NO. 1 FIGHTER SECTOR HEADQUARTERS RAAF
LATER KNOWN AS NO. 101 FIGHTER CONTROL UNIT RAAF
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

 

No. 1 Fighter Sector Headquarters RAAF, 1 FSHQ RAAF, was formed at RAAF Station Bankstown, New South Wales on 25 February 1942. Squadron Leader Colin Errol Woodman (169) was the initial Commanding Officer and Controller. Other officers were as follows:-

Flying Officer Harold James Raymond Adams (4128) - Signals Duties
Flight Lieutenant Eustace Edred Vivian Dillon (035982) - Controller
Flying Officer Francis Deane (03377) - Adjutant
Pilot Officer Victor Temple Hall (264163) - VAOC Liaison
Pilot Officer Thomas Henry Davison (254152) - VAOC Liaison
Pilot Officer Jospeh Dickman (294234) - VAOC Liaison
Pilot Officer Cecil Arthur Eastop (264155) - Identification Officers
Pilot Officer William Edmund Clair Treyvaud (254196) - Identification Officer
Pilot Officer William Louis Von Doussa (284198) - Identification Officer
Pilot Officer A.R. Miles - Operations Room Officer
Pilot Officer Archibald John Harmsworth (254167) - Operations Room Officer
Pilot Officer Keith Edward Rigg (254189) - Operations Room Officer

Squadron Leader Charles Frederick Read (0367) was posted to 1 FSHQ as a Controller on 12 March 1942.

1 Fighter Sector Headquarters RAAF commenced operations at the Capitol Theatre, in Chapel Road, Bankstown on 14 March 1942. Personnel were divided into three 8 hour watches.

On 10 April 1942, 1 Fighter Sector Headquarters commenced the disbandment of the unit and handing over operational control to the 31st Pursuit Squadron, USAAF inside  theSt James Railway Tunnel. 1 FSHQ was fully disbanded on 16 April 1942.

Squadron Leader Gerald Kingston Kestell Buscombe (116) arrived to take command of the reformed 1 FSHQ on 3 August 1942 inside the air raid shelters in the St James Railway Tunnel, in Sydney central business district. His predecesor Squadron Leader Thomas Spencer Ingledew (0347) had only been there for a short period.

S/Ldr Buscombe found that the unit had been under the control of American Forces before he arrived and unit records were non existent. As the American Commanding Officer was not in attendance there was no official handover. Officers and other ranks from Eastern Area Headquarters were attached to 1 Fighter Sector Headquarters. Strength at that time was as follows:-

RAAF Officers - 17
RAAF Other Ranks - 4
WAAAF - Officers - 1
WAAAF - Other Ranks - 61

S/Ldr Buscombe found the equipment for plotting was far below standard and there was no office equipment except for two tables and a few chairs. He found the whole setup unsatisfactory.

No. 1 Fighter Sector Headquarters was officially reformed on 13 August 1942 as a RAAF Unit under the command of Eastern Area Headquarters.

General Sir Thomas Blamey visited 1 FSHQ on 26 August 1942 and spent most of his time with the Army Liaison personnel. S/Ldr Buscombe accompanied Wing Commander John Reginald Paget (0210891), Squadron Leader Lindsay Cramp Dawkins (280935) and Flying Officer Opie to inspect the proposed site of the new Fighter Sector Headquarters underground bunker at Bankstown on 29 August 1942.

A signal was received on 31 August 1942 ordering the move of 1 FSHQ from St. James Tunnel to a location at Bankstown by 7 September 1942. S/Ldr Buscombe visited the new site at Bankstown on 4 September 1942.

The Operation Rooms and administration offices were established in the Capitol Theatre. In addition to 5 huts, nearby shops were used as kitchens and Operations Staff Rest Rooms. The RSS&AILA, Friendly Society and Masonic Halls as well as two Comet Huts were used for sleeping accommodation. All these buildings were dispersed within a 3 mile radius of each other.

1 FSHQ took over the new locations at Bankstown at 1100 hours on 7 September 1942. The watches were reduced from four down to three per day due to a shortage of personnel.

Wing Commander John Reginald Paget (0210891) visited 1 FSHQ on 11 September 1942 and inspected all buildings under their control. Squadron Leader Charles Alexander Frew (261604), the Station Medical Officer from RAAF Station Bankstown visited the site on 17 September 1942 and was not impressed by the general hygiene and sanitation that he witnessed.

