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The Toorbul Radar Bunkers


This is an impressive site just north of Brisbane at Toorbul. This is the site of No. 210 Radar Station RAAF. The Unit itself was formed at Sandgate on 20 September 1943 and moved to its radar site at Toorbul on 27 October 1943. No. 210 Radar Station group was disbanded on 21 February 1946.

The site comprises 4 concrete half-cylindrical concrete bunkers. Two large bunkers are still located on the eastern side of the access road and the two smaller Generator bunkers are located on the western side of the access road. I was told that the camp area for No. 210 Radar Station was in the area of today's Pig Farm.


Photo:- Lionel Gilbert

Transmitting Igloo on left and Receiving Igloo on the right. 29 September 1963


Photo:- Lionel Gilbert

 Receiving Igloo on left and Transmitting Igloo on the right. 29 September 1963


Photo:- Lionel Gilbert

210 Radar Toorbul Receiving Igloo


Photo:- Lionel Gilbert

210 Radar Toorbul Transmitter Igloo 29 September 1963


Photo:- Neville Brown 1945

Photo of Transmitting Tower (Tx Tower) from Receiving Tower (Rx Tower) at 224 Radar Station
south of Darwin. The Towers at 210 Radar Station Toorbul would have looked like these two towers.


Photo:- Lionel Gilbert

Engine Igloo for Electric Generator


Photo:- Lionel Gilbert

Inside the Receiving Igloo 29 September 1963


Photo:- Sven Abrahamsson Sep 2008

Nice photo of the radar tower foundations


Photo:- Sven Abrahamsson Sep 2008

Evening photo of one of the 210 Radar igloos



Memories of Radar Station 210
RAAF Toorbul, Queensland
1943 – 1944
(an incomplete roll-call)

by Lionel Gilbert

Commanding Officer          P/O or F/O A.G. Price

Senior Operators (both fresh from Darwin):-     Corporal Geoff Felton
                                                                   Sergeant Gordon Clarke

Note:- Deaths of both men were recorded in Radar Returns

Medical Orderly:                   Corporal Percival “Perce” Davies

DMT:                                   Edwin Wilfred “Ed” Geier (127819)

Guards:                               Included:-
Mervyn Roy “Merv” Delphin (126307) and
Leslie John “Jack” Kyte (152782) (who had served in WW1)

General hand:                      Frank Purser (with whom I established a small garden for fresh greens and tomatoes – it was wiped out by insect invasions!)

Administration:                    Wallace “Wally” Coomber (62089) - Clerk’s name – he and Sgt Charlie Muller had worked in Western Stores.

Cook and Assistant:            I’ve forgotten them – They used a fuel stove fed with bush wood – fatigue parties regularly brought dead logs for reduction by man-powered cross-cut saws.

Radar Mechanics:               Included:-

                                                William Brice “Bill” Whipp (71925)
George Peyton Whitfield (81669)
Albert Rodney Sing (57526)
“Herman” O’Rourke
Frank Savage (79458)

 Operators:                            Included:- 

                                                Kevin Hawkins
Allan Gray
John Walker
Jim Mitchell
Don Edwards
Ray Stewart
Colin Wesley Tipping (13117)
Lionel Arthur James Gilbert (135268)
Clive James Taylor (49323)  **

** Clive Taylor was with us briefly before leaving to do Administration Course for a Commission.

 The installation team included the celebrated Historian Ed. Simmons and F/O Bill Sanderson. (who took a group of us to Southport on one occasion to unload gear for 209 Radar Station – sister ACO station of 210 Radar Station.)

The igloos erected for 209 were destroyed to enlarge racecourse area. What Sanderson could do to move huge crates with a couple of blokes on a block-and-tackle was remarkable. He shouted us a milk shake at the end of that hectic day – no grog “on duty” -  anyway, we only 18!




135268 Gilbert, Lionel Arthur James

18 June 1943           Joined RAAF with three other students of Sydney Teacher’s College. Radar Operators were required and we were advised accordingly.
Then it was “Radio Detection Finding” – Radar a later US term.

