RAAF STATION SANDGATE
SANDGATE, BRISBANE, QLD
DURING WWII

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Headquarters for RAAF Station Sandgate was formed at Sandgate, near Brisbane in south east Queensland on 16 December 1940 for No. 3 Initial Training School 3ITS and No. 3 Embarkation Depot 3 ED.  Squadron Leader Harry Alexander Rigby M.C. (250063), was the initial Commanding Officer of RAAF Station Sandgate.

An Advance Party, under the command of Pilot Officer Oscar Stephen Thynne (271907),  Pilot Officer Henry Noel Evans (251153) and Pilot Officer Stanley O'Donnell 9261901) plus 38 other ranks arrived at Sandgate on 9 December 1940. They found that no buildings had been erected yet, and that Canberra had suspended all work on the site. The situation was reported to Central Area on 11 December 1940 and the following day Central Area obtained approval from Air Board for RAAF Station Sandgate to be based at Amberley pending completion of the buildings at Sandgate. The airmen were billeted at Archerfield and the Officers stayed at the Hotel Canberra in Brisbane.

Squadron Leader Harry Rigby arrived on 13 December 1940 and 83 other ranks and the following Officers arrived on 16 December 1940:-

Flight Lieutenant Vincent Laidley Dowling (322), O.C. No. 3 I.T.S.
Flying Officer Ernest Harold Skevington (261647), O.C. No. 3 E.D.
Pilot Officer Johm McKenzie Lake Wardlaw (261564), Administrative Duties, Station Headquarters
Flight Lieutenant A.S. Adey, Barracks Officer
Pilot Officer Philip Ludlow Nase (251121), Equipment Officer
Pilot Officer Alfred Roy Gorrie (261937), Adjutant, No. 3 I.T.S.
Pilot Officer Cecil Francis Cowley (261935), Administrative Duties, No. 3 I.T.S.
Pilot Officer Edward Sackville Edwards (03325), Station Adjutant

The Commanding Officer at Amberley and his staff had made available 28 huts at Amberley for use by RAAF Station Sandgate. This was acceptable for the first intake of 216 students for No. 3 I.T.S. and 26 service personnel for No. 3 E.D., however, the space was not sufficient for the increase in numbers for subsequent intakes. Tents were erected as sleeping accommodation for No. 3 E.D.

It was decided to operate RAAF Station Sandgate as a separate Command for Administration and Discipline with the exception of 60 Mess Stewards, Messmen, Cooks, Service Police, Guards, Transport and Medical Staff. As they were using the Amberley Messes, and S.S.Q. and Transport Sheds, the above personnel together with the M.T. Vehicles (2 Heavy Tenders) were attached to Amberley.

A marquee was erected for heavy stores and the basement of the Sandgate Town Hall was also lent by the Brisbane City Council for storage. Even as late as 24 December 1940, they had still received no authority to proceed with building RAAF Station Sandgate.

Air Board finally gave authority for the construction of RAAF Station Sandgate on 9 January 1941 and construction started on 13 January 1941 with an expected completion date of mid March 1941. Sqn Ldr Harry Rigby flew to Sydney on 13 January to put his ideas on the layout of the camp at Sandgate to the Area Officer Commanding Central Area.

3 I.T.S. started training on 6 January 1941 with an intake of 216 aircrew trainees comprising 72 Pilots, 27 Observers and 117 Wireless Air Gunners.

3 E.D. had an intake of 64 service personnel comprising 15 pilots, 18 Observers, 22 Wireless Operator Air Gunners and 9 Gunners.

Huts M98, M99 176 and 178 at Amberley were withdrawn for use by RAAF Station Sandgate, which necessitated the erection of canvas tents much against the wishes of the Medical Officer. This also necessitated the reduction in the number of trainees to 200.

Squadron Leader Harry Rigby was promoted to Wing Commander from 1 January 1941 and transferred from the General Duties Branch to the Administrative and Special Duties Branch.

During February work started on the Kitchen facilities at Sandgate and 18 April 1941 was set as the date for the move from Amberley to Sandgate. An Advance Party of 3 storeman, 4 guards, a cook and a messman was sent to Sandgate on 26 February 1941. The storeman were there to receive stores to be sent from Amberley.

The Commanding Officer noted in February 1941 that one of the contractors was very slow with progress on Huts 3, 16, 17, 20, 21, 24, 25, 28, 29, 34, 36, 48 - 52, 56, 58, 66, 69, 75, 80, 88, 93, 94, 99, 100, 105, 107 and the second section of Hut 40. He discussed the matter with the Director of Works, Brisbane.

