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In early 1942 the Commonwealth Government had made plans to be ready to destroy our harbours and airfields. This was at the time leading up to the Battle of the Coral Sea. There was a great fear that the Japanese were about to invade Australia.

Should they invade Australia, plans were in place to:-

- place explosive charges in holes predrilled in concrete piles at ports and harbours

- sink barges and hulks at harbour entrances

- place demolition charges in pre-dug shafts at airfields

The open shafts at airfields were marked with warning flags during the day and with temporary lights at night time.

The National Archives of Australia file below has various documents describing what had to be done, and what had already been done. Plans to scrap some of the above arrangements appear later in the file dated around September 1942. For example, a letter dated 29 September 1942 orders that Rockhampton airfield be "made safe by filling in the open shafts or by covering them with timber."

The above solution had some consequences many years later. Several years ago the main runway 15/33 at Rockhampton airfield developed "holes" or more precisely, large subsidences in the surface. As a result, the runway became unserviceable until it was repaired by pumping the old demolition pits full of concrete. DC9's were being operated at this time and they had to use the much shorter 04/22 cross strip. On take off, it was spectacular to see them thundering just above the fence at the 22 end. The repair work took several weeks. 

From 1942 to 1944, the 14th Battalion of the Volunteer Defence Corps manned a shelter at a place which is now known as Pooh Bear's Corner on Clyde Mountain. From this shelter they would trigger demolition charges under the King's Highway between Braidwood and Bateman's Bay. This was part of a plan to prevent any possible Japanese invasion party who might land at Bateman's Bay from advancing on Canberra, the Nation's Capital. A tunnel was dug under the King's Highway at this location and explosives placed inside. The entrance to the tunnel has now been sealed by concrete. The conspiracy theorists suggest that there may still be some explosives inside the tunnel.


Possible Demolition Tunnel above Woy Woy Rail Tunnel, NSW



The following File is available at the Australian War memorial.

Accession Number:  MSS0806

Name of Collection:  Newman, Richard H, Lieutenant, Demolition Unit, Karumba 

Description:  Newman's account "A Motley Crowd" written in conversational style covering his appointment and the organisation and running of the secret guerilla demolitions unit in the Gulf (of Carpentaria) area. They were tasked to prepare for demolition of key sites around Normanton, Karumba and Burketown plus a proposed scorched earth policy should the Japanese invade. He also described the recruitment and enlistment of his men and the locals from the VDC, administration, difficulties encountered in supply and pay and isolation and his delayed commissioning as Lieutenant passed over as Captain. Following disbanding of the unit his work in Thursday Island and Cairns administering the islands.  

Subject:  North Queensland ; Demolition units ; 1942-1943 
Quantity:  1 item 
Access:  Open 
Copying Provisions:  Copying not permitted 
Conflict:  1939-1945 


The Defence of Townsville Harbour


Demolition Plans for Townsville Harbour


Demolition Plans for Townsville Water Supply Infrastructure



National Archives of Australia
"Most Secret Works for Defence - Various Locations in Queensland"
Series number:  BP243/1
Control symbol: MS62
Barcode no: 996775

National Archives of Australia
Series No. J1018
Control Symbol LS880
Barcode No. 900126

Series No. J1018
Control Symbol LS880A
Barcode No. 900128

"The History of Townsville Harbour 1864 - 1979"
By H.J. Taylor



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This page first produced 3 July 2000

This page last updated 21 September 2021