bay on 7 September 1943. Crash Boat 08-12 also attended the crash of a Lockheed Hudson off Lucinda Point.


RAAF Crash Boat 08-12 moored in Ross Creek, Townsville


RAAF Crash Boat (Marine Launch) 08-12 from 41 Squadron RAAF travelled from Townsville and picked up Captain Richard Alan Sansing and his passenger from the "Manlen". They had been rescued by the "Manlen" after ditching their CW-22B Curtiss Falcon, Serial No. 3771, into the sea of Geoffrey Bay on Magnetic Island on 5 December 1943.

Crash Boat 08-12 made an interesting discovery on 2 October 1945 when it found a crashed Lockheed Hudson which may have crashed around the time of the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942. Does anyone know which aircraft this was?

It was finally handed over to the RAN for disposal on 29 August 1946 for disposal. Crash Boat 08-12 was sold in 1946 to Mr H. E. Morley of Macknade for use as a fishing boat. Does anyone know if it still exists?


Crash of an A-20 Havoc into sea half a mile off Magnetic Island on 29 May 1944

On 29 May 1944, A.I.S. (?) advised No 3 Fighter Sector Headquarters in Townsville that A-20 Boston/Havoc #307 was one hour overdue. Enquiries were instituted and it was ascertained that Castle Hill was the only Volunteer Air Observer Corps post to see the aircraft depart. Later on Base Operations advised that one member of the crew had been picked up by a fisherman and taken to the US Navy Hospital at Rowes Bay. The position of the crash was given as 5 miles off Lucinda Point. The RAAF Crash Boat 08-12 from 40 Squadron RAAF was ordered out to search the vicinity for the other crew members. The aircraft was later located half a mile off Magnetic Island in 18 feet of water.

NOTE:- The above details of the crash are from the Operations Record Book of 3 Fighter Sector Headquarters based in Townsville. Is there a Lucinda Point on Magnetic Island? The Lucinda Point that I know is near the town of Lucinda which is about 90 kms north west of Townsville. So the report is a bit confusing. I've assumed this was a USAAF A-20 Havoc rather than an RAAF A-20 Boston. Can anyone confirm?


Wreckage of a P-38 Lightning found off Arcadia in about November 1944

In about November 1944, the wreckage of a USAAF P-38 Lightning was found in the sea, 2 miles off Arcadia Beach, on Magnetic Island.


Crash of a Mustang in sea between Bay Rock and West Point on 9 August 1945


mustang.jpg (11857 bytes)


Pilot Officer F.R. "Speed" Opray of 86 Squadron RAAF (based at Bohle River airstrip) was practicing a combat practice climb to 35,000 feet in his Mustang, A68-501 on 9 August 1945, when he went out of control at 8,000 feet.  His aircraft crashed into the sea between Bay Rock and West Point on Magnetic Island just off Townsville. The remains of his Mustang was found by four searching aircraft.  Pilot Officer Opray, however, was never found and was posted missing, believed killed.

During early testing and subsequent operational history of the P-51 Mustang there were many unexplained accidents with the aircraft failing to pull out of high speed dives and similar manoeuvres. The sound barrier was not a well known or studied phenomen at the stage and the sonic boom associated with these accidents was often reported as an explosion in the aircraft. Some of the American P-51 test pilots had reported seeing ripples running across the aluminium skin of the mustang associated with buffeting. They took photographs of this rippling effect.

86 Squadron pilots had been briefed not to roll the aircraft out into a high angle dive above 25,000 feet, as there was a very high chance that the aircraft would not come out of such a manoeuvre. The control measures to take should one unknowingly get themselves in this situation was to "cut the power, centralise the controls, be gentle with them and pray".

During a routine training exercise, "Speed" Opray took A68-501 on a battle climb to 35,000 feet over Magnetic Island and probably rolled it into a vertical dive and did not survive. The Aircraft fell in pieces into the sea between Magnetic Island and the mainland. Quite a few people witnessed his fatal flight. Very little wreckage of the aircraft was found.

