Mingela VHF Radio Direction Finder Station (VHF DF)
- Radar/signal station
Flinders Highway, Mingela 4816
The town of Mingela had been in decline prior to WW1. Previously named Ravenswood Junction and also Cunningham, this decline accelerated after the closure of the railway to the gold mining town of Ravenswood in 1931. Perched on the mountain range that shares its name, Mingela during the war was selected by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as a secret Very High Frequency Direction Finding (VHF DF) station.
In April 1942, a cablegram was sent to the Minister for Trade and Customs by Mrs I F Jones, proprietor of the North Australian Hotel at Mingela. The Hotel had burnt to the ground five months previously but was still trading from another building. Mrs Jones concern for Allied Works Council tradesmen inadvertently revealed that something was happening at Mingela.
Male population greatly increased since doing essential work…beer quota totally inadequate… Shortage is likely [to] retard work…
VHFDF stations enabled the plotting of aircraft under the control of Fighter Sectors. No.3 Fighter Sector Headquarters (3FSHQ) was located at the Grammar School at North Ward until in 1944 a purpose built headquarters was completed at Stuart. VHFDF equipment had been considered essential when 3FSHQ was established in February 1942.
VHF DF enabled the controller to see at a glance exactly where aircraft were, enabling them to be directed by radio. This meant that pilots no longer had to plot their own position and could follow instructions from the controller. A 'Homing Station' was to be on the Cairns Road, on the other side of Garbutt airfield (possibly at the Bohle).
Plans from April 1942 reveal that the installation included a transmitting/receiving station and living quarters. The huts were considered to be unsuited to the tropical climate and changes were recommended. The station was operational by September 1942.
The station covered two square blocks of land. Site one contained the transmitting station, generator and a 70 foot mast.
Site two contained the receiving station. This was a hexagonal 'silo type structure' which housed an operator and the receiving equipment.
Similar “Triangular” stations were also located on the coast at Moongabulla (40 miles north of Townsville) and at Brandon (30 miles south of Townsville).
The station could also detect unidentified or enemy aircraft.
On 1 February 1943, three unidentified aircraft were detected by VHF DF that followed a course 30 miles north-east of Townsville. 3FSHQ diaries suggest they may have been Japanese submarine-based reconnaissance aircraft. These collapsible floatplanes had previously conducted reconnaissance over Sydney and Melbourne. Five days later, guards were sent to Mingela VHF DF station, perhaps to increase security at this secret installation.
In August 1945, Mr C McCullloch wrote to the RAAF enquiring whether the VHF DF buildings were to be auctioned. Though he wished to purchase them for removal as a private dwelling, he noted that termites had begun to enter the buildings.
By July 1946 the RAAF regarded these VHF DF 'Fixer Stations' as obsolete and buildings were disposed of at auction.
- The North Queensland Line: The Defence of Townsville in 1942". Ray Holyoak unpublished Honours Thesis, James Cook University, Townsville 1998.
- Operations Record Book Fighter Sector [HQ] and Fighter Control [Units] Nos 3, 103-106 and 109-114 February 1942 to January 1949 (Abbrev) AWM 64, item 11/1.
- Operations Record Book Nos 3, 103, 4, 104, 6 and 106 Fighter Sector Headquarters 2/3/1942 to 30/4/1945 (Abbrev), AWM 64, item 21/1.
- Telephone Facilities - RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force] VHF [Very High Frequency]/DF[Direction Finding] Station - Mingela - Queensland, MP721/1, W343/130, VIC.
- Mingela Qld - Compulsory acquisition 25 November 1943 - Search against title - Site for VHF/DF station, RAAF. Claim of State of Queensland, A6074, PO5978 ACT.
- Mingela Queensland - Disposal of land (acquired 25 November 1943) to Department of Public Lands Brisbane, A6074, PO11333 ACT.
- DWB [Director of Works and Buildings] - Mingela Qld - VHF/DF [Very High Frequency/Direction Finding] Station - acquisition of site, A705, 171/94/7 ACT.
- Provision of transmitting building for VHF/DF installation at Mingela (Cunningham) Queensland, A705, 171/1/1086 ACT.
- Property at Mingela Queensland, A461, R/356/1/7 ACT.
- I F Jones, North Australian Hotel, Mingela - Further allocation of beer, A1539, 1942/W/912 ACT.