Goods Battery, Signal Station and Quoin Point Campsite
Goodes Battery, Goodes Island
- North and Cape York
Tucker Point and Quoin Point, Goodes Island (Palilug Island) 4875
The two 6-inch guns of Goods Battery, located on Tucker Point at the west end of Goods Island (Palilug) in the Torres Strait, were operational between 1941 and 1946, covering the channels to the north of the island, the western and eastern approaches to Thursday Island, and the RAAF Advanced Operational Base (AOB) on Horn Island to the southeast.
Surviving reinforced concrete elements of the battery include two 6-inch gun emplacements set in a line, with a two-room magazine at the rear of each. The eastern gun emplacement is positioned at a higher level, and overlooking both gun emplacements from the east is a three level Battery Observation Post (BOP) and fire director station.
A semi-underground operations room is excavated into the hillside just southeast of the BOP. Two rooms are located within an encircling outer blast wall. About 70 metres southeast of the BOP is the engineers’ workshop, a concrete building partly excavated into the hillside which contains three workrooms. About 20 metres southeast of the workshop is a 75,000 gallon (340,957 litres) five-metre deep water reservoir.
Four searchlight stations, with accompanying generator rooms, are located to the north and south of the gun emplacements, and a two level signal station is located alongside the Goods Island lighthouse (1886), to the east of the gun battery. A small power house is located to the north of the signal station.
The battery’s camp site is located a kilometre south-east, near Quoin Point, and comprises about 20 concrete floor slabs which originally contained four rows of steel frame prefabricated Sidney Williams huts. In addition to dismantled hut frames, evidence remains of a kitchen stove, corrugated iron water tanks, garden rockeries and plantings, and the stone rubble wall of a fish trap.
During the 19th century colonial defence planners had recognised that the Torres Strait was strategically and commercially important, and Thursday Island was fortified in the early 1890s with a battery of three 6-inch breech loading (BL) guns on Green Hill, and a Quick Firing (QF) 4.7-inch gun was installed on Milman Hill in 1897. These defences were soon obsolete, and as Australia’s northern defence focus had shifted to Darwin, the Thursday Island defences were dismantled in 1932. However, the 6-inch guns were left in place at Green Hill Fort, where they remain today. Later, the Green Hill Fort was used as a signals and wireless station, and ammunition store, during the war in the South West Pacific.
With the relocation of the Thursday Island garrison a local guard was formed in 1934 for the protection of the island’s AWA maritime wireless station. Plans were made for stationing a coast-watching party on Goods Island in the event of international hostilities. Goods Island is also known by its Indigenous name of Palilug and is part of the traditional estate of the Kaurareg people. A telephone line from Thursday Island was extended to Tucker Point on the south-west tip of Goods Island, from where a small detachment would be able to watch the Prince of Wales Channel to the north and Normanby Sound to the south.
Despite the earlier abandonment of the fortifications of Thursday Island, the outbreak of World War II and concerns about Japan’s intentions led to additional coastal artillery defences in the Torres Strait. A QF 4.7-inch Mk XII gun was re-installed on Milman Hill in December 1940, and two 6-inch guns were installed at Tucker Point on Goods Island between December 1940 and July 1941. The latter position allowed coverage of the Prince of Wales and Dayman channels and part of the Simpson Channel, coverage of the western and eastern approaches to Thursday Island, and coverage of the RAAF Advanced Operational Base (AOB) on Horn Island, where two runways were constructed during 1941.
Construction of the Goods Battery gun emplacements commenced under the supervision of the Department of the Interior. An advance party of personnel from the Royal Australian Engineers, Royal Australian Artillery and Australian Army Service Corps sailed from Brisbane for Thursday Island on 19 November 1940, arriving on Goods Island in early December.
Goods Battery was equipped with two 6-inch Breech Loading Mark XI guns (serial numbers 2287 ex HMAS Melbourne and 2289 ex HMAS Sydney) with a range of 25,000 yards (or almost 23km), plus two naval pedestal mountings with two naval gun shields. The range and bearing of a target was determined in the Battery Observation Post (BOP) using a depression range finder with the relevant information relayed to the gunners. Approximately four shells a minute could be fired, and shells and cordite charges were stored separately in adjacent magazines. The first gun arrived at Goods Island in early January 1941 and the second was unloaded several weeks later. Additional troops arrived during February 1941.
