1 Australian A.A. Training Regiment Training Depot; Allied Intelligence Bureau Training Camp; Camp X.
- Training facility
Tabragalba House Road, Tabragalba 4285
Camp Tabragalba was constructed in mid 1942, on the cattle property 'Tabragalba', for the No. 1 Heavy Training Battery, the Anti Aircraft Training Battery and Anti Aircraft Searchlight Training Company. During early 1943 it was used for training four of the 155mm “Letter” coastal batteries, batteries ‘M’,‘N’,‘O’ and ‘Q’.
From early 1943 it was used by the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) to train Coast Watch operatives, and from late 1943 Tabragalba was home to Filipinos training to infiltrate the Philippines to establish radio networks and organise resistance to the Japanese prior to the MacArthur’s return. Other personnel present at Tabragalba were from ‘M’ Special Unit and ‘Z’ Special Unit, as well as Dutch intelligence units. In late 1943 the property was purchased by the Mayor of Brisbane, John Beals Chandler, who had established the Chandlers electrical appliance company.
The site of Camp Tabragalba is about 6km east of Beaudesert, on the east side of the Albert River. The camp buildings were located to the north of the homestead site on a rise, and to the east. The entrance driveway used to cross the river at a point to the north of the current crossing. Some World War II buildings remain on the property, along with concrete slabs.
An Australian Army camp was constructed in mid 1942 on the cattle property 'Tabragalba', established by pioneer pastoralist and politician De Burgh Persse. The camp was located close to the homestead, to the east of the Albert River, and initially nine buildings were erected and the existing dairy, garage, milking shed, stables and fowl house floor slab were converted for military use. The camp was built for 1000 personnel from the No. 1 Heavy Training Battery, the Anti Aircraft Training Battery and Anti Aircraft Searchlight Training Company. For several months from January 1943 the camp was also used for training by four of the 155mm “Letter” coastal batteries, Batteries ‘M’,‘N’,‘O’ and ‘Q’.
From around May 1943 the camp was also used by the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB), established 6 July 1942, which was tasked with intelligence gathering in the South West Pacific Area. The AIB was staffed with personnel from Australia, the US, the UK, the Netherlands East Indies and Asia. Section ‘C’ of the AIB was the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) Coast Watch organisation, with subsections for the North-East Area (New Guinea and the Solomon islands), the Philippines and the Netherlands East Indies. Members of ‘M’ Special Unit, ‘Z’ Special Unit and Dutch intelligence units were present at Tabragalba. ‘M’ Special Unit (AIB) organised Coast Watchers, while ‘Z’ Special Unit carried out special operations. At one time ‘Z’ Special Unit was an administrative holding unit for the Inter-Allied Services Department (ISD) under the control of the AIB, but it later operated under the Services Recognisance Department (SRD), which was largely autonomous from the AIB.
In May 1943 the Philippines subsection of the Section ‘C’ became the Philippine Regional Section (PRS), tasked with infiltrating the Philippines to establish a radio net and organise resistance to the Japanese occupiers. The Filipinos were drawn from two infantry regiments formed in 1943 from Filipinos resident in the US and Hawaii, with US and Filipino officers. 700 men were selected, with the first group of 400 arriving in Australia in August 1943. Prior to leaving the US these men were trained in radio operation, cryptography and the Japanese language. At “Camp X” (probably named after the ‘X’ secret radio frequency used by the Coast Watchers) at Tabragalba the radio operators plus several hundred men selected for scout duty received special training for their missions. Training was also conducted at the Canungra Jungle Warfare School and at the Fraser Commando School on Fraser Island.
The US 978th Signal Service Company was activated in Brisbane on 1 July 1943, and soon moved to Tabragalba, where it trained the Filipinos in radio operation. In August 1943 it appeared that the New Guinean (North East Area) personnel at Tabragalba might have to relocate elsewhere, but due to objections from Major SS Caporn, Administrative Officer of the AIB and Commanding Officer of ‘M’ Special Unit, the camp may have been segregated instead.
The camp was officially handed over to the US Army on 1 November 1943. In October 1943 Tabragalba had been purchased from Charles Dudley Persse by John Beals Chandler. Chandler was the Major of Brisbane from 1940 to 1952, and a radio entrepreneur who had founded the Chandlers electrical appliance company. During World War II Chandlers was associated with Amalgamated Wireless Australasia (AWA) Ltd in installing and servicing radio, radar and echo-sounding equipment in ships.
By 11 November 1943 the camp at Tabragalba had 38 buildings, including latrines, kitchens, messes, sleeping quarters, ablutions, showers, a gas chamber, oil store, Quarter Master’s store, canteen, power house, butcher shop, pump house, guard house, lime and straw hut, saw bench Regimental Aid Post, laundry, recreation hut, and administration buildings.
The 5217th Reconnaissance Battalion was formed at Tabragalba in November 1943, to train PRS personnel. The last group of Filipino volunteers arrived in March 1944. After infiltrating a number of PRS parties into the Philippines, the 5217th Reconnaissance Battalion disbanded on 20 November 1944, and operations were relocated to Hollandia in Netherlands New Guinea under the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Special.
After the war the Chandler family continued to live at Tabragalba, which was resumed by the South East Queensland Water Board in 1992. It continues to be used as a pastoral lease, and part of the property is used by the Beaudesert Rifle Club. Several World War II era buildings remain on the property, along with concrete slabs.
Charlton, P. 1991. South Queensland WWII 1941–45, Boolarong, Brisbane.
Rolley, A. 1996. Australia Remembers 1945-1995: Lest We Forget: the Beaudesert Experience. Beaudesert Shire Council.
Kidd, R and Neal, R. 1998. The 'Letter' Batteries: the history of the 'letter' batteries in World War II. RE Neal, Castlecrag NSW.
Marks, RR, 2005. Brisbane—WW2 v Now, from an American Archives’ photo viewpoint. Volume 23, Round Mountain and Tabragalba.
Rottman, GL. 2005. US Special Warfare Units in the Pacific Theater 1941–45: Scouts, Raiders, Rangers and Reconnaissance Units. Osprey Publishing, Oxford.
National Archives of Australia 259/2/643. Construction of Training Camp, Tabragalba, Qld, for A.A. and A.A.S.L. Personnel [Includes 3 plans]. 1942–1944
National Archives of Australia Folder T Folio 73. Tabragalba Camp Hospital - Layout Plan [1/T/296] 1940 [sic-1942]
National Archives of Australia 175/6/109 PART 1. DWB [Director of Works and Buildings] - Property - Mareeba Qld - Aerodrome - Hiring of site. 1942–1948 [regarding a landowner who was training at 1st Australian AA Training Regiment, Tabragalba in 1942]
National Archives of Australia 155V. AIB [Allied Intelligence Bureau] Planning - General - Sketch Map of Tabragalba & Printed Map of Northern Section, General Headquarters, South West Pacific Area. 1943
Queensland State Library, John Oxley Library Photographic Collection
Australian War Memorial Photographic Collection
Title information, DERM