Royal Australian Air Force 44/56 Radar Station Camp

Military camp
North and Cape York

Hope Street, Grassy Hill, Cooktown 4895

In mid-November 1942 the personnel of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) 44 Radar Station arrived at Cooktown aboard a coastal vessel to install an Australian AW Mk I set. The radar unit was formed in Townsville in August 1942. The radio direction finding (RDF or radar) station was located on top of Grassy Hill, overlooking Cooktown, and alongside the early lighthouse erected in 1886.


On arrival the unit found that work on the transmitter and camp had not started due to confusion regarding building approvals by the Main Roads Commission which was the constructing authority. A disused house at the base of the hill was pressed into service as a temporary mess, store and orderly room. As usual sleeping accommodation was in tents. The unit personnel themselves completed the radar transmitter and operations building and installed most of the technical equipment. After further delays awaiting valves for the equipment, it was the end of January 1943 before the radar station was finally operational. Even then the permanent camp, constructed on a steep spur half-way up Grassy Hill, was still unfinished, only one building being completed and this was used as an orderly room and wireless telephone room.

As with most other RAAF radar stations in north Queensland it is presumed the Cooktown unit ceased operations and was disbanded after Japan’s surrender in August 1945. All serviceable and salvageable equipment was dismantled and removed and the only evidence of the radar station today is a plaque atop Grassy Hill on the site of the operations building and tower. Several concrete slabs hidden in scrub on the west side of the hill, identify the camp area.


Pearce, Howard (contributing author).

Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.

Don Sinclair, Cooktown at War: A record of activities in Cooktown during World War Two, Cooktown and District Historical Society, 1997.