SANDGATE AND PINKENBA
The following information regarding Aircraftwoman Joan Ipkendanz (105886) is from the Book "Radar Yarns".
Edited by Ed Simmonds and Norm Smith
135RS AT PINKENBA QLD
Joan Evers (nee Ipkendanz)
Having completed my radar operator’s course on 28 November 1942 I spent four and a half months at No 8 Fighter Sector in Brisbane. Finally I was posted to 135RS and we spent six weeks at Sandgate waiting for the equipment to be installed and become operational. On 28 June we moved to Pinkenba where I spent the next year and eight months. It was our first experience on a small station “out in the sticks”. The station was made up of a number of wooden huts where we slept, showers and toilets were outside and only cold running water. Each hut had a washroom at one end and a small divided room at the other end for those coming off night duty.
The washroom and ironing and washing area had a long galvanized trough with a number of cold water taps. Also provided was a number of small oval wash tubs where one could take a hip bath water being heated in the wood fired copper we used for washing. Being located next to a plywood factory we did have a ready made supply of timber offcuts.
One large hut was our recreation area which also had the
canteen and reading room. The middle of the hut was marked out for a badminton
court for which we erected a net. The
canteen did a good trade on small stations because when working shift work, we didn’t leave the station for about 10 days when we then had three days leave.
The canteen stocked all forms of toilet and washing items, papers, magazines, paperbacks, stationery, shoe polish, laces and food items such as biscuits, lollies, soft drinks, chocolates and cigarettes - all in good supply - and some personal items which were not mentioned in those days !
The Salvation Army Welfare Officer used to visit regularly and we looked forward to that as many were away from home and often lonely. They would bring reading matter, sweets and lend a helping hand to the ones who wanted comforting. From memory, I think they also supplied a sewing machine which we used to make underwear, pyjamas, sometimes a skirt or blouse to wear on leave. They were often made of calico and trimmed with coloured pockets and borders cut from table cloths - anything which did not require clothing coupons.
The station was surrounded by American units, huge stores depots, Eagle Farm Air Base, the American CB's [US Navy Construction Battalion], a submarine base and various Ack Ack units. Most of these units invited us to their entertainment nights, pictures and concerts by visiting American entertainers and supper afterwards - large slabs of chocolate fudge cake and coffee in their mess.
As we were some miles from transport at Ascot tram terminus we were allowed to hitch a ride on the American Liberty Trucks when going on or returning from leave - especially those from the nearby CB unit where quite a few friendships were formed.
Every so often we would have a dance in our “rec” hut and often invite friends from nearby units. I can recall that when the word got around at the CB unit, on the night we would be swamped with CB’s and sometimes had to call off the dance and close the station !
Some of our American friends were appalled at the lack of recreational facilities and offered to build a tennis court. They came in with bulldozers, loads of soil and heavy rollers. Within 24 hours we had a tennis court which only had to be completed by the RAAF personnel erecting a fence. I do not remember who supplied the nets, rackets and balls but we did have a tennis court which was a very popular venue for those off shift.
Pinkenba radar station was built in the middle of a swamp and in the wet season was partly under water. To get from hut to hut walkways were built up to a height of 2-3 feet with ash and coke and we were issued with Wellington boots. During any wet period we would be infested with hundreds of small green frogs in the huts, on any ledge, tops of doors, in our beds, sleeves of coats and even shoes under the beds. Thank goodness we had green mosquito nets to keep the mosquitoes out -they also helped with the frogs while we slept.
We only had one vehicle so had to walk to the doover when it was unavailable, which was most of the time. The ute was used to get daily food supplies from the Army depot as well transporting us to the doover and other chores.
Originally I joined the WAAAF as a DMT but transferred to radar before doing the DMT course. Not doing the course did not seem to make much difference because on most units on which I served as a radar operator, I also doubled as a DMT when he/she was not available and this was quite often.
At 135RS I would come off shift at 8 am, have breakfast and then collect the daily rations from the Army depot as well as collecting the stores for the nearby ack-ack units. On other days I would collect the canteen supplies or drums of fuel for our unit. Our radar mechanics were also responsible for maintaining the ASV beacons for the flying boats using the Brisbane River and often I would drive them out to the beacons.
During regular maintenance periods, some mechanics would suggest that we fill in the time by cleaning the aerials with steel wool to stop corrosion and improve reception. This idea was not very popular as the ACO towers at 208RS were very high and the GCI ones, such as at 135RS, were not much better.
The following information regarding Corporal Freda Bessie Hoult (98400) is from the Book "More Radar Yarns".
MORE RADAR YARNS
Edited by Ed Simmonds
135RS at Pinkenba
Freda Fairlie (nee Hoult)
After a rather idyllic life on Saddleback Mountain, Pinkenba was a shock, even though it was situated near the river on the outskirts of Brisbane.
The area was flat and unattractive, surrounded by odoriferous factories emitting awful fumes and smells which changed in nature depending on the wind direction, the station became known as ‘Stinkenba’. The conditions were not improved by the presence of a sewer outfall which was not all that distant from us. We mostly walked to the doover, half a mile away, escorted by a black cloud of mosquitoes.
To relieve the boredom of life in the barracks we started a secret newspaper and deposited it at the door of the Orderly Room where it was printed and later distributed. A wedding took place on the station and all turned their hands to making the ‘Rec Hut’ look like a church, while the cook made a wedding cake for the occasion.
Being a GCI station we tracked our own aircraft and those Americans who could not seem to be able to find their own aerodrome. The unit was surrounded by American Army camps and the men were generally well behaved and often brought us apple pies which were an improvement on the mess food.
As we knew the movement of aircraft we occasionally managed to get an unofficial flight when going on leave. It took a little courage to go uninvited by speed boat to an awaiting Catalina and ask for a lift. One I travelled on was so overcrowded that all the extra bods had to stand down the back so that the pilot could raise the nose enough to take off.
It was fun, it was boring but the friendships we made still remain.
Lorna Mabel Olsen (98286) (married name Brodie) early in 1945 was posted to 209 Radar Station at Benowa, Queensland for approximately six months. She was posted to 135 Radar Station at Pinkenba near Brisbane in September 1945, where duties were mainly to keep the equipment operating and giving the usual weather reports. She only stayed at Pinkenba for a short while before being posted to Eastern Area HQ.
Edited by Ed Simmonds and Norm Smith
MORE RADAR YARNS
Edited by Ed Simmonds
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This page first produced 28 December 2009
This page last updated 13 January 2020