June – July               4 weeks basic training at Tocumwal plus 2 weeks “fatigue duty” in Cookhouse.

8 Aug 1943               Richmond RDF School 4 weeks

24 Sep 1943             Posted to 210 RS, Toorbul but remained for a while at Sandgate Camp.

October 1943            One of small group drafted to help man Operations Table in No. 108 Fighter Sector HQ (in old W.D. & H.O. Wills Building, Brisbane. “Trucked in” from Sandgate daily.

November 43            To uncomplete 210 Station at Toorbul. Wet spring brought some 30 inches rain which rendered both camp and the flat area where igloos and towers were, very boggy. Was one of small group with limited equipment (one or two spades and a mattock or two) set to make a rough road to provide heavy access to the igloos and towers. It may still be seen, despite 60+ years of erosion!

We sometimes had combined operations with the AIF search-light unit and I think it was at Toorbul that we were introduced to “WINDOW”, a simple procedure of dropping shredded silver foil from a fair height – its reflective powers “jammed” our radar transmissions. It was used to “jam” RDF activity in U.K. We had to know how to recognise it.

Flight Lieutenant Bill Sanderson took a small group of volunteers early one day to Southport railway yards, to move another ACO (Advanced Chain Overseas) equipment from the goods yard to the site, so that Brisbane would now be “covered” by twin ACO stations north and south of the City area. The Southport igloos were destroyed some time ago when a race-course was expanded.

The igloos, we were assured, were designed to withstand a 500lb bomb. I also understood that the iron rail steps and covered “escape hatch” at the ends of the igloos (opposite end to their doors) were designed for escaping from such igloos when they were built underground.

The Receiver igloo in which we worked had an RF receiver. The floor was covered with heavy rubber like floor covering. The operators on duty had to wash and polish it each day during the one hour maintenance procedures in both the Transmitter (Tx) and Receiver (rx) igloos.

Shifts were more or less the same as I had at No. 224 RS near Darwin, somewhat later, namely:-

0100 – 0830
0830 – 1300
1300 – 1800
1800 – 0100

but there were local variations.

Before becoming operational, we were busy with the road-making, and also with clearing the camp area of combustible forest litter, so that admin, airmen’s sleeping quarters, the mess and cookhouse, etc, all of wood, would be out of fire risk – but at the same time, the cover of the natural forest was essential. The 2 towers and their accompanying igloos were however “unprotected” by our tree cover.

Fatigue parties frequently scoured the local area for fallen logs to be sawn up and split into billets for the insatiable fuel stoves of the cookhouse. They also accompanied the station truck into Army stores in (or near) the Caboolture railway yards, where we used to man-handle 44 gallon drums of fuel on to the truck (along with other stores) and return along Pumicestone Road. This road was rough gravel, with narrow wooden bridges over creeks. Regrettably with additional traffic (and there were US troops at Toorbul Point opposite Bribie Island) the wooden bridges became shaky indeed. So shaky in fact that the truck had to stop at each bridge, so that we could unload those damned 44 gallon drums, roll them by hand over the bridge, and when the truck crossed over, we re-loaded them, by rolling them upwards on planks to stand briefly before the procedure was repeated at the next bridge.

All the plots we took of aircraft positions were recorded on a large Perspex map board; they were also recorded in a log, and relayed to Fighter Sector HQ by land-line. Each “track” had to be identified and accounted for.

Thus a typical operating crew would consist of one bloke on the receiver with his eyes glued to the base-screen of a cathode ray oscilloscope, seeking signals from reflected radio waves transmitted from the nearby transmitter igloo and its tower.

The bearing and distance of each aircraft was called out by the operator; a recorder noted the exact time, distance and bearing as called out while another marked it on a large map of the area “covered”.

The “plots” (i.e. bearing and distance) were immediately relayed to the 108 Fighter Sector in Brisbane. Hence in the case of those who had worked in Brisbane, the whole business made sense. Each aircraft had to be identified – once done, that was fine, unless there was a problem in the aircraft itself, say engine trouble or difficulties with location. In those cases, the attention was intense until the aircraft landed.

