Air raid shelters
Echlin St drain
- Civil defence facility
Echlin Street, West End 4810
In the early 1930s, Townsville City Council constructed a series of drainage works across the city to alleviate wet season flooding and erosion. The suburb of West End received a major storm water drain to alleviate runoff from Castle Hill. This runs through properties in Echlin Street, beneath Ingham Road and the Show Grounds and empties into a nearby canal.
The Echlin Street drain would fulfill an additional role that city engineers never envisaged. West End residents took full advantage of both the Northern dry season and their solid construction, using them as unofficial air raid shelters on at least three occasions.
In July 1942, the 2nd Group of 14th Kokutai (Air Group), Japanese Naval Air-Force, under the command of Major Misaburo Koizumi, decided to undertake night raids on harbour facilities and airfields at Townsville. In all, five raids were planned; three actually occurred.
The air raids on Townsville occurred over three nights between 25 and 29 July 1942 when Kawanishi flying boats attacked the city. A plan that involved up to seven Rabaul-based aircraft, each flying a return distance of some 3000 miles, would yield little more than propaganda for the Japanese. The actual damage Townsville received from these three raids was one dead rock wallaby at Many Peaks Range and a damaged coconut tree at Oonoonba.
On hearing the warning siren, West End residents descended into the deep covered storm drain in Echlin Street for protection. As July is the North’s dry season, it was free of water and provided far better cover against bombs and shrapnel than Council approved slit trenches. Kerosene lamps, chairs and even a guitar were brought along to make the wait until the 'all clear' siren sounded more comfortable.
The large reinforced concrete civilian air raid shelters known as 'Hanlon’s Hideout’s (after Civil Defence Minister Ned Hanlon) were concentrated in the CBD where approximately fifteen were sited for workers and shoppers. These were not located in the suburbs as residents were expected to construct their own shelter or slit trench for protection against air attack.
Imperial Japanese Navy Combat Evaluation Sheets for 25 July, 27/28 July, 28 July, 28/29 July, 30/31 July 1942.
Piper, Robert, Townsville Under Attack, Unpublished, 1987.
The North Queensland Line: The Defence of Townsville in 1942". Ray Holyoak unpublished
Honours Thesis, James Cook University, Townsville 1998.
Image - Echlin Street drain, covered in 2010.