S/Ldr Buscombe and the Adjutant visited 2 FSHQ at New Lambton on 10 October 1942 to establish liaison and exchange ideas. Air Vice Marshall Bostock visited 1 FSHQ and inspected the Operations Room and the quarters. Corporal Brown of D.S.D., Air Board arrived on 27 October 1942 to construct a new map for the large plotting table. In his monthly October 1942 report S/Ldr Buscombe reported that accommodation facilities left much to be desired and liaison arrangements with the Royal Australian Navy were unsatisfactory.

Lieutenant Commander Nixson (RAN) from Eastern Area Headquarters visited 1 FSHQ on 2 November 1942 to establish liaison between the Navy and Fighter Sector Headquarters.

On 28 November 1942 Squadron Leader Clive R."Killer" Caldwell (402107) DFC, telephoned S/Ldr Buscombe regarding the allocation of "Capstan" (Spitfire) Squadrons to 1 FSHQ for fighter defence purposes. Arrangements were made for control of aircraft by Radio Telephone tenders at RAAF Station Bankstown . Signals Officers of both units established necessary liaison lines immediately. Availability of aircraft was two at readiness and four immediately available from 452 Squadron, 457 Squadron and 54 Squadron in rotation in that order.

Unit personnel continued in November 1942 to use the RSS&AILA, Friendly Society and Masonic Halls as well as two Comet Huts for sleeping accommodation. The Telephone Exchange continued to be used by all personnel for messing. There was no separate accommodation for Officers, but negotiations were underway to use part of the Cumberland Hotel for that purpose. Operational Headquarters continued in the Capitol Theatre.

On 1 December 1942, a contractor started work on permanent airmen's and sergeant's mess and two additional airman's sleeping quarters facing Chapel Road.

A signal was received on 4 December 1942 advising that Squadron Leader Hugh Augustine Conaghan (0387) would be posted to the unit on 7 December 1942 and assume command of No. 1 FSHQ. On 8 December S/Ldr Conaghan visited Brigadier Naylon, Officer Commanding Ack-Ack Defences, Sydney regarding control of Ack-Ack defences on H.M. Ships in port and issue of air-raid warnings by 1 FSHQ to National Emergency Services. S/Ldr Conaghan assumed command of 1 FSHQ on 9 December 1942. S/Ldr Buscombe was posted to No 2 FSHQ at New Lambton effective 14 December 1942.

A signal was received on 12 December 1942 that a Ryan aircraft A50-24 had been allocated to 1 FSHQ. S/Ldr Conaghan piloted the Ryan from Richmond to 24 Squadron at Bankstown on 18 December 1942. A signal was received on 22 December cancelling the allotment of the Ryan aircraft to the unit.

On 25 January 1943, the Cumberland Hotel was handed over for Officer's Mess accommodation for Officers. Furniture of the hotel was taken over by S/Ldr Conaghan under private hire.

S/Ldr Conaghan travelled to Mascot Airfield on 2 February 1943 to take delivery of Moth Minor A21-29. New RAAF Barracks and Airmen's Mess was taken over on 11 February 1943. The new Sergeant's Mess was opened on 16 February 1943. S/Ldr Conaghan left by air for Canberra with Flying Officer Frank Gordon Scott (265877) on 24 February 1943 to meet with the Minister for Air, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Security. The pair also attended a sitting of the House at 1500 hours and returned by air that night.

On 24 February 1943, Flying Officer Geoffrey Lewis Moline (255102) accompanied by Lieutenant Commander Thomas Nixson (RAN) and Mr. Sherrard (DWB Office) visited the Unit to check on the plan of the Naval Room in the proposed new Fighter Sector.

On 25 February 1943, S/Ldr Conaghan met with the Air Officer Commanding and the Senior Administrative Staff Officer to discuss the availability of aircraft allocated to the Fighter Sector and the possibility of obtaining more aircraft in the form of reserve "Capstans" (Spitfires).

On 13 March 1942, S/Ldr Conaghan inspected No. 136 Radio Station. and the following day he took the first party of men from 1 FSHQ to man No. 136 Radio Station. On 28 March 1942, 1 VAOC Filter Room came into operation at No. 1 FSHQ to replace Main Control previously located at Labrador.

S/Ldr Conaghan was granted the rank of acting Wing Commander from 1 April 1943. The Deputy Chief of Air Staff, Air Commodore John Patrick Joseph McCauley (036), inspected 1 FSHQ and the new Fighter Sector. Wing Commander James Henry Wright (71) replaced S/Ldr Conaghan as Commanding Officer of 1 FSHQ on 10 May 1943.

On 14 July 1943 Flight Lieutenant Kenneth Bayer Spain (255305) from Divisional Works Office, inspected the new Fighter Sector buildings.

