Mareeba Airfield Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun Station 448
Mareeba Air Defences
- Atherton Tablelands
Bounded by Cater, Mc Iver and Ray Roads, Mareeba 4880
The reinforced concrete elements of Heavy Anti-Aircraft (HAA) Gun Station 448, the northernmost of two HAA gun stations at Mareeba, are spread over a number of properties south of McIvor Road to the west of Ray Road. There is a single room underground Command Post (CP); two octagonal in-ground gun emplacements (of four that were laid out in an arc west and north of the CP); and four semi-underground magazines. The magazines are covered with earth mounds, and each has two entrances with stairs down to a central corridor, with a doorway to a single room.
HAA Gun Station 449 is located on farm land south of the airport, west of the Kennedy Highway. The four gun emplacements were laid out in a square, but only three are evident. Each has been filled to varying depths. It is probable that the missing fourth gun emplacement and underground CP are also buried. Four ammunition storage magazines are located nearby.
Mareeba Airfield was constructed between May 1942 and early 1943 and was used by both RAAF and USAAF units. The southernmost runway, which runs roughly east-west, is located about 6km south of Mareeba on the Kennedy Highway and now functions as Mareeba airport. To the north of the airport, west of Ray Road, are the remnants of a second runway, which runs roughly north-south. Curving wartime dispersal taxiways are still evident in the farmland between the runways.
Although Mareeba was a base for bombing raids on the Japanese, it also required protection against Japanese attack. Early anti-aircraft defence of Mareeba Airfield was provided by the US 94th Coastal Artillery Regiment (equipped with 3-inch guns and .50 machine guns) and the Australian 33rd Light Anti-Aircraft Battery (LAA), and Anti-Aircraft emplacements of earth, stone and gravel were constructed around the airfield.
Mareeba received further anti-aircraft defences against high flying Japanese bombers during September 1942, with two Heavy Anti-Aircraft (HAA) gun stations were then established—‘A’ Section Gun Station 448 was positioned near the northern end of the north-south runway and ‘B’ Section Gun Station 449 was positioned about 7 km south near the eastern end of the east-west runway.
Both gun stations consisted of four 3.7-inch anti-aircraft guns on static mounts within in-ground concrete gun emplacements of octagonal shape. The interior walls of each gun emplacement contained recesses where ready ammunition for each gun was stored on timber racks, and the bases of the emplacements contained a circle of steel bolts to fasten the gun mounts. The guns were arranged around a reinforced concrete semi-underground Command Post (CP). Nearby were four semi-underground magazines of reinforced concrete. The standard CP design included a roofed plotting room plus open concrete pits outside for a height finder and predictor (a mechanical computing machine that predicted the future position of a target). Only the plotting room is evident at Gun Station 448’s CP, while Gun Station 449’s CP has been totally buried.
Mareeba Airfield and HAA Gun Stations 448 and 449. Queensland Heritage Register reported place 602740.
Pearce, Howard. January 2009. WWII-NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. EPA, Brisbane.
Casey, Hugh J., ed. 1951, “Volume VI: Airfield and Base Development", Engineers of the Southwest Pacific 1941–1945, Washington, D.C, United States Department of the Army.
Wilson, PD 1988. North Queensland WWII 1942–1945. Department of Geographic Information, Brisbane.
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Bradley, Vera, 1995. I didn’t know that: Cairns and districts, Tully to Cape York, 1939–1946, service personnel and civilians. Boolarong, Moorooka.
Simpson, B, “Mareeba’s Anti Aircraft Batteries", Heritage Bulletin, Number 7, November 2007, Mareeba Historic Society Inc.
Fowler, SR, November 2007. Plans and photographs of elements of northern Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery site.
National Archives of Australia 175/6/109 PART 1, DWB [Director of Works and Buildings] - Property - Mareeba Qld - Aerodrome - Hiring of site, 1942–1948.
National Archives of Australia 823, Mareeba 1942
Australian War Memorial photographic collection
State Library Queensland, John Oxley Library photographic collection.