19 REPLENISHMENT CENTRE RAAF
IN
AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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visits since 17 October 2004

19 Replenishment Centre RAAF was established at Marrangarro in New South Wales on 30 October 1943. Marrangarro is located on the Great Western Highway about 6 kms north west of Lithgow. 19 Replenishment Centre was responsible for storing chemical weapons.

The first Commanding Officer, Flying Officer W.M. Myers, inspected a site for the new unit at Talmoi which is located on the Flinders Highway about 40kms west of Richmond in Queensland. The small town of Maxwellton (or Maxwelton) is just slightly further west of Talmoi. 

On 6 March 1944, Flying Officer Myers and six personnel left Lithgow for Talmoi. During their early days at Talmoi they experienced some large bush fires. On 13 August 1944, the whole unit assisted in fighting a large grass fire on Maxwellton Downs Station. On the 29 August 1944 they helped fight another fire at nearby Majuba Station and another one near their camp.

The unit completed building a 23 metre swimming pool at their camp on 23 September 1944. It was supplied from a bore drain.

The Chemical Weapons from Lithgow finally started to arrive at their new Central Explosives Reserve at Talmoi on 1 September 1944. Twelve general hands were attached to the unit to help unload the trains and store the Chemical Weapons. They had unloaded the 33 wagons in the first train by 5 September 1944. Another 4 rail wagons arrived on 6 September 1944. They unloaded and stored a total 2,550 x 250 lb bombs containing Chemical Weapons.

The two above ground concrete igloos at No. 19 Replenishing Centre at Talmoi were used to store the UK-manufactured phosgene-filled 250-lb bombs (light case). A corrugated shed was used to store mustard gas. The concrete igloos are now used to store hay. 

On 5 October 1944, the camp area was supplied with reticulated power using a new power unit arrived.

On 2 October 1944, the Military sought volunteers to participate in trials where humans were deliberately exposed to Blister Gas. Nineteen men from 19 Replenishment Centre volunteered. These trials were carried out at the Australian Field Experimental Station at Proserpine. There was a Chemical Research Unit located in Bowen.

On 22 October 1944, nine local debutants were presented to Commanding Officer Flying Officer W.M. Myers at a ball attended by 300 local people. The Richmond Picnic Races had been held earlier that day.

19 Replenishment centre celebrated its first year at Talmoi when it held a dance in the recreation hut for the RAAF welfare ladies.

On 26 November 1944, 20 drums of "Y3" were moved from Talmoi to the Australian Field Experimental Station at Proserpine. Another special shipment was then sent to the Chemical Research Unit at Bowen. On 15 January 1945, a further twenty "smoke cloud installation 500-lb" bombs charged with "Y3" left Talmoi.

On 31 January 1945, 19 Replenishment Centre started a series of courses covering

On 4 May 1945, two surveyors arrived to survey the camp. On 17 May 1945 firebreaks were burnt along lines laid out by the surveyors.

On 24 May 1945, orders were received to disband the unit. Flight Sergeant Eden visited Breddan on 28 May 1945 to inspect a site where it was proposed to store the Chemical Weapons from Talmoi. Breddan was found to be unsuitable for this purpose.

On 27 June 1945 the local community in the Richmond area put on a dinner and dance in honour of the men of 19 Replenishment Centre. In August 1945, there was one officer and 43 other ranks based at Talmoi.

Flying Officer C.K. Moginie took over as Commanding Officer on 8 November 1945. Six airmen were attached to 3 Central Reserve in November 1945, where a successful experiment was carried out to destroy "Y" agent by fire.

Flight Lieutenants W.M. Myers and P.F. Trompf arrived from Melbourne on 9 December 1945 to supervise the destruction of their Chemical Weapons by fire. The first drums of Chemicals were destroyed by fire between 12 and 20 December 1945. On 9 January 1946 the first of a series of eight more burns was carried out.

All of the Phosgene gas was released between 15th and 18th January 1946. There was one final last burn on 23 January 1946 to destroy all remaining residues on the camp site.

