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Subject:     9th Aust Advanced Workshops
Date:             Sun, 16 Jul 2000 07:46:36 +0930
From:            "Colin Henschke" <robrose@ihug.com.au>


Found the site very interesting, but there does not appear to be any reference to 9th Aust Advanced Workshops of the AEME. I was there as a wireless mechanic in the radar workshop.

(Rev'd) Colin G. Henschke



Subject:     Omission
Date:             Sun, 16 Jul 2000 08:05:06 +0930
From:            "Colin Henschke" <robrose@ihug.com.au>

Hi again!

Further to my Email of a few minutes ago: I forgot to mention that the 9th Aust Advanced Workshops were based in Townsville. Charters Towers before that.

Have an interesting story to tell about that. Was sent to Charters Towers from the LTD at Townsville. Arrived there near midnight; no one to meet me; found my way to the supposed site (some distance out of town) per courtesy of the RAAF) only to find the camp deserted! Found my way back to Townsville the next day. That's where the 9th Aust. Advanced Workshops were!

Colin Henschke



Subject:     Omission
Date:              Tue, 25 Jul 2000 21:51:58 +0930
From:             "Colin Henschke" <robrose@ihug.com.au>

Sorry about the delay. Have been attending a convention and havn't had much time to look. LTD = Leave and Transit Depot (or was it called a Staging Camp in this instance - don't remember)- I worked there as a radio mechanic in a radar workshop (knew nothing about radar; I attended to the transceiver equipment). There were also other workshops. Must have a look around at these other sites you mentioned.

Regards Colin Henschke



Subject:    Townsville war history
Date:             Thu, 21 Sep 2000 11:12:19 +0930
From:           "Colin Henschke" <robrose@ihug.com.au>

Have just written another article re. Townsville for our Rest Home magazine. Now living in a retirement village in Tanunda, S.A., I told the story as I remember it. It's a rather amusing incident - ut not at the time! Would you like to have it? If so, use it at your discretion. I'm not sure that I know how to E-mail it, but I could give it a try

Colin Henshke



I REMEMBER (No.3) - They nearly Lost Me

Townsville. Let’s go back to the beginning.

After the completion of schooling down south we spent a few weeks in a remote jungle staging camp in southern Queensland. It was not far from Mt. Tamborine, the large camp area adjoining the notorious Canungra Jungle Training School. While there, we were frequently rostered for mess duty (kitchen and mess hut). The dried fruit stuffed into pockets at the end of the day came from drums despatched from the Riverland. No doubt some of them were packed by our neighbour, Doris Gogel (she worked as a supervisor in a packing shed during the war; turning over the metal clips to seal those drums was rough on the hands).

Eventually we boarded a troop train and headed some 900 miles north to Townsville from where we were to be sent to our respective destinations. I reckon I can still taste those juicy pineapples bought for 3 pence or 6 pence (depending on the size) from pineapple carts which met the train at known stopping points along the way. Sliced open with the bayonet, they were simply delicious - naturally sweetened, the real thing!

Now where on earth were the 9th Aust Advanced Workshops of the Aust. Electrical & Mechanical Engineers? Someone in the Townsville staging camp thought they knew, for one evening I was put on a train headed for Charters Towers. I don’t remember much about the journey, except that it was dark and that the train seemed to be labouring up mountains. However, the remarkable thing was that I was on my own with no accompanying officer to take charge of my army papers - certainly not the normal procedure. The bag, unlocked, had been handed to me.

And just as remarkable, on my arrival some time after 1 a.m. the RTO

(Railway Transport Officer) was at a loss to know what to do with me. Eventually pointing me in the direction where he thought the camp could be, I loaded up my packs, sausage bag, greatcoat and rifle, and headed off in the darkness. Fortunately, an Air Force truck with masked headlights came rumbling along the road after a while and gave me a welcome lift to the entrance of some sort of military establishment quite a few miles distant.

No lights! No guards! What was this? Making my way down the road until I came to some buildings I soon discovered (with the aid of a flashlight) that the place was deserted! Tired out after all the walking, and unmindful of the creepy crawly things that inhabit such deserted places in the tropics (also the brewing storm on the horizon), I lay down on the board floor near a dried-up Christmas tree in what had been the recreation hut, and fell into a deep sleep

What to do? I don’t remember contemplating absconding, which, with all my papers in my possession I could very well have done. Sizing up the situation next morning, I once again loaded up all my gear and headed off down the road, this time towards Townsville, some 85 miles distant.

