Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Port War Signal Station 1
Port War Signal Station
Sea Eagle Apartments, 38 Victoria Terrace, Caloundra 4551
RAN Station 1, a Port War Signal Station (PWSS), was constructed at Caloundra Head sometime after March 1941. The PWSS consisted of a two storey reinforced concrete signal tower and a timber signal station accommodation building, and replaced an earlier PWSS near Fort Cowan Cowan on Moreton Island. Both PWSS buildings at Caloundra were demolished after the war, although the accommodation building served as the Whitecliff private hospital for some time, from 1948.
The site of the signal tower was on the front lawn of the Sea Eagle Apartments at 38 Victoria Terrace, Wickham Point, while the accommodation building was located further west, at what is now 41 Victoria Terrace.
Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Station 1, a Port War Signal Station (PWSS) at Caloundra Head, formed part of the naval defences of Moreton Bay during World War II. Before the war these defences included coastal batteries at Fort Lytton (established 1880–1881, on the southern side of the Brisbane River’s mouth) and Fort Cowan Cowan (1937, on the west side of Moreton Island). During World War II Moreton Bay’s defences were improved: Fort Bribie, at the northeast tip of Bribie Island, was established by early 1940, and upgraded its two 6" gun emplacements in late 1941–early 1942. In late 1942 two American 155mm field guns were sited at Skirmish Point at the south end of Bribie Island and in 1943 a similar battery was built at Rous, on the east side of Moreton Island.
The major access route into the Brisbane River was the Northwest Channel, which ran from near Caloundra across the bay in a southeast direction (east of Bribie Island and towards Moreton Island) and then southwest towards the mouth of the Brisbane River, forming a Z-shaped route. This dictated the ideal positions for coastal artillery batteries, with the most effective sites for guns being the closest points to the channel bends. However, Rous battery was designed to deter ships from shelling targets within Moreton Bay from the ocean side of Moreton Island.
Moreton Bay was also protected by RAN stations numbers 1 through 10. RAN 1 was the PWSS at Wickham Point, Caloundra. RAN 2 was a Controlled Mining and Guard Loop Station which was initially located at Fort Bribie before it was moved to Tangalooma on Moreton island in 1943. RAN 3 was a Controlled Mining and Guard Loop Station at Cowan Cowan, and RAN 4 was the Indicator Loop and Harbour Defence ASDIC (anti-submarine detection sonar) Station at Woorim on Bribie Island. RAN 5 was the Combined Training Centre (Naval Wing), at Toorbul; RAN 6 was an Advanced Fairmile Base (AFMB) at Bongaree, Bribie Island; and RAN 7 was an Indicator Loop and Harbour Defence ASDIC Station at Bulwer on Moreton Island. On the Brisbane River, RAN 8 was the Boom Defence Facility, an Anti-submarine Boom across the Brisbane River between Lytton and Bulwer Island; RAN 9 was the Indicator Loop and Photo-electric Beam Station, Myrtletown; and RAN 10 was a Naval Store at Pinkenba.
The PWSS was responsible for communicating with all ships wanting to enter Moreton Bay, to ensure that friendly shipping was identified and that the defences could be alerted about suspicious vessels. All merchant ships would be met by an Examination Vessel stationed permanently at an Examination Anchorage. If a vessel could not be identified, it was directed to proceed to the Examination Anchorage, which was under the guns of the Examination Battery on shore.
Before a PWSS was constructed at Caloundra Head, one existed at Cowan Cowan, erected in the late 1930s when Fort Cowan Cowan took over the role of Examination Battery from Fort Lytton. The Cowan Cowan PWSS signal tower was a timber framed two storey building clad in asbestos cement sheeting. By March 1941 steps were being taken to move the PWSS from Cowan Cowan to Caloundra Head, although Fort Cowan Cowan would remain as the Examination Battery. It was planned to move the navy’s personnel to Caloundra once the new PWSS was constructed. Personnel at Caloundra included men of the RAN, and women from the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS). Signals were relayed by radio, signal lights or semaphore flags.
The PWSS at Caloundra had two main elements: a concrete signal tower and a timber signal station accommodation building. As well as the two buildings, there were two timber masts, and one steel mast. Like the PWSS tower at Cowan Cowan, the tower at Caloundra Head was a two story structure, but being built of reinforced concrete it offered far more protection from enemy fire. The Caloundra tower was sited within the curve of Victoria Terrace at Wickham Point (the site is now the front lawn of the Sea Eagle Apartments) and was demolished some time after the war. The other main element to the PWSS was the accommodation building, of one storey on stumps, which later became the Whitecliff private hospital in 1948. The latter, which stood to the west of the signal tower, has also been demolished.
RAN Station 9, Pinkenba (Myrtletown), Queensland Heritage Register 602448
Signal Station (former), Queensland Heritage Register 601097 [refers to Signal station at Cowan Cowan]
Groves, J; Groves, J; Wensley, A, 2009. Caloundra during WWII: how World War II changed the town of Caloundra, John and Janice Groves and Anne Wensley, Caloundra.
National Archives of Australia 23/402/153. Bribie Island Fortress 1939–1944.
National Archives of Australia LS1944. Caloundra - Position of Tower at Port War Signal Station, 1948.
Dunn, P. “RAN Station 1- Port War Signal Station initially at Cowan Cowan, Moreton Is. then “Buena Vista", Moffat Head, Caloundra then Wickham Point, Caloundra".
Timeline of the Caloundra District
Sunshine Coast Libraries Photographic Collection.