The camp at Talmoi was handed over to civilian caretakers on 9 February 1946. The personnel left in 19 Replenishment Centre were sent to Townsville by train where the unit was disbanded on 19 February 1946.

On 21 December 1948, the Shire Clerk, of McKinley Shire Council at Julia Creek wrote to The Minister for the Navy, Mr W.J. Reardon as follows:-

During the late war there was established at "Talmoi", near Maxwelton, a Military Depot, and on the termination of the war, this camp was abandoned and thousands of bombs (gas) were presumed destroyed and rendered harmless, and these are being removed for many purposes as house blocks, crossing signs etc, and the Manager of Molesworth, on whose property the bombs are situated is agreeable to their removal and pleased to get rid of them.

This Council recently removed a number from teh said dump, for the above purposes, and when tipped from the lorry in the Council's Yard, one cracked in the seam at the end, allowing gas to escape, presumably mustard gas, and on closer examination it appeared to me that some sixty of the said bombs were in a similar condition, but showed signs of a fire having benn placed over them, and I then caused them to be taken back to the place or origin.

As these bombs, as beforestated, do not appear to have been rendered harmless and may cause damage to the person, if they come in direct contact with the gas, I would thank you to make inquiries in the matter, in the public interests, and with a view to having some inspection made by a competent authority.

Thanking you and with kindest regards,

Yours faithfully,

Shire Clerk.

 

On 23 December 1948, The Minister for the Navy, Mr W.J. Reardon sent a Telegram to the Minister for Air, Arthur S. Drakeford at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne stating:-

"Shire Clerk Julia Creek complains RAAF mustard gas bombs still at Talmoi near Julia Creek. Please have urgent enquiries made and advise me."

On 29 December 1948, Arthur S. Drakeford sent a letter marked "Secret" to The Minister for the Navy, Mr W.J. Reardon advising that he had received his telegram and that he had been informed by his Department that RAAF Chemical Warfare stocks at Talmoi had been destroyed three years ago and that based on this, his complaint could not be understood. He went on to advise that a signal had been sent to Air Officer Commanding, Headquarters RAAF, North Eastern Area, Townsville to arrange for an immediate inspection and report. 

Wing Commander W.D. Mason, Deputy Director of Equipment (I) sent a signal to North-east Area Headquarters in Townsville as follows:-

QS.328 24 Dec Secret for OC from A.M.S.E.

Following is report of Telegram received by Minister for Air.

"Shire Clerk Julia Creek complains RAAF mustard gas bombs still at Talmoi near Julia Creek. Please have urgent enquiries made and advise me." Reardon Minister for Navy."

Director of Armament advises me destruction operation for these stocks carried out some three years ago. Desire you take immediate steps for inspection and report earliest.

 

On 4 January 1949, North Eastern Area HQ reported to RAAF HQ in Melbourne as follows:-

Q917 30 Dec QS328 24 Dec Secret for AMSE from OC (.) Bombs inspected Talmoi 29 Dec are RAAF bombs (.) Destruction Mustard Bombs by bullet B"" bullet in base (.) Phosgene bomb cause of complaint opened for inspection but no gas (.) Percentage of other bombs visually inspected and appear harmless (.) Hundred per cent can only be carried out by gas inspector properly equipped due to number of bombs and manner stacked (.) Suggest officer be attached this HQRS for that purpose (.) Bombs being used by McKinley Shire and local residents for building purposes (.) Suggest use should be prohibited until after inspection. 

 

The Minister for Air Arthur Drakeford, wrote back to the Minister for the Navy, Mr W.J. Reardon on 3 February 1949 to advise the outcome of the initial investigation.

A small stockpile of Chemical Weapons was discovered at Maxwellton in 1989. 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Geoff Plunkett for his assistance with this home page.

 

REFERENCE BOOK

"Units of the Royal Australian Air Force - A Concise History"
"Volume 6 Logistic Units"
Complied by the RAAF Historical Section

 

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This page first produced 17 October 2004

This page last updated 18 October 2004