Once again I was lucky - another Air Force truck; and heading not for Charters Towers, but Townsville. But hardly had I clambered on when I was informed by the Air Force chaps (also holding on for dear life in the back) that this was a weekly trip, the driver attempting to better his times of the previous Saturdays. What a drive that was around those curves down to sea-level! Someone should have told him that he was not flying a Kittyhawk fighter.

They were surprised to see me back at the staging camp. "What happened to you??"

Guess where they eventually found the workshops? Right there, in Townsville. And only a mile or so away! - directly across from Magnetic Island, and adjoining a goat farm (referred to in I Remember No.2)

Army bungling!


(Footnote: I think the explanation was that because of 3 attempted bombings, the workshops had been moved inland from Townsville, moving back again after the Battle of the Coral Sea. In some north Queensland towns, trains were parked at railway sidings with their boilers at the ready, to evacuate school children in the event of an invasion. But with air power now considerably weakened, the Japanese fleet turned back to Rabaul, and the planned invasion of the Queensland coast just south of Townsville was aborted. At one time during this period there were more Americans in the city of Townsville than Australians. We owe them a debt of gratitude).


C.G. Henschke



I Remember. . . . .

Belonging to the 9th Aust. Advanced Workshops of the Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, I was stationed in Townsville about 900 miles north of Brisbane. The city is built around the central 900’ Castle Hill which rises steeply out of the level ground (the Americans were just about to put a tunnel through it to shorten the local travelling distances), and the camp was situated near the beach directly across from Magnetic Island.

Although I worked in the radar workshop, I knew very little about radar. Rather, my job was to service radio equipment (transceivers); in fact, I was the sole radio man there and had a bench of my own. When completed, the equipment, both radar and radio, would be wrapped in brand new American army clothing and mosquito nets, taken to the nearby airfield and flown back to New Guinea. The heavily laden transport planes and escorting Kittyhawk fighters taking off at first light and roaring low over our tent lines were our alarm clock.

It was quite a responsible job. Efficient radio equipment is vital in warfare Before leaving the workshop, all such equipment had to be immersed in a bath of extremely expensive red-coloured solution for tropic-proofing. Occasionally riddled with bullet holes, some items were beyond repair, and one could not help but wonder what drama of the battlefield had taken place.

Saturdays were usually rest days, but as I was not too keen on going walkabout in that tropical heat I often volunteered for guard duty. It was the easy kind - not stiffly parading back and forth with rifle on the shoulder but, clad in mere shorts and "dead meat tickets", lying on a bunk in the centre of the workshop and reading my B&FBS army issue New Testament. That was better than on a straw mattress on a board floor in a tent. And with me would be Josephine, the workshop cat (very spoiled - would not drink milk or water; it had to be coffee).

But now we come to the part I remember well. Despite the fact that Townsville had been bombed 3 times (I guess our workshops were one of the intended targets), radio 4TO was on air again. It was Saturday afternoon, and the races were on (game, weren’t they!). Some of the boys, still in camp, made their way to my workshop to use whatever radio they could find to tune in.

All went quite well for a while - until one of them got a "bright" idea. Work on one of the army’s most powerful transmitters had just been completed. Still in its testing cage of wire mesh, could I please roll it out?

Having some idea what they had in mind, I reluctantly (but not very reluctantly) agreed. Tuning both receiver and transmitter to 4TO’s wavelength, they listened and waited for the main race of the day. Then, when it began, they followed its progress until the commentator’s voice had reached fever pitch and the horses were nearing the finishing line, and then….


Throwing the switch from "Receive" to "Transmit", 4TO’s transmission was jammed - effectively drowned out.

All those poor people with their ears glued to their radio speakers! We wondered how long it would take them to find out whether their horse had won.

Ah, well, we had to have some fun!

C. Henschke


Next Issue: "Dancing With The Goats"



I Remember (2)……..

They were real pests!

The tent lines of the 9th Aust. Advanced Workshops of the A.E.M.E., Townsville were almost deserted during the day. The goats from the neighbouring goat farm knew about this, and we soon learned to hide our spare boots in the rolled-up the straw mattress before we marched off to work.

But we also had our fun with them.

Did you know that you can make a goat do almost anything so long as you make the appropriate noises? I won’t tell you what sort of noises.

It was on a balmy tropical evening not long after I arrived in camp. What was all that laughter and racket across the road in the workshop area! It didn’t take long to find out. There was a dance on (but not in the workshop). The music? The aforementioned noises. And the men’s partners? Goats prancing around on their hind legs, front feet and hands linked! To this day I have never seen or heard anything more hilarious. Should have had a video camera. As I said, you can make a goat do almost anything….

