Ross River Coastal Artillery Anti Aircraft Gun Emplacement


Mouth of Ross River (southern side), Townsville 4810

The Ross River Coastal Artillery Anti Aircraft site (at the mouth of Ross River) was used by both the United States (US) 208th Coastal Artillery Anti Aircraft Regiment and an Australian Anti Aircraft unit during 1943-1945. The site was chosen due to its proximity to the port and the tendency for enemy planes to use large rivers as navigation aids.


The 208th Coastal Artillery Anti Aircraft Regiment (208th CA A/A) arrived in Townsville from the United States via Brisbane in March 1942. Battery’s A - H were located in various Townsville locations which included Oonoonba, Magazine Island, Pallarenda, Cape Cleveland, South Townsville and Stanton Hill. Colonel Horton L Chandler was their Commander.

All these separate battery’s were involved in action during the July 1942 air raids on the city.

On Stanton Hill, the vantage point of Our Lady’s Mount Christian Brother’s School was chosen to place one battery consisting of four three-inch anti-aircraft guns. This site overlooked Cleveland Bay, North Ward, the port, and the town itself.

US Anti Aircraft positions in Townsville were non-permanent and consisted of mobile guns, sandbagged positions and timber semi-underground revetments to store ammunition. When the 208th CA A/A left Townsville towards the end of 1942, most of these sites were replaced with Australian A/A units. These were upgraded with reinforced concrete gun emplacements, shell stores and command posts during the 1943 year.

The US 208th battery at Cape Cleveland had searchlights and .50 calibre machine guns to protect the lighthouse and the RAAF’s 26 Radar Station. The battery was located at the small beach to the west of the lighthouse.

Intelligence documents reveal that Cape Cleveland lighthouse was used by the Japanese flying boats as a reference point when they began their bombing runs on Townsville. This was due to it remaining lit for the entirety of all three raids. Ironically, the lighting mechanism had been 'liberated' from a German lighthouse in New Guinea during WW1 and had been re-installed at the Cape Cleveland lighthouse in 1926.

On 30 Sept 1943 the War Diary for the Townsville A/A Group noted that concrete works for the 4th gun at Ross River were proceeding. Completion of the command post had been delayed due to strike action undertaken by Civil Construction Corp workers. Only two separate shell stores were constructed instead of the standard four.

The Ross River Battery was largely destroyed with demolition charges c1969 by the Australian Army. One of the two shell stores remains intact to the south of the main site.


Ray Holyoak (contributing author).

Photo album of Private Merle E Warner (collection of Ray Holyoak).

[Camouflage - Methods] Camouflage Works, Volume 2, Townsville Fort Areas [Photo album] [Oversize item] AWM 54, 161/3/2

[Camouflage - Methods] Camouflage, Anti Aircraft Guns and Machine Gun Posts, 15 April 1942, AWM 54, 161/3/27

The North Queensland Line: The Defence of Townsville in 1942". Ray Holyoak unpublished Honours Thesis, James Cook University, Townsville 1998.

The Brisbane Courier, New Light for Cape Cleveland, 17 June 1926.