CAMP TABRAGALBA - CAMP
In about May 1943, Tabragalba Homestead was taken over by Lieutenant Commander J.C. McManus, RAN, the Supervising Intelligence Officer (S.I.O.) who was in charge of the Coast Watchers in the North East Area. Officers, other ranks and New Guinea natives were accommodated and trained at Camp Tabragalba. The Allied Intelligence Bureau, the Philippine Section; GHQ, the Coast Watchers and other units all had an involvement at Camp Tabragalba. Filipinos, New Guinea and Dutch East Indies natives, plus some "M" Special Operations ("M" Force) and "Z" Special Operations ("Z" Force) personnel along with Far Eastern Liaison Office (FELO) personnel were involved at Camp Tabraglaba.
Air-warning personnel from New Britain plus A.I.F. soldiers who had served in Bougainville, in the New Guinea parties, and on HMAS Paluma were trained there. Personnel received weapons training, were instructed in the use of radios and trained to use rubber boats. The surrounding country side was perfect for route marches and gymnastic exercises to ensure an appropriate level of fitness was achieved.
The 978th Signal Service Company was activated in Brisbane on 8 October 1943. Selected personnel were then shipped to Camp X (Camp Tabragalba), near Beaudesert in Queensland. They were part of the Allied Intelligence Bureau's Section C - Coast Watch Organisation or Combined Field Intelligence Service. This evolved from the pre-war Naval coast watching system. The role of Section C was "obtaining all possible information about the enemy, his disposition, movements, strength, etc. through such agencies as the coastwatchers, native agents and civilian operations".
The following units had a hand in the establishment and running of Camp Tabragalba:-
- the Allied Intelligence Bureau
- the Philippine Regional Section, GHQ
- the Coast Watchers
- and others,
The first contingent from the 978th Signal Service Company started their camp at Tarbragalba in August 1943. They established rows of tents for accommodation and built interconnecting gravel walkways. They built a supply building, a recreation building and a shower block. The sporting facilities they built included a clay tennis court, a basketball court, and a baseball park. Other sports played included volleyball, softball, chess and checkers.
There were Filipinos, New Guinea natives, and some natives from the Dutch East Indies, and possibly "M" and "Z" Forces and the Far Eastern Liaison Office (FELO) involved at Camp Tabragalba.
The McVey family of Biddiddaba Creek would often host the Filipino soldiers from Camp Tabralgalba. They used to hike across the mountain to buy pigs and chickens which they would spit-roast. They would often share the roasts with the McVeigh family. The Filipinos would bring lollies ("candy") and Coca-Cola for the children and open billy-cans of beer for themselves. By the time they would arrive at the McVeigh farm everything would be covered with grass seeds. They would often borrow the McVeigh's horses to go for a ride in the bush.
The Filipinos arranged many picnics, especially on Mother's Day. They would invite many of the local mothers and their families to the picnics. The entertainment at the picnics would include a pig on-the-spit and a portable dance floor where jitter-bug contests were held.
In August 1944, Rufino F. Cacabelos, and 2nd Lt Edmondo Marfori and 2nd Lt. William Davis of the 978th published an Anniversary Book at Camp Tabragalba documenting the first year of occupation for the 978th at the camp. Julius B. Ruiz was Editor-in-Chief for the Anniversary Booklet. (Does anyone have a copy of the Anniversary Booklet?)
Tabragalba Homestead was once owned by John Beals Chandler, the founder of the Chandlers electrical retail company in Queensland. John Chandler was elected Lord Mayor of Brisbane in April 1940 and remained in office until 1952. John Chandler purchased Tabragalba in 1943 from Charles De Burg Persse. During the Second World War Chandlerís companies joined AWA Australia Ltd in the installation and servicing of radio, radar and echo sounding equipment on Australian and allied shipping to support the war effort. John Chandler was knighted on 1 January 1952 for his services to business and local government.
John Chandler died on 19 January 1962 survived by his wife and his two remaining sons Frank and Munro. Chandler had two sons who were killed in action during the Second World War. His son Frank Beals Chandler (426309) joined the RAAF on 20 June and was with 8 Service Flying Training School when he was discharged on 15 December 1944. His son Munro Nicholson (QX7013) joined the Australian Army on 1 April 1940 and was in the 2/2 Machine Gun Battalion when he was discharged on 24 October 1945.
Munro Nicholson "Pete" Chandler lived at Tabragalba Homestead for a number of years. Munro Chandler passed away in 1990 at the time that Tabragalba was taken over by the South East Queensland Water Board. Munro's wife Gabrielle Chandler remained at Tabragalba with her second eldest son Ian Chandler. Ian continued to work the property and reared his family of four children with his wife Patricia until the take-over was finalised. There were plans to build a large dam in the area.
State Library Queensland Image number: 114863
Sir John Beals Chandler meets his
son, an Army medic at the end of
World War II. Two of his other sons were killed during WW2
Rod Chandler told me that some of the buildings built by the Army were purchased by his father and converted. The two story communication building was converted into the hay shed and barn and was only pulled down in 1997/98. The Sergeants Mess was converted into feed stalls adjoining the dairy and another building into the dairy itself. Rod believes both buildings are still there as is the old theatre which is half way up the hill. There are also remains of many concrete slabs dotted all over the hillside where ablution blocks were built for the troops who trained in commando warfare. The remains of the rifle/mortar range are still visible further into the mountains as was the commando course. The air raid shelter turned into the rubbish dump after the roof was taken off but it was still in good condition when Rod was a young boy. There are many chimneys still standing also - the remnants of various kitchens. There were two guard houses situated down on the river between the river and the lagoon. Both were moved up to behind the homestead, joined together and converted into a cottage.
Rod Chandler advised that most of the UXO's found on the property were a mortar of some kind - a "peart bomb" he thinks his father called them. How many are left is pure speculation - the regular grass fires and weather would have taken its toll. There are many stories of the large scale dumping of ammunition/explosives into the lagoon after the war finished - even a jeep! Bryan Fuge told me that the "Peart bomb" would actually have been the "Piat bomb" which stood for Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank. It was an anti-tank weapon.
Front gate of Tabragalba
Entrance to Tabragalba. Homestead is behind the trees on the hill
Homestead hidden behind the trees
View of old timber bridge over Albert River just as you leave Tabragalba
Distant view of Camp Tabragalba
Beaudesert Shire Council, Albert River Raw Water
Pumping station just below Tabragalba homestead
I'd like to thank "Gene 'Duke' Duque" and Bill Bentson for their assistance with the above information. I'd also like to thank Megan Chandler, daughter of Ian and Patricia Chandler, grand daughter of Munro and Gabrielle Chandler and great granddaughter of Sir John Beals Chandler for her assistance with this web page. I'd also like to thank Rod Chandler, a grandson of Sir John Beal Chandler. I'd also like to thank Ben Polke, great grandson of Sir John Beals Chandler.
I'd also like to thank Bryan Fuge for his assistance with this web page.
Feldt, Eric, "The Coast Watchers", Oxford University Press, 1946
"Australia Remembers 1945 - 1995, The Beaudesert
Stories written by Ailsa Rolley & Beaudesert Times
Can anyone help me with more information?
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 19 November 2000
This page last updated 13 December 2015