Archer Point Royal Australian Navy (RAN) War Signal Station

Archer Point Conservation Park

Radar/signal station
North and Cape York

Archer Point Road, Cooktown 4895

Concrete slabs are all that remain of the former signal station on the southern approach to Cooktown harbour. A RoyalAustralian Navy (RAN) signal station began operating at Archer Point in January 1942, soon after the outbreak of war in the Pacific.

The signal station was located at the Point alongside the early lighthouse, built in the 1880s. The station camp containing about four Sidney Williams huts was located on the beach below, beside the lighthouse trolley tramway.

After operating for almost two years the signal station was relocated to Trinity Bay near Cairns. A jetty was built at Archer Point in the early 1970s as part of the development of the Lakeland Downs improved pasture project and was intended for use in loading sorghum for export to Japan. However, the export project was not successful.

The original lighthouse was closed and removed in 1979 and an automated marine light now occupies the headland. The circular concrete and iron base of the early lighthouse remains.


The work of the RAN personnel manning the Archer Point War Signal Station involved signaling to and identifying all ships going north and south off the east coast of Cape York Peninsula, both inside and outside of the Great Barrier Reef. During daylight hours they used a flag pole from which signal flags were displayed. At night a peddle-powered Aldis lamp was used as there were no electricity generators. A coded message reporting all ships that passed, whether they were able to be identified or not, was sent by telephone to naval headquarters in Melbourne

A US radio direction finding (radar) unit was also stationed at Archer Point and operated independently of the RAN signal station. Other War Signal Stations operating in the region were at Thursday Island, Goods Island, Wednesday Island and Booby Island. Food supplies at Archer Point arrived weekly from Cairns on the coastal launch Merinda and were often supplemented by reef fishing and shooting wild goats for fresh meat.

Archer Point War Signal Station closed in early December 1943, when all RAN personnel and equipment were transferred to the new Port War Signal Station at False Cape coast battery near Cairns.


Pearce, Howard (contributing author).

Vera Bradley. I Didn’t Know That: Cairns and districts Tully to Cape York, 1939–1946, Service personnel and civilians, Boolarong Press, Brisbane, 1995.

Peter Nielsen. Diary of WWII North Queensland, Nielsen Publishing, Gordonvale, 1993.

Howard Pearce (Ed.). Heritage Trails of the Tropical North: A heritage tour guide to far north Queensland, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2001.

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.