Fortress Signals Area Camp, Signal Hill

23rd Radar Station

Radar/signal station
Greater Brisbane

South Street, Lytton 4178

Signal Hill was a wartime signal station and engineers training camp associated with nearby Fort Lytton. Having been the site of a telegraph station since 1873, Signal Hill was developed into an outer redoubt to screen the fort during the 1880s. It was fully manned during World War II and it continued to be used as a defence site until the 1960s.


In the 1880s, to protect Fort Lytton from an overland flanking attack from an enemy party landing at Moreton Bay, a forward defensive redoubt was proposed for a strategic site on the nearby high ground of Lytton Hill. The site held an electric telegraph station and residence builtin1873 and so Lytton Hill was sometimes referred to as Signal Hill. In 1881, buildings belonging to a boys’ reformatory school were constructed on the hill that became known locally as Reformatory Hill. By 1885, a redoubt had been dug around the reformatory buildings. In 1900, these buildings were removed but the planned redoubt was only partially developed, comprising a trace, the temporary mounting of a 12 pounder gun and barbed wire entanglements.

The site was further developed during 1901-03, when it was used as a training camp for mounted troops embarking for the Second Boer War. A 20-stall timber stables building and a brick store were added to Signal Hill. Thereafter the site was little used except for annual military encampments. During World War I, the site again became a military training camp with an army dermatological hospital added in 1917. During 1919-31, the flat ground near the hill was used as Brisbane’s first airfield.

At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the redoubt was again fully garrisoned. It comprised a wooden stockade with arrow-headed demi-bastions placed on each flank with both of these structures protected by a deep ditch dug at the front. In the war’s early year’s Brisbane Area’s Fortress Signal camp, where signals training was conducted, utilised the old 1873 telegraph station building. This building was extended with a covered walkway leading to a new building with a concrete floor. The Fortress Signal camp had a telephone line connected to the Headquarters (HQ) of Brisbane Fortress Command located at the requisitioned St Laurence’s Boys College, 82 Stephens Road in South Brisbane.

The 23rd Radar Station was formed at Signal Hill on 12 June 1942 led by Pilot Officer A.J. Allen. It was a Fixed Radar Station, being one of the first 18 radar installations established in Australia. It was equipped with either a British Mk V COL set or an Australian-made AW set. The Margaret Marr Memorial Home for Boys located near the corner of Tingal Road and Petersen Street at Wynnum was requisitioned as the billet for the members of No.23 Radar Station. The unit underwent a number of changes in commanding officer: Pilot Officer W.E. Foster on 24 July 1942; Pilot Officer R.W. Mitchell on 24 August 1942; Pilot Officer I.B. Asman (date unknown); Pilot Officer G.C. Scott on 10 December 1942; Pilot Officer H.W. Flynn on 21 January 1943; Pilot Officer W.F. Gill on 17 May 1943; Pilot Officer A. Harris on 9 December 1943 and Flight Lieutenant L.F. Sawford 6 June 1944.

By early 1943, Signal Hill comprised 29 buildings constructed within the redoubt and a small building just outside the redoubt. To the left of the redoubt there were another 18 buildings, mainly timber accommodation huts, an electrical generator shed plus a central parade ground. This was the camp occupied by the Australian Army engineers and signallers. The engineers are thought to have dug some underground bunkers and/or tunnels around Signal Hill as part of their training.

By the end of the war, the site was known as the Lytton Signal Station. A few of the World War II structures remain at Signal Hill which is located within the Caltex Refinery site.


BCC Heritage Unit

Australia @ War

D.W. Spethman & R.G. Miller, Fortress Brisbane - a guide to historic fixed defence sites of Brisbane and the Moreton Bay Islands, (Brisbane: Spethman & Miller, 1998).

Units of the Royal Australian Air Force Vol.5.