INTELLIGENCE CENTRE (COIC)
AREA COMBINED HEADQUARTERS
LOCATED AT 42 STURT STREET
THEN AT GREEN STREET
(NEAR SIDNEY STREET),
WEST END, TOWNSVILLE
Townsville Combined Operational Intelligence Centre was established on 4 May 1941 under the command of Lieutenant-Commander James Monteith Luke. It was located on the top floor of the Commonwealth Building (previously D & W Murray Warehouse) at 42 Sturt Street, Townsville.
ACH's were established in Fremantle and Darwin. New Combined Defence Headquarters were established in Townsville, Thursday Island and Newcastle. CDHQ Townsville was located some where in Sturt Street. (could this be the same as Area Combined Headquarters Townsville?)
In late March 2000, I received information from an ex RAAF member regarding the location of an old WWII Command Centre that he had inspected inside Castle Hill in 1958. His recollection was that it was located immediately behind the previous RAAF married quarters adjacent to the Green Street Bunker at West End. In July 2001, the possible location of the Command Centre was visible as a filled in area of the slope of Castle Hill behind the RAAF Married Quarters.
Concrete Slab where the old
Married Quarters used
to be located in front of the Command Centre
Another source has told me that this Married Quarters house was built after the war above the top of an underground bunker complex.
The filled in area behind the
married quarters where the Command Centre entrance was located.
The Green Street bunker is located to the left and slightly lower down the hill
Some large concrete slabs
across the road from the married
behind a nearby house. Their origin is unclear. Probably no connection.
Entry to the Command Centre was via some large steel doors into the side of Castle Hill which then took you into a small airlock area. There were a number of very large rooms and some small rooms.
There was a small window in one of the rooms adjacent to the air lock which would allow someone to check who had entered the air lock. Back in 1958 there was some .38" ammunition still in this room along with some flares. There was probably 100 to 200 rounds of .38" ammunition in small cardboard boxes inside an ammunition box.
The largest room was the plotting room, which you entered by going down a flight of about 6 to 8 large stairs. It contained a large perspex disposition board situated in the middle of the room. This perspex board still had information on it showing the location of military bases and the disposition of the Pacific Fleet. There were still a number of the china graph pencils below the disposition board. It looked like the room was just abandoned after the end of the war. The disposition board, which was probably about 25 feet long by 10 feet high, was suspended in a frame that was attached to the floor and the roof of the plotting room.
There were numerous of timber benches around the various rooms. There was one room off to one side which may have been the Radio Room. There was no radio equipment there though. This room only had a few broken chairs in it. One of the smaller rooms had a smaller disposition board showing details for transport. The furniture in the rooms was made of very good quality timber.
There were at least two tunnels leading off into Castle Hill. They were wide enough to allow 3 - 4 people to walk beside each other down the tunnel. One tunnel had a lot of machinery in it including electric motors. The roof of the tunnels had wiring and ducting for the lighting and air conditioning system. It was thought that one of these tunnels may have gone through Castle Hill and exited near the Townsville General Hospital.
On 29 July 2001, I had a discussion with Bill Stovell who told me that he was part of the Combined Operational Intelligence Centre (COIC) located inside Castle Hill at Green Street, West End. His Commanding Officer was Squadron Leader Patrick Stephen Jocelyn O'Connell Primrose (270447). As suggested by the name, the unit was a combination of the navy, army and air forces of the Dutch, British, New Zealand, American and Australian forces. There was also a Photographic Interpretation Unit (RAAF) located there. A Dick Spence, was attached to the Photographic unit at Green Street. There was also another very secret unit known as the Strict Intelligence Unit. There was a secret area where they had complete control of all Alerts issued in Australia.
There was a car parking area near the entrance. Many trees had been planted to assist with camouflaging the location. They had to produce a security card and give a Secret Code No. to allow them to enter the Command Centre via the double steel doors.