At the Court of Enquiry, Private W. Yates, of the 19th Australian Personnel Staging Camp stated that he saw the Mustang "flying apparently normally at a considerable height".  Later he "heard an explosion and on looking up again noticed the aircraft diving steeply when one wing tore away and the aircraft started to spin towards the sea .... pieces of wreckage continued falling into the sea for some time after the main part of the wreckage had crashed".

Sergeant W.G. Ford, of the Townsville Coast Artillery stated that the Mustang dived to approximately 8,000 feet, straightened out shortly after an explosion occurred and the plane immediately went into another dive.

W/O2 R. Ford of the 19th Australian Personnel Staging Camp "heard a slight explosion or popping sound followed by the noise of an aircraft engine racing. On looking up I noticed an aircraft minus its tail, diving steeply when one wing appeared to tear away and the aircraft started spinning. At this stage the engine could not be heard and it would appear that it had been throttled back."

The Court of Enquiry did not come up with a specific finding as to the cause of the crash. However based on their report and the eye witness accounts it would appear that Opray placed his Mustang to a high speed dive from about 35,000 feet, which led to him breaking the sound barrier. At this point he would appear to have lost control and the aircraft broke up due to severe buffeting. Alternatively when he got to a lower altitude where the speed of sound is higher, he may have been too harsh on his elevators in an effort to recover. Another possible theory was that he may have previously readjusted his trim setting and through his manoeuvres he induced acceleration forces which resulted in a re-entry into compressibility. The tail and wing would have broken off due to severe buffeting and strain during the high speed dive.

Flight Lieutenant D.G. Southwell of 86 Squadron had a near miss in a Mustang eight days earlier on 1 August 1945. He took off in Mustang A68-567 and at 38,000 feet he put his Mustang into a right-hand steep turn to test the "compressibility thing" they had heard about. His steep dive was enough to provide sufficient stress to break into the compressed block of air rendering his aircraft totally out of control. His stick was sloppy and the aircraft did not respond when he moved it. This was due to the fact that there was no air rushing over the rudder, ailerons and elevators due to the "compressibility thing". His aircraft went into a flat spiral dive. When it got to 6,000 feet he decided it was time to bail out. He opened the canopy and was bending down to disengage his oxygen supply, when his arm bumped the control stick and he found the aircraft actually responded. He immediately resumed his seat and regained control of the aircraft and landed safely.

Once he had calmed down, he called a pilot's meeting and warned them of the dangers of this manoeuvre and recommended they do not try to copy what he had done. Unfortunately for Opray, it would appear that he decided to experiment.


In Memory of


Pilot Officer
Royal Australian Air Force
who died on
Thursday, 9th August 1945. Age 20.

Son of John Stuart Opray and Emily Alice Opray, of Caulfield Victoria.

Memorial:  SYDNEY MEMORIAL, New South Wales, Australia
Grave Reference/Panel Number:   Panel 5.


Photos of F/O Frank Opray together with extracts from his log
 book including the last page from his nephew Frank Opray.





City of Adelaide at Cockle Bay

One one occasion during WWII two keen local fisherman climbed onto the hulk of the City of Adelaide to do some fishing unaware that she was used for bombing practice. It was not long before they became aware of its new role and evacuated the ship in record time as aircraft started to bomb the hulk.


Photo:- via Pat Spence

The hulk of the "City of Adelaide" in Cockle Bay in the 1920's


"Paluma" did charters to Magnetic Island - support vessel for Coastwatchers

Paluma was built by Matt Taylor. After the war, it was used by his son Les Taylor as a commercial operation.


Image number: 115963 State Library of Queensland

Paluma being fitted out, Townsville, 1942. Castle Hill can be seen in the background.


"Paluma" complete with a deck gun
at Nissan Island in 1944.


The launch "Paluma", 45 tons gross, was 66 ft long, with a 14 foot beam, draught of 5 ft 6 ins, and with a top speed of 11 knots. It was fitted with two 0.5" Browning Machine Guns, two .303" Bren Guns and two Mk. VII DC's. It was requisitioned by the Army on 11 September 1941 and purchased on 1 June 1942. It was initially used as a Channel Patrol Boat and was then later allocated to the Allied Intelligence Bureau for Special Operations. It was used as a support vessel for the Coastwatchers.


