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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wartime HF communications station in Melbourne

It is not commonly known, but during World War 2 the Australian Army
operated a large HF wireless telegraphy communications station from
locations in the outer east of Melbourne.

The facility was split geographically - the receiving station was sited in a
farming region, on the fringe of the town of Warrandyte, in a bushland area
of about 30 hectares, which in later years would become part of the suburb
of Park Orchards, about 20 km from central Melbourne.

The unstaffed transmitting station was located near the country town of
Coldstream, some 10 km east of Warrandyte, and included several rhombic
antennas, an antenna switching panel, and five HF high-speed W/T
transmitters. The antennas were designed for optimum radiation to places
such as Alice Springs, New Zealand, Darwin, Hobart, and Chungking (China).

The receiving station consisted of an  administrative block, a workshop,
spare parts store, teletype equipment, and a receiver room which included
several communications receivers. It was commonly known as "Hill 60" as it
was located at the top of a hill just south of Warrandyte. The workshop
manufactured transmitter equipment and other gear for use in the Army's HF
radio network across Victoria, including the big facility at Diggers Rest,
west of Melbourne.

All transmissions received and transmitted from the receiving centre were
forwarded to the Army's communications headquarters known as "Grosvenor" in
St Kilda Rd, Melbourne.

The principal receiving antenna was a Rhombic, with the main mast about 30 m

A switching panel allowed any of the receivers to be connected to any of the
antennas, operating on Army fixed communication channels.

There were links to the transmitter site, using four lower powered
transmitters of 750 Watts operating in the 30 MHz range, keyed remotely from
the receiving station. These were part of the original "refugee cargo",
diverted to Australia.

The station was part of the Land HQ Heavy Wireless Group, and occupied a
building from 1940 which had been constructed in the mid 1920s, known as the
Park Orchards Chalet. This building still stands, surrounded by houses which
were built in the 1960s, and has been used until now for school functions, a
restaurant and a conference centre.

The Wireless group was disbanded after WW2, and equipment was dismantled and
removed. The site remained undeveloped until the late 1970s when the local
community was successful in gaining Government approval for the land to be
set aside as a bushland sanctuary, now known as the "100 Acres Reserve".

The precise location of the transmitting site is not known, and is believed
to be the site of the present-day Coldstream Airport.

A series of photos taken in May 1943, held at the Australian War Memorial,
in Canberra, show various features of the receiving and transmitting
stations, and these may now be viewed on-line AWM website:

Receiving station

Transmitting station

Regards from Melboune!

Bob Padula

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