Mount Marlow Foothills Defence Positions

Town Common National Park, Mt Marlow


Town Common National Park, Mount Marlow 4800

Several machine-gun positions and 'foxholes' remain near gaps in this mountain range which lead towards the beach. They were constructed with local stone and concrete and placed to repel any possible Japanese invasion.

Before Japanese strength was known, Townsville prepared for the worst and hastily devised plans for the defence of the city were drawn up. Probably the first was the Suggested Plan for Beach Defence of TOWNSVILLE. The plan, conceived as early as 29 December 1941, highlighted how ill prepared Townsville was to meet a land invasion. It anticipated a landing at any point from Ross Creek to Kissing Point, and an anti-tank unit was to be based in the Band Rotunda at Anzac Park.


On 4 February 1942, Lieut.-General Mackay, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Home Forces, submitted a memorandum on the Defence of Australia to the Minister for the Army for consideration and direction. It was recommended that the main forces be centred in the south-east area; that Townsville should not be re-enforced, but that forces currently there not be reduced for reasons of morale. Mackay grimly pointed out that:

"It might be necessary to submit to the occupation of certain areas of Australia by the enemy, should local resistance be overcome."

The War Cabinet took note of the memo, but also argued that Australia was a base for a counter offensive; that the return of the AIF from the Middle East was imminent; and that US land forces would be arriving soon. They also recommended that anti-aircraft defences at Townsville be increased.

By May, the Fifth Division under the command of Major-General Milford had been given the responsibility of defending Townsville. On 4 May, operation advices were forwarded to his command stating that a strike on Port Moresby was likely and could be followed by a landing on the north Queensland coast, with a progressive advance south being covered by land based aircraft. The instructions also advised that the retention of Townsville was vital, and that its denial to the enemy was desirable. Indeed, during this May emergency, troops were put on full alert, and machine - gun nests such as the ones at Mount Marlow were manned 24 hours a day. Major-General Milford’s Townsville Defence Scheme was an elaborate and highly detailed plan, listing numerous defensive positions in the hills around Townsville

The Plan stated it was imperative the Fifth division avoid being bottled-up in Townsville, and when defence of the town was no longer possible it was to withdraw west to Charters Towers.

The chief of the Navy General Staff’s Planning section, Captain Tomioka Sadatoshi was the principal strategist behind the Australian invasion question. He recorded in January 1942 that Australia had to be subjugated quickly; meanwhile his Army equivalents were recording in their own diaries that any invasion on Australia would be overextending the supply lines. The land invasion of Australia never went beyond the speculation and planning stages for the Japanese. In Japan’s eyes, Australia was acting as a host to its enemy, but even the Army could not deny that the build-up of war materials in Australia was cause for concern.


The North Queensland Line: The Defence of Townsville in 1942". Ray Holyoak unpublished

Honours Thesis, James Cook University, Townsville 1998.