Allied Intelligence Bureau
Our Secret Weapon in the War Against Japan
by Colonel Allison Ind
Army of the United States

Page 77

Although the information relative to Rabaul proper was less than had been hoped for, GHQ was relieved to know that native sympathies still, appeared to be with the "white masters." Accordingly AIB received directives to insert a number of Watchers. One group would ring Rabaul. Others would be strung out along New Britain toward the still relatively secure north coast of New Guinea.

The overworked and undersized S-boats were impractical for inserting such large numbers; aircraft would betray unusual activity. Feldt appealed to Commander Long. Seaworthy small ships were extremely scarce but the Australian Government came up with the Paluma, a sixty-foot twin Diesel, slow but steady and stable. She would sneak up the New Guinea coast from the eastern or Milne Bay end, running at night and hiding by day. Opposite the southwestern end of New Britain she would pick up her Coast Watchers, many of whom had escaped with their lives from New Britain only a few months ago and now were spoiling for counteraction. Then Paluma would resume her nocturnal prowling, this time depositing Watchers here and there on New Britain until she was as close to the Rabaul end as she dared go. After that she would run back.

That was the plan, but it was not to be implemented.

Before the operation could begin, the enemy suddenly lunged southward from Rabaul and struck the New Guinea north coast at two places, Gona and Buna.


Page 79


His tactical intention soon became evident: the Japanese were going to use their new bases on New Guinea as springboards to stage an overland attack against Port Moresby. As previously explained, to accomplish this they actually were going to try to scale the Owen Stanley Mountains and, coming down on the reverse slopes, take Moresby from the rear.

Gone were American hopes for establishing their own north coast bases, and gone were AIB's plans for implementing the New Britain Coast Watcher plan via Paluma. It appeared to us generally to be a serious setback. Nevertheless, at that bleak hour it was apparent that MacArthur had his own way of assimilating bad news: it was then he issued an order for AIB to activate at the earliest practicable time its hitherto-dormant "Philippine Special Section" and to put me in charge of it with instructions to " communications with the Philippines. . . ."

For the moment, however, we were more than fully engaged by the problems in the Solomons and the new complications incidental to putting men into New Britain. Insertion of New Britain parties by inconspicuous small craft still seemed to be the best method. But cheeky as little Paluma could be, she could not defy the combined obstacle of the Japanese land, sea, and air forces to run past Buna. Feldt's "Northeast Area" Section of AIB instituted an intensive search for other small craft that under favorable weather conditions might negotiate the tricky Vitiaz Straits in short hops, then skirt the New Britain coast. There remained to be accomplished much training, equipping, and such coordination requirements as those pertaining to secure codes and radio communication.


Page 84

Merle-Smith called AIB. Feldt recommended that a single, inconspicuous vessel be utilized to chart lanes for ships of relatively shallow draft and low tonnage, perhaps twenty tons or so. The difference in value of many luggers of twenty tons that got through compared with any number of big ships that would never get through at all, or get there too late, was obvious, he pointed out. It made sense to Merle-Smith.

Paluma was still at Townsville. Orders went out to arm her with .50-caliber machine guns "f save us from havin' t' carry ruddy fishing gear when we're hungry," in the words of Lieutenant Ivan Champion, who became her commander. He knew small ships, he knew the waters, and he had those other requisites, resourcefulness and courage. It was he who had piloted the vessel that had been responsible for saving Mackenzie and many others from New Britain at the outbreak. Outsize fuel and fresh-water tanks were added. Paluma likewise carried Teleradios and lights that could be attached to buoys. After refitting delays that brought Willoughby's hot wrath and Merle-Smith's cold wrath upon us, Paluma cleared Townsville with a crew that defied classification as one American naval commander later discovered. On that occasion Paluma had come alongside the American officer's ship to transfer Lieutenant Commander Brooksbank, brother of that civilian Brooksbank in Melbourne, for a conference. The American officer presumed Brooksbank to be Paluma's skipper. No, it was explained, the chap in the Australian airman's uniform was her skipper. The American blinked. And the fellow next to him? Oh, he was an army sergeant who was her boatswain and the device on his hat was his idea of an anchor that he had fashioned from the metal of a crashed Zero. The American officer looked at Brooksbank as if to dare him to answer his next question, which was that since her skipper was an airman and her boatswain was an army sergeant, just what was he, a proper naval officer, to Paluma? Managing a straight face, Brooksbank answered: "Oh, sir, I'm nothing; I'm a passenger."