Once inside the command centre there were a number of small rooms to the left for each of the units that were stationed inside to use as a small office. One of these was used by Captain Johnson and Sgt. William Walpole Stovell (Q30658) from the Australian Army.
Bill Stovell source told me that an American Officer, Major Jimmy Bakker, worked inside the command centre. Apparently he was a real comedian. He assisted the Dutch military. He smoked cigars which were manufactured by his father's company. I have since discovered that there was a Lt. Comdr. J. Bakker of the Royal Navy working in the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) at Indooroopilly in Brisbane. Could he have been the same person? Not American though!
In one of the larger rooms, a number of people would sit around a large table where they would do their encyphering and decyphering and photographic interpretation using photographs from Port Moresby. It was from this table that they were in touch with the Coast Watchers via Morse Code and various Military Reporting Officers (MRO) via secure voice lines. These MRO's were people such as Harbour Masters, Railway Station Masters, etc.
There were a number of reference maps on the walls in this room. There was another common room which was used as a recreation area. They would plot fleet and aircraft movement on a large wall board inside the Command Centre inside Castle Hill. They also handled internal intelligence through Military Intelligence Officers (MIO) who were contacted on secure phone lines.
Personnel inside Castle Hill would encipher and decipher secret messages to the Coast Watchers in the New Guinea area. They would change their codes every hour. One particular Coast Watcher named Paul Mason who was an ex British Artillery man was located on Bougainville near Faisi and Buin Islands. This was in the area where the Japanese fleet would assemble. He would send signals to COIC Townsville who would then send Catalinas from 11 Squadron and 20 Squadron up to the area to bomb the ships. Mason would give them eight figure map co-ordinates which would allow them to very accurately pinpoint the location of the Japanese shipping.
Bill Stovell told me that one day a signal was received from Mason to indicate that the Japanese had landed some dogs to help track him down. This was probably in about October 1942. The Japanese knew he was there somewhere. A Catalina was dispatched and it apparently managed to hit the dog's enclosure. Mason was moved and eventually evacuated from Bougainville.
Bill mentioned the incident outside Townsville where some negro troops rioted at the Upper Ross. He mentioned Reservoir Road. He also indicated Col. F.R. North would have been involved in reviewing this incident.
I received a phone call from Wal Moore, Caloundra of 36 Squadron RAAF on 25 July 2001. Wal told me that he went for an interview with North East Area Headquarters at a site in Sidney Street, West End. He said it was a very well camouflaged and secret location. Wal's wife, Fay, was a WAAAF who was living at the WAAAF barracks in Anne Street and was taken daily with a cook to the Officer's Mess near the Sidney Street bunker. Fay advised that the bunker at Sidney Street was a Signal Station for North East Area HQ. She also advised that the Headquarters for the Signal Station was located nearby, camouflaged into the side of Castle Hill. Fay's recollection from almost 60 years ago was that this HQ was about 1/4 of a mile up the slopes of Castle Hill and slightly more towards the Belgian Gardens side of the hill. Was this HQ for the Signal Station, the Command Center that is described above?
Is this the other end of one of these tunnels?
Over the years I have received various reports of secret bunkers and tunnels in Castle Hill and Mount Louisa. I received some evidence that suggested there was a tunnel near the Green Street bunker. It was reported by John Matthews, a Purchasing Officer at RAAF Garbutt, that the entrance was in the slopes behind the Green Street bunker. He indicated that the tunnel and the Green Street bunker were reportedly used by the RAAF for storage of parts up until 1969. At this time the tunnel was reportedly sealed off as its concrete lining was starting to become unstable.
Another one of the many rumours about secret tunnels in Castle Hill suggested that there was an entrance in the floor of the Green Street bunker. In 1985 a section of the floor of this bunker was dug up in a forlorn attempt to find the "secret" tunnel.
WWII Bunker Tour of Townsville
I'd like to thank Vince Giraud for his assistance with this home page.
Can anyone help me with more information?
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn OAM 2020
This page first produced 21 July 2001
This page last updated 23 February 2020