RAAF 135th Radar Station

Pinkenba Radar Station

Radar/signal station
Greater Brisbane

Luggage Point, Pinkenba 4008

In Australia, radar units were solely the responsibility of the RAAF whereas the US Army staffed American radar installations.

Formed at Brighton in early May 1943, 135th Radar Station moved to Pinkenba by the end of the following month. Personnel from both the RAAF and the WAAAF staffed the radar station. It maintained watch on any planes approaching the port of Brisbane and it remained at Pinkenba until 1945.


The 135th Radar Station was formed at the Sandgate RAAF Station on 5 May 1943. Five days later, Flight Lieutenant A.W. Williams was appointed the unit’s first commander. The period of the first half of 1943 was important for the development of Australia’s radar defences as it saw the largest number (42) of RAAF radar units formed for any six-month period during World War Two. The 135th Radar unit trained for nearly two month at the Sandgate Station. The unit was issued with its equipment including the distinctive LW/AW Mk II radar antennae tower before being declared operational.

On 28 June 1943, it was sent to Pinkenba near the mouth of the Brisbane River. The location chosen was close to the Brisbane City Council’s sewerage treatment works and so the new radar station soon became unofficially known as 'Stinkenba'. A combination of RAAF men and members of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF) staffed the unit. The women service personnel had undergone their training at Kiama, New South Wales. Australia began training WAAAF members as radar operators in 1942. The first 23 WAAAF trainees had commenced at the RAAF 11 Operations Centre on 15 June 1942.

Apart from the radar hut, the Pinkenba site also had separate male and female barracks, an orderly room, mess and kitchen and a recreation hut. The 135th Radar Station was designated for Ground Control Intercept (GCI) duties. A total of 37 GCI radar units were to be raised in Australia. GCI stations were equipped with either British Mk II radar sets, Canadian RWG/GCI sets or Australian-made LW/AW Mk I or Mk II sets. The 135th Radar Station’s main role was to track any planes approaching the Brisbane River. The unit also guided lost RAAF or USSAAF to their airfields at Eagle Farm or Archerfield.

To improve morale and relieve boredom, the WAAAF members produced a unit newsletter for distribution throughout the site. A wedding for one of the WAAAF members was held in the recreation hut that was temporarily converted into a church for the occasion. The unit cook even found enough ingredients to bake a wedding cake at the station. The presence of WAAAF members drew visitors to the 135th Radar Station from the nearby US units based at Eagle Farm, Meeandah and Pinkenba. The Americans would take some of the women on joy flights on their military aircraft.

On 15 December 1943, Pilot Officer E.A. Appleton became the new commanding officer. Pilot Officer L.J. Burder replaced him on 21 May 1944. Flight Lieutenant J.F. Brier became commander on 2 July 1944. On 18 December 1944, Section Leader M. O'Connor was appointed the last commanding officer of 135th Radar Station.


Units of the Royal Australian Air Force Vol.5