393 AUSTRALIAN HEAVY ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUN STATION
16 HEAVY ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY
MOUNT ST. JOHN, TOWNSVILLE
DURING WWII

 

393 Australian Heavy Anti-aircraft Gun Station of the 16 Australian Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery was located at Mount St. John, on the outskirts of Townsville not far from Garbutt Airfield. It became operational in March 1942. It was initially known as No. 2 Gun Station and Pallarenda was No. 1 Gun Station.

The War Diary for 16 Heavy Anti-aircraft on the Australian War Memorial web site stated the following:-

3 March 1942
0800 to 1630 hrs. - "Weather - Fine. Continuous manning. Further work on revettments and Main Roads Commission building magazines. Camouflaging of guns and command post. 2 holdfasts at Mt. St. John ready for mounting of guns."

4 March 1942
0800 to 1630 hrs. - "Weather - Fine. Continuous manning. Further work on revettments and magazines and camouflaging of guns etc. Main Roads Commission working on 3rd and fourth holdfasts at Mt. St. John."

5 March 1942
0800 to 1630 hrs. - "Weather - Fine. Continuous manning. Further work on revettments, magazines and camouflaging of gun position and buildings. Main Roads Commission continuing with gun holdfasts at Mt. St. John.

6 March 1942
0800 to 1630 hrs. - "Weather - Fine. Continuous manning. Further work on revettments etc. M.R.C. continuing on holdfasts at Mt. St. John.

7 March 1942
0800 to 1630 hrs. - Weather - Fine. Further work on revettments and slit trenches. 1 permanent magazine completed by Main Roads Commission.

8 March 1942
0800 to 1630 hrs. - Weather - Fine. Continuous manning. 4 x 3.7" guns arrived at Townsville Railway and picquet mounted at station with same. Cleaning and clearing of station area.

9 March 1942
0800 to 1630 hrs. - Weather - Fine. Further work by Main Roads Commission on revettments and magazines. First gun taken to Mt. St. John and mounted on holdfasts. M.R.C. also working on remaining holdfasts and one ammunition magazine at Mt. St. John.

 


Plan:- NAA file

Typical layout for a 3.7" Heavy Anti-aircraft Gun Station

 

"The History of the Queensland Main Roads Commission 1939 - 1945" states as follows:-

"Work at Mount St. John anti-aircraft station included construction and drainage of oil and shell stores, water supply to kitchen and ablutions, covering and screening magazine doors, and camouflage of road."

Eighty eight Other Ranks moved to No. 2 Gun Station at Mount St. John at 0930 hours on 21 March 1942.

Open sights were being fitted to the guns at Mount St. John on 22 March 1942. Training was underway at Mt. St. John.

Open night manning was in place at Mount St. John on 23, 24 and 25 March 1942.

Spare parts and small stores were incomplete at both Pallarenda and Mt. St. John as of 23 March 1942. Instruments for Mount St. John arrived at the Ordnance Workshop in Townsville on 24 March 1942.

A report was received from C.D.H. at 2240 hours on 25 March 1942 that an unidentified aircraft over Ingham. Sections stood to for one hour. Nothing further was heard of the aircraft and C.D.H. reported no further news.

Mount St. John was manned with open sights only on 26 March 1942. Topping of trees was carried out to enable low angle firing to take place. Work continued on revettments of gun positions. Construction of magazines was commenced. Concealment of instruments commenced. Four hours of training was carried out for each section.

Mount St. John was manned with open sights only on 27 -28 March 1942 and work continued on revetment of gun positions, construction of magazines and connection of instruments. Cables were being laid into Mt. St. John and Pallarenda from telephone line terminations.

Mount St. John was manned by "Voice Control" only on 29 and 30 March 1942 and work continued on revetment of gun positions, and construction of magazines. Tents were dispersed throughout the area. Work continued on connection of instruments.

At 1740 hours on 30 March 1942, a report was received that fifty unidentified aircraft had been sighted north of Cairns, heading south. Both sections were ordered to stand by for action and continued standing to, until 2015 hours, when C.D.H. reported that the previous report was not confirmed. Both sections were then ordered to resume normal conditions.

Mount St. John was manned by "Voice Control" only on 31 March 1942 and work continued on revetment of gun positions, and construction of magazines. Work continued on connection of instruments.

Both stations ordered "Alarm: conditions at 1000 hours on 21 April 1942. Mount St. John "Stood to" ready for action and Pallarenda engaged two aircraft at bearing of 70 and a height of 6,400 feet. A salvo of 4 rounds were fired. The aircraft then went out of range.

Work continued on revettments and Magazines at Mount St. John on 22 and 23 April 1942.

Main Roads Commission continued working on erection of magazines on 24 April 1942. 3 FSHQ reported two unidentified aircraft approaching Townsville over Magnetic Island on course 74 degrees at 1820 hours on 24 April 1942. Both stations were place don ready for action status. 3 FSHQ reported the "All clear" at 1855 hours and both stations reverted to normal conditions.