By night Paluma moved up the coast. By day she slipped into hides made the better by a canopy of cut greens. But in part of the area to be charted her work required daylight runs. Then she became open season for all airmen, Allied and Japanese. Paluma herself played no favorites and when attacked she opened up with splendid impersonality on friend or foe alike with her fifties. Doubtless the preoccupation of pilots concerned with missions of a broader scope saved her life, for most of them considered her worthy of only a few "squirts" of fire although they bothered to report her "strafed and sunk" with monotonous frequency.

Whenever Paluma found a reef she would place an inconspicuous buoy which could be activated with a light at night. Then she arranged for shore stations that would relay Teleradio directions to the ships that would follow the path which she was laying for them. Men from her crew would man those lonely stations. At one place Corporal L. P. V. Veale of the Australian forces, in Paluma's crew, sighted an enormous reef unmarked on any existing map. All modern marine charts refer to "Veale Reef" in his honor.

The little ship put her last shore party down only fifty miles southeast of Buna. Lieutenant B. Fairfax-Ross of the Australian Army was to push on with a small party to Oro Bay and be ready with Teleradio and lights. Oro Bay one day would become a major Allied supply dump and a steppingstone to places well beyond Buna.

Paluma had survived. She had been joined by others to hasten the work, and about the time events were moving to a crisis on the other side of the Solomon Sea at Guadalcanal, AIB got Champion's signal that he was ready to smuggle through the first of the supply ships.

The ships were ready at Milne Bay, thanks to diligent scrounging by the Australian Government. Paluma met them. Champion boarded one of the supply vessels to act as pilot, while Paluma went on ahead under the command of her erstwhile engineer, Rod Marsland. The small convoy slipped out under cover of darkness and headed toward Buna.

Night after night, for more than a month, the stealthy operation was repeated as the small ships came on: converted destroyers, luggers, even captured enemy barges, laden with gunners, ammunition, and other supplies of aU kinds. Of course makeshift charts dissolved in the rains; native pilots recruited to help Champion became confused; engines broke down; vessels drifted out of position and scraped coral. But they came on, more and more of them. Soon there were tanks and field guns to help the cruelly worn infantry before Buna. One Australian gunner used his twenty-fivepounder cannon as if it had been a rifle; with deadly marksmanship he sent fiery tracers straight into bunker entrances.


Page 87


Although she had survived these expeditions, it still would have been suicidal for Paluma to have run the Buna gantlet in order to implement the original plan of having her transport Coast Watchers to New Britain. Under Feldt, Lieutenant J. H. Paterson had coordinated things well at VIG Port Moresby and, partly through the efforts of the restless Watchers themselves still hiding out on the Rai coast, he had commandeered a small covey of launches. They were made ready to take all teams except one across the Vitiaz Strait as far as Rooke Island, where there would be a separation and further emplacement.


Page 110

On that New Year's Eve of 1942, while in Brisbane the noisy crowds contrasted with the lonely vigil Read was keeping on the silent Bougainville beach, while toasts were being drunk in the blacked-out Paluma's cabin to a job well done and leave soon to come, while Stavermann and Freyer waited patiently in Port Moresby for an air lift toward Hollandia that never seemed to come, and while Noakes and Bridge "crouched in the bush like ruddy kangaroos" near Buna while all this was going on, other individuals and other events that were to have solid impacts against the enemy were casting their shadows before them.



Paluma was sold by the Military on 30 April 1946.