In February 1941 in order that there were no delays after arrival at Sandgate, Officers were allotted the following sports duties for when they arrived at Sandgate:-

Football - Pilot Officer O'Donnell
Golf - Flying Officer Clay
Tennis - Flying Officer Skevington
Swimming - Flying Officer Young
Cricket - Flight Lieutenant Stanes
Athletics - Pilot Officer Cowley
Boxing & Wrestling - Pilot Officer Thynne

March 1941, saw more delays with construction at Sandgate. There were delays in Store Huts 20, 21 and 58 due to Works Branch not having sufficient funds for furnishings i.e. Steen Bins, but arrangements were made for wooden ones in Hut 59 to allow the layout of stores.

The A.O.C. Central Area visited Sandgate on 4 April 1941 for an inspection.

As the Airman's Kitchen Hut 64, could be ready a bit earlier than the planned move date of 18 April, arrangements were made for 3 E.D. and the Equipment Pay and Accounting, and Medical Section of Headquarters to be moved to Sandgate on 10 April 1941.

Following representations to the Works Director, the contractor called Ayres was given a show cause notice on 17 March 1941. In spite of promises to expedite the work, no satisfactory progress was made by Ayres by 25 March. Further representations were made to the Director of Works and to the Director-General, Mr. Hoy, who was visiting Brisbane. It was agreed that immediate action would be taken to ensure essential buildings were completed by 9 April and 17 April. The Works Department took over the work from Contractor Ayres on 25 March 1941.

Authority was received in March 1941 to take over more land to the north of the Sandgate Camp between 23rd Avenue and 24th Avenue for a parade ground.

The movement of RAAF Station Sandgate operations from Amberley to Sandgate was completed by 1500 hours on 18 April 1941. The sewerage plant was not completed by the movement date, necessitating the installation of a temporary pan system until septic tanks were installed.

Officers and Sergeants were messing temporarily in Hut No. 69 with food being prepared in Airman's Kitchen Hut No 64 until the Officers' and Sergeants' Messes were completed on about 22 May 1941.

On 27 April 1941, it was decided that RAAF Station Sandgate would form a Pipe and Drum Band. During the week commencing 5 May 1941, the Works Director, Brisbane called Tenders for the erection of a Gymnasium.

In April 1941, it was estimated that all works would be completed by the end of May with the Station having living-in accommodation for 525 Airmen, 16 Sergeants, and 32 Officers.

On 17 May 1941, approximately 150 men consisting of Headquarters personnel and I.T.S. trainees who had been issued with Blue uniforms took part in a Recruiting Drive march through the main streets of Brisbane in conjunction with members of 23 Squadron RAAF from Archerfield and approximately 200 men from Amberley.

The A.O.C. Central Area visited Sandgate again on 23 May 1941.

During May 1941, the Dental Section commenced operations under Flight Lieutenant McCaul with a staff of Dental Mechanics. The Station Football team played matches in the "B" Grade competition. A successful Ball was held in the Sandgate Town Hall. A successful Boxing and wrestling Tournament was held. A Dance was held for the personnel in aid of the Comforts Fund at the Margate Picture Theatre. The activities of the Comforts Fund and the Station Circle, resulted in the acquisition of two pianos for the Station and the All Sports Club was endeavoring to obtain a third piano. The Redcliffe Comforts Fund group collected to purchase a billiards table.

The Officers' and Sergeants' Messes were completed in June 1941. A concert was held in one of the Lecture Huts on 9 June 1941. A temporary stage was erected in the Examination Hut. A temporary marquee was erected to allow after hours boxing, wrestling and P.T. work to be performed. A Station dance held on 24 June 1941 in the Airmens' Recreation Hall raised sufficient funds to buy some curtains for the hall.

The new Sergeants' Mess was officially opened on 11 July 1941 during a dance that had been organised for the occasion.

On 30 July 1941, Air Board advised by telephone that it was necessary to make provision for a large increase in the I.T.S. intake on 18 August by erecting 90 tents.

 


Photo:- Shane Sanewski

Historical sign marking the site of the former RAAF Station Sandgate

 


Photo:- Shane Sanewski

Memorial Stone near site of former RAAF Station Sandgate

 


Photo:- Shane Sanewski

Close-up of the memorial stone

 

REFERENCES

National Archives of Australia file - RAAF Unit History sheets (Form A50) [Operations Record Book - Forms A50 and A51] Station Sandgate Dec 40 - Nov 44

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Ross Geissmann and Shane Sanewski for their assistance with this web page.

 

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This page first produced 13 November 2018

This page last updated 20 November 2018