NO. 4 AUSTRALIAN SPECIAL
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2
No 4 Australian Special Wireless Section was formed at Seymour under the command of Captain John "Jack" Ryan in June 1940. It comprised 99 men as follows:-
- wireless operators
- intelligence personnel
- instrument mechanics
The function of the No. 4 Australian Special Wireless Section was to:-
- Intercept enemy wireless transmission
- Monitor Allied wireless transmissions
Jack Ryan had been the chief engineer at Radio Station 3AW. His 2nd in command, was Arthur Henry. The wireless operators mostly had a Post Office or Marine Wireless background and were thus already proficient in Morse Code. Some of the Wireless Operators attended classes at the Institute of Radio Engineers and also at the PMG Training Centre at Haymarket. All of the wireless operators were able to achieve the minimum requirement of 25 words per minute.
No. 4 Australian Special Wireless Section left Sydney in late December on board the "Queen Mary" headed for Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where they transferred to the Dutch liner "Slamat" enroute to Egypt. They established their camp at El Amiriya where they commenced more training. They moved to a new camp at Ikingi Maryut where they trained using Kingsleys (AR 7), 109's and R101's. They then moved to Greece to commence their operational work monitoring German and Italian messages.
Despite many successful intercepts, the Germans started to take more ground and eventually No. 4 Australian Special Wireless Section was ordered to withdraw from Sphakia. All of their equipment had to be destroyed, documents burnt and personnel belongings left behind. After a 65kms trek across some rugged mountains, they boarded a commando assault ship, the "Glengyle".
The section went on to take part in the Syrian campaign monitoring Vichy French messages. The section was reinforced and reequipped and established a close co-operation with Royal Signals.
When Australia had declared war on Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the section started to learn the Japanese Kana Code. Staff from the British Sigint base at Sarafand assisted with training in Japanese intercept procedures. The section boarded the British transport ship "Mendoza" and on arrival in Colombo they transferred to the "Orcades" which returned them to Australia.
Brigadier Simpson, the Chief Signals Officer was also on board the "Orcades". During the voyage he developed the model for the Australian Army's Sigint organisation. They were billeted with various families after disembarking in Adelaide in South Australia.
The new Sigint organisation comprised the majority of No. 4 Australian Special Wireless Section and some reinforcements which became the newly formed No. 5 Australian Special Wireless Section. The intelligence personnel from No. 4 Australian Special Wireless Section became members of MacArthur and Blamey's new top-secret intelligence unit called Central Bureau which comprised Australian Army, RAAF and US Army personnel. The ex No. 4 ASWS members formed what was known as the Research and Control Centre component of Central Central Bureau.
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© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 6 July 2002
This page last updated 17 January 2020