I was contacted by Valerie Hicks (nee Taylor), the daughter of Les Taylor in September 2014. Les Taylor and his father Matt laid the keel of the Paluma. Les's brother Norm also worked on her in the latter stages of its construction.  As there was a shortage of timber during the war years, I understand the government helped them to get timber to finish it.

Les Taylor was Paluma's skipper virtually from the time when he and his father flew to Brisbane to re-claim her in May 1946 and brought her home to Townsville. Les worked her until the time he sold her in April 1981. Les was then aged 72 and it broke his heart having to part with her.

Paluma was one of the regular Magnetic Island ferries -- that was Hayles' domain. The only time the Paluma travelled to Magnetic Island was for charter work; however, Les Taylor did do the odd run for the Hayles' during peak demand periods like the August school holidays. Valerie recalls once in the late 1950s going with her father for the ride to Magnetic Island.

There was another much larger vessel called Paluma. It was 120 ft long Survey Ship of 420 tons. It was launched on 5 February 1946 and originally called AV2073 Elsa. It was used by the Army and then transferred to the RAN.

On 15 December 2005 Michael, great grandson of Matt Taylor advised as follows:-

Les Taylor (Matt's son who also helped to build her) worked her around Townsville during the 70's. She sat in Townsville's Ross Creek for a few years as Les's health deteriorated, and she was eventually sold to a group of businessmen who did a little home renovation on her, the most heartbreaking of which (To Les, that is) was to cut out many of her ironbark supports to lighten her up.

They then took her over to Perth as yet another boat watching the defence of the America's cup.

She somehow found her way back to the East coast, and spent some time as a charter-boat out of Airlie Beach. I saw her moored once, but unfortunately there was no-one on board. The locals said the owner was fascinated with her history and was collecting as much info on her as he could find. He was in negotiations with the Maritime Museum in Brisbane for her sale when she was heading back to her mooring after refuelling and caught alight. Nobody was hurt as far as I am aware, but  she burnt to the waterline and nothing remains.

On 18 September 2006 Raymond McQueen told me that Paluma had been used as a Dive-boat. It was based at Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays and operated by a company called Tallarook Sail and Dive. Paluma burned to the waterline about 8 years ago and sank in Pioneer Bay.


Bridge Light recovered from HMAS Paluma


Compass from HMAS Paluma


Ships helm from HMAS Paluma


Close-up of Ships Helm from HMAS Paluma


An even closer look at the rope work on the helm of HMAS Paluma


Colin Jones told me on 18 May 2005 :-

Taylor's Paluma was 66 feet long. She was taken up by the Royal Australian Navy before she ever went into service. She was never used as an island ferry as Bob Hayles kept the Malita on the run as best he could during the war and despite the Navy's dismissive comment that the island population was now minuscule so that a proper ferry service was not required.

Of Hayles other boats, the Malanda was taken up by the Navy in Cairns, so the Merinda was left to him for services between Cairns and Cooktown.

The two Brisbane boats were taken up by the army.

When he extracted the Malanda from the Navy's grasp he demanded compensation for the way they had treated her and the Navy gave her to Taylor to survey to ascertain what they might owe him. Hayles was incandescent!

I remember the Paluma in the early 1950s offering a 'walk the reef' cruise.

Stanley Gage contacted me on 10 February 2006. Stanley had joined the Coastwatchers in 1943. He joined Paluma from Camp Tabragalba in March 1944 after being outfitted at Milton Tennis Courts. They travelled to Port Moresby only to find his posting had been cancelled. After doing some odd jobs such as escorting stores to Lae he returned to Australia in October 1944 and was eventually posted to the Lugger Maintenance Section, in Darwin.



The Unit Guide, The Australian Army 1939-1945 Volumes 1 - 6
by Graham McKenzie-Smith

Discovering Magnetic Island
by James G. Porter

"AWAS Editor On Magnetic Island", The Argus (Melbourne), 17 October 1944

"Diary of WWII - North Queensland"
Complied by Peter Nielsen

"Aircraft and Markings of the RAAF 1939 - 1945"
By Geoffrey Pentland

"Townsville Yesterday"


Can anyone help me with more information?


"Australia @ War" WWII 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 23 September 2021

This page last updated 03 October 2021