In typical Queensland fashion, the long radar workshop stood on stilts. At one end was camp headquarters; at the other, the R.A.P. (Regimental Aid Post)

The R.A.P. corporal had gone to the "flicks" on this particular Saturdays night. So what did we do? Again with tongues out and making the appropriate noises we coaxed this goat up the flight of wooden steps, down through the workshop and into the R.A.P. corporal’s quarters. There we got him settled (or was it a she? - I don’t remember) on his bunk. Apparently the animal had never known such luxury, for he was quite content to remain and had no intention of leaving. I don’t know where Corp slept that night; there wasn’t room for them both.

The goat must have enjoyed his stay, because one night, sometime later, he made his own way up the steps, but this time turning left and through the door into camp headquarters. What a mess! What a mess!! Shelves knocked down and papers all over the floor. The rest of the story is too sad to relate.

Another Townsville memory:-

Filing into the mess hut one Sunday morning, we dipped our mugs into the coffee bucket as we went in. Someone made the remark "The coffee tastes a bit crook" - and we all agreed.

The reason for the "crook" coffee eventually became evident as the level in the bucket went down. Two big, fat cane toads!

C.G. Henschke



Subject:     Castle Hill
Date:             Sun, 24 Sep 2000 16:47:14 +0930
From:            "Colin Henschke" <robrose@ihug.com.au>


While at the 9th Aust Advanced Workshops I was told that the Americans were contemplating or had actually begun excavating a tunnel under Castle Hill. The reason given: to save travelling time from one part of the city to another. However, it was not completed. Apparently they had started pulling out and were not then there in such large numbers. What is the height of Castle Hill -1000ft?

Regards, Colin Henschke



Subject:     Location of camp
Date:             Mon, 25 Sep 2000 20:54:47 +0930
From:           "Colin Henschke" <robrose@ihug.com.au>

Hi, Peter

Re Workshops location: This was nearly 50 years ago, and my memory is not as good as it ought to be. Also, I "stayed put" most of the time and didn't "do the town" as most of the other fellas did. So its relation to the other part of the city is not as clear in my mind as it normally would be.

If I were to look for the site today, I would concentrate on an area to the west or west-north-west of the main part of the city and to the right of Castle Hill. I think the road which divided the site, the workshops to the left. and the tent lines and kitchen, etc., to the right, led to the Garbut airfield. Adjacent to, or almost adjacent to the tent lines (on the farther side) was a goat farm. The transport planes which took off at first light would fly over the tent lines (I guess they must then have banked to the left). On the morning after my arrival (Sunday) I clambered up the side of Castle Hill with the radar installations still in place. I do not recall that I had to walk any very great distance from the camp to the base of the hill. Though on the outskirts, the camp was not isolated from the city. I hope that these few clues will help you in your search. Doesn't the Army have any records? You've got me so interested that if I had the money, I would fly up to have a look myself. Failing that, you'll have to have me put under hypnosis!

All the best!

Colin Henschke



Subject:      Correction
Date:               Mon, 25 Sep 2000 21:14:37 +0930
From:             "Colin Henschke" <robrose@ihug.com.au>

In my E-mail to you of a few minutes ago, I said "This was almost 50 years ago" I meant 6o years - actually, about 56 And concerning the tunnel: all that was told me was that the Yanks were tired wasting time travelling around the hill, and in typical no-nonsense fashion, they had started to dig But then they began to move on, and the plan was abandoned. I don't know who was responsible..

Colin Henschke



Subject:     Location of camp
Date:             Tue, 26 Sep 2000 20:02:27 +0930
From:            "Colin Henschke" <robrose@ihug.com.au>

Hi, Peter,

Have just found a map of Townsville in "Explore Australia". I would be looking at the southern end of Bundock St and the northern end of Hugh St - north of Ingham Rd (Bruce Highway); but as far north as the Belgian Gardens School?? - I would have to see the area before deciding.

I remember taking a bus back from the city one evening. It took a road to the left of Castle Hill, went as far as Garbutt, dropping me off on the return section of the round trip.

Looking toward Cleveland Bay, the tent lines were on the left side of the road, the workshops on the right.

Regards, Colin



Subject:     Camp location
Date:              Wed, 27 Sep 2000 08:09:04 +0930
From:            "Colin Henschke" <robrose@ihug.com.au>


Gave the matter some further thought last night. How long has the Belgian Gardens school been in existence? Could it have been built on the workshop site?



Can anyone help Colin confirm the site
for the 9th Australian Advanced Workshops?

Was it where the Belgian Gardens School is located?


Can anyone help me with more information?


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This page first produced 1 October 2000

This page last updated 19 February 2020