On 13 December 1943, Group Captain Alan Moorhouse Charlesworth (037), A.F.C., Air Officer Commanding, Headquarters Eastern Area, visited Fighter Sector, new Fighter Sector and 82 Squadron RAAF.

The November 1943 through to February 1944 Operations Record Book entries shows Wing Commander James Henry Wright signing off as the Commanding Officer of No. 101 FSHQ rather than 1 FSHQ. From March 1944 he signs off as the CO of No. 101 Fighter Control Unit. 1 FSHQ was renamed No. 101 Fighter Control Unit on 7 March 1944.

On 7 February 1944 the Masonic Hall, Returned Soldiers' Hall and Friendly Societies' Hall were all vacated and the WAAAF moved into new quarters recently built on land adjoining the Fighter Sector.

On 23 and 27 May 1944, Squadron Leader Kennedy of RAAF Command, visited the unit in connection with the change over to a combination of Filter and Operations Rooms. During May 1944, 101 FCU had no operational squadron allotted to it to scramble against enemy aircraft. Civilians started to be used in the VAOC area during May 1944. There was a reduction of the number of reporting radar stations down to three only on a 24 hour basis. There was also a large reduction in staff and responsibilities in 101 FCU during May.

On 4 June 1944, the Filter Room transferred over to the Operations Room and operations were then carried out as in the Zone Filter Centre. On 5 June VAOC civilian personnel were installed in Identification and Filter sections for final training instructions. On 10 June 1944, one of the guards reported seeing a Mosquito aircraft explode in the air. During June 1944, 101 FCU had no operational squadron allotted to it to scramble against enemy aircraft.

From 30 September 1944, the Australian Army ceased to send a Liaison Officer to attend the Operations Room. On 23 November 194, AWAS were withdrawn from the Operations Room thus concluding duties of the Australian Army with 101 FCU Headquarters.

I'm not sure what date 101 FCU moved into the new underground bunker at Bankstown. 101 Fighter Control Unit RAAF was disbanded at Bankstown on 21 May 1945.

 


 

Working inside the Tunnel under Sydney

The W.A.A.A.F Book
Edited by Clare Stevenson and Honor Darling

The following is the story as told by Eila Pickup ACW 93117 who later became the shorthand writer for John Kingsford Smith in Fighter Sector at Bankstown. 

"I worked in the nerve centre of the controls for the Army, Air Force and Navy to defend Sydney. This Fighter Sector was in a tunnel below the city streets, between Circular Quay and the Public Library in Macquarie Street, which now forms part of the Eastern Suburbs Railway (this should probably read "City Circle Railway").

The centre was connected to radar stations, weather signals, movements from airports, army and Volunteer Air Observer Corps reporting posts, air raid sirens, blackout control, the lot. A huge table carried a map of the New South Wales coast and adjoining areas, on which WAAAF plotted movements of aircraft and shipping.

Here we worked with the Americans, and fought conditions vastly different from those in our earlier posting with the RAAF. We were billeted in the Metropole Hotel, occupying three of its floors. Extra beds were moved into the guest rooms, but we had hotel linen and facilities. A huge kitchen area on one floor was set up, from which we were served five course meals, even for breakfast, which offered us grapefruit, doughnuts, various types of cereal, toast, eggs, bacon tomatoes, coffee etc. The girls all put on weight! At our previous posting at a school near Newcastle the food had had to be cooked in dixies and coppers out in the quadrangle.

Each day or night when going on duty in the tunnel we would march up in shifts and work for six hours. Any longer would have made us ill as the air conditioning was not very effective. We were not allowed to eat on shift and kept ourselves going on tins of condensed milk and coffee mixed in the tin, to which we added cups of coiling water. There was a huge pile of opened milky sticky tins down there, hundreds of them - not very hygienic! Entrance to the tunnel was by a set of wooden air raid steps leading down from the middle of the road opposite the library.

During our months in the tunnel the submarine scare in Sydney Harbour took place. We knew the subs were in, and all the warnings, blackouts, sirens, etc. were set off. However, the people of Sydney thought is was just another practice raid, and did not take too much notice. The Americans tended to panic as they thought the Japanese were possibly coming to throw a bomb into Fighter Sector Control, which they well might have been, as we were only at the top of the Domain and not far from where they were in the harbour. The guard rushed up the steps and as some cars in Macquarie Street were still happily pursuing their way with lights on, he machine-gunned them! I believe he actually shot an Army official through the leg as he was coming to Fighter Sector to check up. The orders to depth charge the subs would have been given from Fighter Sector.

