Commonwealth Building at 42 Sturt Street, Townsville


Area Combined Headquarters Townsville was established on 8 May 1941 in the Commonwealth Building at 42 Sturt Street, Townsville. The building was originally the D & W Murray Warehouse. A.C.H. Townsville assumed control of Operations to seaward within North-East Area on 10 June 1941 taking over from Port Moresby.

As of 8 June 1941 Lieutenant Commander Feldt (ex Port Moresby) was appointed as temporary Naval Officer in Charge Townsville (NOIC) and as S.O. (I). Lieutenant Commander Luke (ex Navy Office) was appointed to C.O.I.C. Mr. K. Lee Murray was appointed as Assistant to the Naval Intelligence Assistant.

The Area Combined Headquarters (ACH) Operations Room was located on the top floor of the building. On the same floor was located the Mercantile Movements Section, the Combined Operational Intelligence Centre, RAAF Signals and a special separate room for Air Intelligence.

The second floor was used by the RAAF and the ground floor was also used by the RAAF with one area partitioned off for the Naval Staff Offices, which included the Naval Officer in Charge (NOIC) Secretary and Writer, the Code Room and Naval Control Services, etc.

Lt. Commander Eric Feldt, RAN the Supervising Intelligence Officer (SIO) for North East Area was located in this area. He was also acting NOIC in May 1941. Feldt was in charge of the Coastwatchers. Feldt's civilian assistant was Mr. K.L. "Paddy" Murray.

Air Commodore F.A. Lukis was the senior RAAF Officer with Wing Commander W.C. Garing as his Senior Staff Officer. They were part of North East Area Headquarters.

The following extract from a letter dated 10 June 1941 from ACH Townsville described the situation at ACH Townsville as follows:-


9. The normal intelligence boards for the A.C.H. have been completed. The strategic chart is in course of preparation but it is not considered that the draughtsman will be able to complete his work before June 20th.

10. Two controllers have arrived here after having completed a course at A.C.H. Melbourne, period six weeks."

11. It is submitted that in six weeks a considerable amount of work should have been completed.

12. The Senior Air Staff Officer has closely questioned the two officers and the following has been revealed:-

(a) The controllers have not read ACB 0106 whereas they should almost know it by heart.

(b) The navigation they have been taught is straight from C.D.118 and is of the type embracing carrier-borne aircraft. They have not been taught the type of navigation applicable to Hudsons and Catalinas nor have they been taught to appreciate the best use of limited numbers of aircraft.

(c) They have never read Air Board Memoranda.

(d) They had one lecture on meteorology.

(e) They did a three-hour "appreciation flight" to Wilson's Promontory during which they had to appreciate the difficulties in sighting and recognition of merchant ships from the pilot's viewpoint.

(f) They have not done any practical air navigation at all, let alone navigation in bad weather or at high altitude.

(g) They have not been shown Hudsons or Wirraway aircraft and did not know what a Catalina was until they reached this Headquarters.

(h) They do not know anything about photography or any of the ancillary equipment.

(i) They do not understand the W/T organisation and have an elementary knowledge of A.O.B.'s. They had never originated a signal until they had arrived at this Headquarters.

(j) They are not pilots and never have been pilots."

13. Your urgent attention is drawn to my letter 9/1/AIR(5a), dated 23.5.41 (Provisional War Establishment of Northern Area - Townsville-"Establishment HD 49). It would be appreciated if the best available action could be taken on this letter in view of the above. As predicted in the above letter, the two Officers posted enter the category of Plotters rather than Controllers."

14. In the meantime, the S.A.S.O. and the S.O. Training, when he arrives, will put the two officers we have through a practical course in the A.C.H. here. It must be appreciated that this will interfere with other important tasks but is unavoidable in the circumstances."

15. Whereas the M.M.S. and V.A.I. plot are in full swing here, the control of air operations at the moment must be personally supervised by the A.O.C. and S.A.S.O. If we were committed to full scale air operations tomorrow the present organisation would break down after a few days."

16. It is considered that the A.C.H. must be brought up to war establishment as a matter of priority. Until the controllers of the type set out in my letter 9/1/AIR (5a) are able to run the detailed operations, then the main tasks of the Air Staff namely, organising and ensuring the preparedness of operational squadrons for war, will be seriously hampered."

22. In conclusion it is pointed out that the whole of the Air Force and Naval personnel are at present crowded on to the top floor of the building and operating under extreme difficulty. The A.C.H. is not completed nor properly manned and therefore can only operate in a most sketchy manner. It would appear that it will not reach full efficiency until one month hence."

23. Within one month Northern Area local receiving station will be completed and occupied. W/T and L/T will be in a 24-hour operational basis with all R.A.A.F. base stations under Northern Area command, namely, Darwin, Port Moresby, Townsville and Archerfield. Similarly, it will be linked with Air Board."

24. No reasonable estimate can be given as to the opening date of the W/T circuits to the island A.O.B.,s. This is solely dependent upon:-

(a) the installation of aerial system by P.M.G. In this regard Tulagi has been completed and Rabaul is now under way.

(b) Buildings. This is undoubtedly the worst feature of the island W/T installations. As yet no work has been done to provide W/T buildings, with the exception of Vila.

    (c) Supply of W/T equipment, which is dependent on Air Board. Air Board has indicated that island installations have received priority in allotment."

"26. A permanent remote receiving station is now being designed but as a permanent station will not be available for an estimated period of nine months temporary remote receiving station is being installed at R.A.A.F. Station, Garbutt."


Area Combined Headquarters


Proposal to relocate Area Combined HQ in Townsville
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This page first produced 24 February 2002

This page last updated 24 February 2020