The Northern Area Signals Office was located on the top floor of the Commonwealth Building at 42 Sturt Street, Townsville. The Signals staff comprised:-

Area Signals Officer, Squadron Leader Hampshire
Officer Commanding W/T Station, Flight Lieutenant Curtain
Technical Officer, Flight Lieutenant Cunningham
Maintenance Officer, Pilot Officer Meyers

A small transmitting station known as No. 1 Transmitter had been operating at Belgian Gardens, since 21 September 1940.

On 14 December 1941, S/O Rentoul arrived with a detachment of WAAAF Personnel.

On 15 January 1942, Northern Area Headquarters was renamed to North-Eastern Area Headquarters.

No. 2 Transmitting Station was opened for dispersal reasons in a farm house at Mount Louisa.

In April 1942 a house in Stagpole Street, West End was taken over as an emergency signals Office and shadow to the main North-Eastern Area W/T Station at 42 Sturt Street.

On 5 September 1942, S/O Sutherland arrived in Townsville as Messing and Barracks Officer, WAAAF Townsville W/T Station. "E" Block of St. Patricks College, The Strand, was occupied by WAAAF personnel as barracks.

On 10 September 1942, North-Eastern Area Signals Office became Townsville W/T Station. Another record states this happened on 7 September 1942.

Townsville W/T Station comprised:-

- a Signals Office
- 2 Transmitting Stations
- a Remote Receiving Station
- a Shadow Signals Office

My assumption is that it was in the same building where North Eastern Area HQ was located in what is today called the Commonwealth Building.

Twelve WAAAF Officers and 59 WAAAF other ranks were posted to Townsville W/T Station for North-Eastern Area Signals Office. The WAAAF personnel took over the Little Flower Academy, The Strand for their barracks.

Some WAAAF personnel were also housed at WAAAF Barracks at St. Anne's Church of England Girls School.

On 17 September 1942, S/O Gwendoline Mary Olver (350032) arrived and assumed duties as Officer In Charge WAAAF personnel, Townsville W/T Station.

Wing Commander William Allan Minchin (270916) was appointed Area Signals Officer in September 1942.

WAAAFs took over St. Rita's Hostel, The Strand, as barracks in October 1942. The strength of Townsville W/T Station at that time was as follows:-


Officers 21 15
Other Ranks 326 176


The North-Eastern Area Air Operations Room (A.O.R.) moved to Sidney Street premises at West End (Green Street Bunker) on 7 November 1942 and Townsville W/T Station took over the whole of the top floor of the North-Eastern Area Headquarters building at 42 Sturt Street. A Signals Office was established in the A.O.R. building at Sidney Street and facilities were provided for passing messages from Townsville W/T Station. The emergency Signals Office in the house at Stagpole Street was closed down at about the same time.


The strength of the Townsville W/T Station at that time was:-

Officers 23 14
Other Ranks 367 247


No.12 Signals Unit was formed on 7 December 1942. Another source states that this happened on 29 December 1942. It was formed from the Signals Staff of Headquarters North-Eastern Area and all the personnel of Townsville W/T Station. Pilot Officer Ross Clifford Harris (285706) was appointed as temporary Commanding Officer. 12 Signals Unit reported initially reported to No. 22 Base Wing. On 21 December 1942, 12 Signals Unit came back under North-Eastern Area Headquarters.

His Excellency Sir Leslie Wilson inspected Townsville W/T Station, No. 1 Transmitting Station at Belgian Gardens and Signals Section Air Operations Room at Sidney Street, West End on 1 May 1944.


Layout of the Signals Office
in the North Eastern Area HQ


(D) Personnel at Radio Table looking from
Sturt Street towards Flinders Street


(D) AR7 Emergency Receiver set up on Radio Table


(C) A Recording Machine on table (similar to a type of gramaphone)


(D) Radio Communications table with WAAAF and RAAF personnel


Note the message tubes up to the ceiling


(B2) Teletype machine


(B) Teletype and Teleprinter table with landline table (3) in background


(B1) Teleprinter Machine


(F) Emergency A47 Receivers used when Remote Control went out of action


(E) Distribution of messages in air tubes throughout the whole building


(A) WAAAF in Messages Sorting Office


One of the trucks used to transport personnel from the Grammar
Camp to the North Eastern Area HQ building in Sturt Street


WAAAF staff from one of four shifts who lived at Grammar Camp
and worked in North Eastern Area HQ building on the top floor


RAAF staff from one of four shifts who lived at Grammar Camp
and worked in North Eastern Area HQ building on the top floor


Some RAAF personnel at the Grammar Camp who
worked in North Eastern Area HQ building on the top floor


White huts for the WAAAF's located at the Grammar
School Reserve with the Sports Reserve in the background.
The RAAF huts for the men were amongst the trees. Landsborough
Street runs between the Grammar School and Yarrawonga.


Townsville W/T Station was staffed by 140 RAAF personnel and 241 WAAAF personnel. The Cipher Section had a separate staff of 16 Officers (RAAF) and 204 other ranks (RAAF) and 13 Officers (WAAAF) and 32 other ranks (WAAAF).

On Saturday 27th March 1943 at approximately 0512 hours Douglas DC3 (C-47) VH-CTB, A65-2 (A30-16) of 36 Squadron, Townsville, was involved in a fatal accident at Archerfield. The crew of four were killed as were all passengers consisting of 17 Australian and 2 American personnel. Thus a total of 23 personnel were killed. Amongst those killed were two members of 12 Signals, Townsville.

LAC Charles Paton Eric Fly
LAC Terrence Joseph Kelly

Aircraftwoman Enid Atherton of Mackay, Qld, was a member of No. 12 Signals Unit RAAF. Enid lived at the Strand Barracks. For a photo of Enid Atherton go to Negative No. VIC1061 on the Australian War Memorial Photograph Database site.


Can anyone tell me more about 12 Signals Unit, Townsville?


Where was the Remote Receiving Station located?



I'd like to thanks Lorna Grasswell (nee Mittelheuser) and Joan Archibald (nee Hatfield) and Mary Hilbig (RAAF Museum Garbutt) for their assistance with this home page.



"The WAAAF in Wartime Australia"
by Joyce Thomson


Can anyone help me with more information?


I need your help


 Peter Dunn 2015


Please e-mail me
any information or photographs

"Australia @ War"
8GB USB Memory Stick


This page first produced 25 February 2002

This page last updated 22 July 2016