There were, of course, many unidentified plots on the table, and we knew of many sinkings off the coast. We were very strictly controlled in what we said or wrote in our letters and never divulged any of this. Before the submarine incident there had been several unidentified planes over the Sydney Harbour area.

Later the Americans were sent up north and we were again taken over by the RAAF. Straight away we were moved out of the hotel into a three-storey building named "Labrador", nearly opposite Sydney Hospital in Macquarie Street, where we had to begin by scrubbing out the entire building. We went down to the local fruit vendor and came back with apple cases, from which we made dressing tables by putting three on top of one another. We had wire beds and straw palliasses to sleep on. Food was served in the basement from tin plates, and it was back to stewed chops and so forth.

Soon our health began to suffer from the poor ventilation in the tunnel, or the poor food, so we were moved to Bankstown where the Operations Room was set up in the local picture theatre, surrounded by barbed wire enclosures.

Our living quarters were now down the road in galvanised iron barracks where the walls did not meet the roof and the wind swept in, lots of newspapers under the straw mattresses to stop the cold, and were NOT allowed to get into bed together. We caught a few hours of extra sleep curled up in a blanket under the Ops table between practice raids at night - we could sleep anywhere by that time. Here I was secretary to the Controller, John Kingsford Smith, nephew of the famous aviator Sir Charles. We got on well  together and had some exciting times in small scares.

 

 

ACW 93117, Eila "Bonnie" Pickup in 1942

 

I spoke with Eila on 19 April 2004. She said that the WAAAF's who worked in 1 FSHQ were recruited from all states and there were many from country areas. This may have been a deliberate strategy by the Military to help with ongoing security in later years. They were initially fitted out in men's clothing as there was no women's military clothing available.

They trained initially for a few months in a school at New Lambton near Newcastle in New South Wales. 

When they moved to Sydney, the Americans had taken over the Hotel Metropole. One floor was used as a kitchen. Another floor was for the men and another floor for the women. Elia told me that the WAAAFs slept four to a room on proper beds provided by the Americans rather than the palliasses that they had been used to at New Lambton.

She said that once they descended the steep set of stairs they walked along the edge of the tunnel a fair way to access 1 FSHQ. In one area, they would walk past a large number of tins of opened condensed milk that were disposed of in the tunnel. They worked with the Americans for nine months in the tunnel before they headed north.

When the Americans moved out, the WAAAFs moved into a 3 floor tenement building called "Labrador", nearly opposite Sydney Hospital in Macquarie Street. Julia Gross contacted me on 1 March 2017 and advised that her father had a dental practice in the Labrador building in the 1950s. Julia advised that the building was demolished in the mid 1950s and a multi-story Commonwealth Bank building was built on the same site.

There were some near misses when the RAAF nearly shot down allied aircraft at night time due to the fact that the RAAF had no night fighter capability. These friendly targets were usually aircraft arriving in Australia from New Zealand.

 


 

John Arentz's mother, Sgt. Stella Arentz, worked somewhere under Hyde Park in Sydney in a disused railway tunnel along with a pile of Yanks and lived in the Hotel Metropole. 

John told me the following:-

"There was some kind of plotting going on there in the tunnels. Radar information and other reports as I understand it. She used to tell us that any unidentified aircraft of suspected Japanese origin would be only referred to as the "Bega Mail" and that the "Bega Mail" flew frequently at all hours. There was also a story about a sub being identified, a Hudson (I think) being scrambled and a bomb getting stuck. She basically was saying that the air defence was a joke. She also told us that frequently mistakes would be made with identification of information and radar returns. She claimed that at one stage there was a panic amongst the Yanks about a major Japanese presence off Wollongong, which turned out to be the Steelworks showing up on the radar. This was the source of a lot of dumb Yank jokes apparently."

 


 

Denis Elwood told me that he explored these tunnels in 1966, before the large wooden staircase was destroyed by fire. Access at that time was from St James Railway Station partly along operational running tracks (required careful timing!) There was no sign of the wartime usage. These tunnels were intended to form an Inner Circle line under the CBD of Sydney, having been built in the early 1920's, but were never used for this.

 

An elevation of the 72 feet high set of stairs down to the railway tunnel to access 1 FSHQ

 

The Drawing 7.C503, for the above set of stairs was signed in November 1939 and it superseded Drawing 7.C501. The works are described as "The City Railway Emergency Entrance to Tunnel, Macquarie Street". Helen Kenney stated that they would walk down 87 steps opposite the Mitchell Library down to the Underground Command Centre.