Main Roads Commission continued work at Mount St. John on magazines on 25 April 1942. The four guns at Mount St. John were proofed at 161r hiurs on 25 April 1942. 3 rounds were fired from each of the four guns at angles of sight 15, 45 and 70. This was all supervised by Captain Morrison O.M.E. Major General Milford visited Mount St. John at about 1000 hours on 25 April 1942. At about 2325 hours on 25 April 1942, both sections were alerted following a report of two unidentified aircraft heard approaching from the north without navigation lights. They circled over Townsville, then headed south. The "All clear" was given at 0010 hours on 26 April 1942.

A message was received from Brigade Headquarters at 0830 hours on 26 April 1942 informing all personnel of the seriousness of the tactical situation and precautionary measures taken. Wireless receiver sets were installed at Mount St. John and Pallarenda for communication with U.S.A. Station "Canton".

Main Roads Commission was working on Magazines on 27 April 1942. Training as per the syllabus was underway at both stations.  At 0735 hours 3 FSHQ reported 4 unidentified aircraft 50 miles north of Palm Island moving south. Both stations were alerted and were ready for action. At 0800 hours the unidentified aircraft were 15 miles north and slightly east of Palm Island. At 0825 hours two aircraft were identified as friendly aircraft with another two still remaining unidentified. At 0830 hours the other two aircraft were identified as B-26 Marauders. Both stations reverted to normal conditions.

The Main Roads Commission was working on the Magazines on 28 April 1942. Both stations were dispersing tents and continued to camouflage their areas.

The Queensland Main Road Commission were working on the magazines at Mt. St. John on 29 April 1942. Camouflaging and dispersing of tents was underway at Mount St. John and Pallarenda on 29 April 1942.

The Queensland Main Road Commission were working on the magazines at both Mt. St. John and Pallarenda Stations on 30 April 1942. Camouflaging was underway at both stations. At 1950 hours 3 Fighter Sector Headquarters reported two unidentified aircraft over Magnetic Island. Both Stations were "alarmed" and stood to ready for action. 3 FSHQ reported the "All clear" at 2021 hours and both stations reverted to normal.

 

mtsj01.jpg (38425 bytes)

Mount St. John can be seen behind the industial buildings.
Photo taken in February 1999 from Mount Louisa looking towards Many Peaks Range

 

16 Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery at Mount St. John was known as No. 2 Station, Y Battery and 393 HAA Gun Station. Terry Daley was the 2nd in charge of the installation at Mount St. John which is located adjacent to the Garbutt airfield.

Construction of this Anti-aircraft battery commenced in February 1942. It comprised four 3.7" calibre Anti-aircraft guns. The four hexagonal gun emplacements are still partially visible to this day. There were four single-roomed underground ammunition magazines with stairs leading down into the bunker. They had large steel doors over their entrances. These have since all been removed. They were  two ventilators in the roof of each ammunition bunker.

There was another large square shaped building which was the command post and plotting room. Its steel door is still attached. It was constructed partially underground.

Mount St. John Zoo was located slightly to the west of 393 HAA Gun Station. Mt St. John Zoo was started by St. John Robinson in 1932. The Norline Drive-in was opened in September 1957 on the other side of Mount St. John, that is on the opposite side of the hill from the Zoo. The site of the Norline Drive-in may have been a possible WWII bomb dump.

 


 

Philip Dulhunty was based at Gunsite 393 at Mount St. John during World War 2. He has sent me the following photographs from a nostalgic visit that he made back to the location. He was also posted to an anti-aircraft battery at Nelly Bay on Magnetic Island.

 

Ammunition storage bunker still standing at Mt St John

 

Ants nest & snake skins hanging inside one of the ammunition storage bunkers

 

The gun site overgrown with brambles and broken concrete slabs

 

The concrete roof of one of the underground storage bunkers

 

A view across to Garbutt and Castle Hill from Mt St John

 

Philip Dulhunty standing on top of one of the concrete bunkers still remaining

 

The overgrown site with concrete bunker in the back ground

 

View of Mt St. John from Garbutt Field

 

 

Were you stationed at Mount St. John during World War 2?

If you were, I'd like to hear from you

 

16 Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery

 

WWII Bunker Tour of Townsville

 

WW2 Bunkers & Fortifications in the Townsville area

 

Anti-aircraft Batteries in the Townsville area during WW2

 

16 HEAVY ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY
Nelly Bay Magnetic Island

 

14 HEAVY ANTI-AIRCRAFT BATTERY
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"DARWIN BOMBED"
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By Jack Mulholland

 

REFERENCES

"The North Queensland Line - The Defence of Townsville in 1942"
by Ray Holyoak, 1998

"The History of the Queensland Main Roads Commission 1939 - 1945"

War Diary - 16 Anti Aircraft Battery, AWM52 4/16/20

 

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 Peter Dunn OAM 2020

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This page first produced 1 July 2000

This page last updated 01 Aug 2022