During 1941 construction work continued on the gun emplacements and coastal artillery searchlight stations and engine rooms. A reinforced concrete observation post (possibly intended as a signal station) was constructed alongside the Goods Island lighthouse at the highest point on the island.
The two guns of Goods Battery had been assembled and proof-fired by July 1941 and early in August the Royal Australian Artillery gunners began conducting regular practice shoots at targets on Prince of Wales Island. The battery’s searchlight stations were also operational and were sometimes used to guide lost aircraft to Horn Island Airfield.
Following Japan’s entry into the war on 7 December 1941, a US light anti-aircraft unit arrived on Thursday Island in April 1942 and later moved to Goods Island where four light anti-aircraft gun positions were constructed during May. By June work was underway on a permanent barracks at Quoin Point where about 20 steel-frame prefabricated Sidney Williams huts were erected to serve as officers’ and men’s accommodation, kitchens, messes and ablution blocks. The camp was completed and wired during July. Over the same period repairs were carried out to existing stone fish traps at Quoin Point to provide fresh seafood.
In early September 1942 a senior Royal Australian Artillery (RAA) officer was sent to Thursday Island to inspect sites for additional coast defence of Torres Strait. Turtle Head on the north coast of Hammond Island was identified as a site for two 155-mm guns to close the Prince of Wales Channel from the east and cover the east coast of Horn Island. Coastal batteries were also installed on Horn Island, at King Point (two 18 pounders, MK IV), and on Entrance Island (three 60 pounders, later replaced with two 6-inch Mk VII guns).
‘A’ company of 14 Garrison Battalion was briefly located on Goods Island in October 1942, before being moved back to Horn Island where they could be better employed. Thereafter the defence of Goods Island was left in the hands of a small garrison with nine machine guns and five mortars, dug-in behind barb wire in prepared positions on the ridge above the 6-inch guns, as well as an infantry platoon with a mobile role. By November 1942 the members of the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion were posted for duties at Goods battery. Torres Strait Infantry personnel were issued with hats, shorts, socks and singlets and employed in labouring roles as well as patrols of the island.
Additional works in the construction of the battery fortifications continued with the completion of the three-level concrete battery observation post (BOP) in December 1942 and the fitting of steel rear partition shields to the guns. Water was scarce at the battery site, where it was stored in corrugated iron tanks, and to provide an assured supply, a 75,000 gallon (340,957 litres) in-ground concrete reservoir was constructed by 17 Australian Field Company early in 1943.
A Bofors 40-mm gun and crew was provided to Goods Battery in September 1943 for close aerial protection from Japanese aircraft. In November 1943 concrete blast walls were completed at the battery operations room, and the fire director station was moved to the top level of the BOP. For several periods during 1943 companies of 5 Australian Machine Gun Battalion and the Torres Strait Light Infantry Battalion were stationed on Goods Island at prepared positions between the battery and the lighthouse.
The coast defences of Torres Strait were reviewed by the Defence Committee in September 1944 as the war moved away from Australia. As a result of the review it was recommended that only the 6-inch guns of Goods Battery be retained on a permanently manned basis. As a result in October 1944 Milman Battery on Thursday Island, ‘Q’ (Turtle) Battery on Hammond Island, King Point Section on Horn Island, and Endeavour Battery on Entrance Island were placed under care and maintenance before being withdrawn.
As the Pacific war moved further northward, defence activities in the Torres Strait were gradually scaled down. Goods Battery remained nominally active until July 1945, but in practise it was often not possible to man the guns due to shortages of men. In September 1945 Goods Battery was inspected by headquarters staff of the Torres Strait Coast Artillery, Thursday Island. It appears that the battery continued to operate under a care and maintenance program until August 1946 when armament and fire control instruments on Goods Island were dismantled in preparation for closing down. The guns of Goods Battery remained until 1987 when they were removed as a tri-service exercise to be restored by the Royal Australian Navy. The navy presented one gun (serial no. 2289) to the Australian War Memorial in November 1988.
Goods Battery and Camp, Reported Place 29629, Queensland Heritage Register
Green Hill Fort Complex, Queensland Heritage Register reported place 601096.
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