The drawing seems to indicate that the existing platforms were to be removed and existing timbering to the stair shaft were to be renewed suggesting that this structure had existed for some time. Some notes on the drawing mentions "ARP Entrance" and "Splinter Proof".

 

Typical Fighter Sector Headquarters with combined
Anti-aircraft and Searchlight Operations Rooms
(Drawing via Russell Miller)

 

Suggested layout of combined Anti-aircraft and Searchlight Operations Rooms
contained within the Fighter Sector Headquarters above
(Drawing via Russell Miller)

 


20 April 2004

Another web page suggests that this stairway is part of the 
original entrance to the vertical stairwell down to 1FSHQ.

 


20 April 2004

Close-up of the entrance which is now a service entry for the nearby freeway

 


Photo:- Serge Burjak

Some WWII graffiti inside the tunnel on 1 December 2018

 


Photo:- Serge Burjak

Some WWII graffiti inside the tunnel on 1 December 2018

 

The graffiti which reads "NX227672 Private R.J. De Pau 13 - 7 - 42", was written by Ronald Jack De Pau, who enlisted at Burwood, New South Wales on 22 June 1942, less than a month before he wrote his name on the wall of the tunnel. He was discharged from the RAA 11th Division as a Corporal on 27 March 1946.

The graffiti which reads "QX23242 Wilmott R.E., Bundaberg" belongs to Robert Edward Wilmott who enlisted in Maryborough, Queensland on 19 August 1941. He was discharged from 2/1 Base Workshop still as a Private on 20 June 1946.

Many of the WAAAFs became sick after working in the tunnel for a while. 1 FSHQ eventually relocated to a Picture Theatre at Bankstown. Eila told me that they lived in nearby galvanised huts. Eila was discharged from the services in 1943 and did not know about the large underground concrete bunker at Bankstown (near today's Marion Street Reserve) that 1 FSHQ eventually moved into.

The Bankstown Remote Receiving Building (semi-underground reinforced concrete bunker) for 1 Fighter Sector Headquarters bunker at Bankstown was located just over 4 miles away at Picnic Point National Park beside the George's River.

 

Large map of the South West Pacific Area on a wall in
No 101 Fighter Control Unit Headquarters at Bankstown

 

Large map on which sea movements were plotted inside
the large underground bunker for 101 FCU at Bankstown

 


30 Dec 1999

Underneath this rock was 101 FCU at Marion
Street Reserve, Condell Park, Bankstown

 

Ian Armstrong told me on 5 May 2020 that he knows everyone talks about the Bankstown Bunker, but he has never seen anything about the above-ground concrete entrance with a large green door that was located on the corner of Marion Street and Edgar Street, which was always there and he always remembers seeing it when he was a kid and wondering where it went to. Ian said you can still see where it was as there is a small grassy section with a mound with trees (see above photo) on it at that corner. Ian said that apparently they just filled it in and covered it with dirt. When he looked at the area in Six Maps 1943 he could see a long corridor from the corner of those streets to the actual bunker so he believed that maybe it was an emergency exit.

 

bab02.jpg (48989 bytes)

Inside the Bankstown Bunker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a suggestion at one stage that the Bankstown Council were considering refurbishing the Bankstown bunker.

 


 

The following file is available at the Australian War Memorial:-

Accession Number:  MSS1622

Name of Collection:  Gash, Noel (Gunner, b: 1921)

Description:  Describes location and layout of the Gun Operations Room which Gash was posted to in 1942 while serving in the Anti-Aircraft Artillery in Sydney. The room was situated in an unused railway tunnel below the Royal Botanic Gardens, along with the Search Light Operations Room and Fighter Sector RAAF. Briefly outlines the work done in the complex and the roles of personnel including women with the WAAAF and the AWAS. 

 


 

A typical RAAF Fighter Sector Headquarters

 

Bunker/Tunnel under Sydney Town Hall

 

Bunkers, Tunnels, Fortifications
in Australia during WW2

 

Bankstown W/T Station RAAF

 

Bankstown Remote Receiving Station RAAF

 

REFERENCE:-

The above info from the WAAAF book was made available by Ian Bauer. I'd like to thank Eila Fox (Nee Pickup) for her assistance with this home page. I'd like to thank Rod Mountford for his assistance with this home page.

I'd like to thank Victor Zdanowicz-Muchlado for the provision of some of the above photographs.

I'd like to thank Julia Gross for her assistance with this web page.

I'd also like to thank Serge Burjak for his assistance with this web page.

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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This page first produced 3 July 2000

This page last updated 16 May 2020