I believe these record books of time, bearing, speed, etc are (many, or some of them) in the Radar Archives at Point Cook.

And so, each shift had 3 or 4 blokes to:-

  1. Man the Receiver
  2. Record bearings and distance
  3. Relay information to Fighter Sector HQ in Brisbane
  4. Record bearings and distances on map, producing a tracing of the route of an aircraft.

Half an hour at a time was considered the appropriate unit of activity for the operator, and as the numbers 1 to 3 or 4 above changed the roles about every half hour. In the middle of the night there could be variations of this routine!

The rain referred to caused a problem late in 1943 – it flooded out the nice toilets that had been provided by the CCC (Civil Constructional Corps). Consequently, we dug a trench and erected a “light” log over it, long wise, so that “customers” could perch on the log, (having dropped their overalls (or goon-skins) to “answer” the call.

We had weekly (or so) parades of about 30 blokes – clean khaki outfits, with clean .303 rifles, etc. for inspection and for any new regulations, requirements, etc. Of course, shaving was quite important to keep appearances and maintain morale.

On 1 June 1944, I was posted to Darwin, where after serving on AW and LWAW gear at Cape Don, I was sent 120 miles back to Darwin, thence and then 20 or so , to RS No. 224 – and then of the few ACO stations. Interestingly, a bloke (Flt/Lt Craigen seconded from RAF) from England (where he’d been with the BBC) was engaged to establish a TRU (Transportable Radar Unit) with light wooden towers – a lightweight version of the extremely expensive, and ambitious ACO machines.

He got it working in time for the big ACO gear to undergo maintenance. I worked on it for a while before being transferred to 344 RS for reforming (it was said) to Morotai – but the Japanese apparently heard of this – and surrendered!!

Lionel Gilbert (135268)


tp01.jpg (141343 bytes) The northern smaller bunker. Presumably this was a generator room
tp02.jpg (63206 bytes) Inside the smaller northern bunker. Note hole in floor, presumably for generator to be mounted in
tp03.jpg (138522 bytes) The southern smaller bunker
tp06.jpg (61955 bytes) Inside the southern smaller bunker
tp07.jpg (135552 bytes) Chris Jamesson leaving the southern smaller bunker
tp08.jpg (95334 bytes) A metal conduit entry in the floor of the southern smaller bunker
tp05.jpg (78420 bytes) Northern larger bunker and four supports for the radar
tp09.jpg (87192 bytes) Northern larger bunker and four supports for the radar
tp11.jpg (62362 bytes) Inside the southern larger bunker
tp12.jpg (66533 bytes) Chris Jamesson inside the southern larger bunker
tp13.jpg (86974 bytes) Inside the southern larger bunker
tp14.jpg (92022 bytes) The southern larger bunker
tp15.jpg (118754 bytes) Looking towards the southern larger bunker. Is the concrete square hole at the front of the photograph a drinking well?
tp24.jpg (85552 bytes) The northern larger bunker and the four supports for the radar
tp16.jpg (146773 bytes) The northern larger bunker
tp17.jpg (135898 bytes) The four supports for the radar
tp18.jpg (121942 bytes) One of the steel supports for the radar
tp19.jpg (134079 bytes) The concrete foundation in the centre of the four radar support legs
tp20.jpg (130791 bytes) Spikes of re-inforcing bar sticking out from the concrete on the northern larger bunker. What was the purpose for this? Was it to support camouflage netting perhaps?
tp21.jpg (132385 bytes) A small fenced-off area between the large bunkers and the access road.
tp23.jpg (95021 bytes) A round concrete structure inside the fenced-off area. What this used for? A drinking well? A Gun emplacement? Something else?


RAAF Radar Stations in the SWPA during WW2



I'd like to thank Chris Jamesson, Sven Abrahamsson and Lionel Gilbert for their assistance with this home page.


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This page first produced 20 April 2001

This page last updated 13 January 2020