MINEWATCHING ORGANISATION
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII

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The object of the Minewatching organisation was to locate the position of mines dropped in rivers or coastal areas from enemy aircraft, so that action could be taken to clear the shipping channel with minimum delay and to prevent movements of ships in known danger areas.

Minewatching Organisations were established in a number of locations around Australia including the following:-

 

Minewatching Message Form

 

In about November 1942, Thomas J. Hawkins, the Secretary of the Department of the Navy, Navy Office, Melbourne sent a Secret Memorandum to all Naval Officers in Charge (NOICs) except Darwin and Port Moresby, advising that he was directed by the Naval Board to state that information had been received from the Naval Officer-in-Charge, Brisbane, that Minewatching exercises were carried out at that port in conjunction with the RAAF Wirraway aircraft which dropped 8 1/2 lb bombs in the vicinity of Minewatching Posts. He stated that although the exercises had only be conducted during the day, they were of considerable value in training personnel to take accurate bearings, to accustom them to the sound of approaching aircraft and to retain the interest of the volunteer personnel employed. He advised the NOICs to take steps, if not already done, to contact the local RAAF Authorities with a view to the provision of exercises on similar lines to those described.

The Minewatching Organisation in Brisbane was very effective and an article in the Brisbane Courier Mail of 18 January 1943 stated that:-

"First members were drawn from the Women's National Emergency Legion, and minewatchers wear the uniform of that organisation, though most recent recruits wear civilian dress with armband and badge, as uniforms are not available.

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As the organisation is part of the Women's National Emergency Legion, all minewatchers are allowed to use the headquarters of the Legion, 35 Adelaide Street, as their club room.

One of the most creditable features of the Brisbane Minewatching organisation is that it is the only minewatching organisation in Australia, if not the world, which is manned by women.

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A limited number of vacancies exists in this highly important organisation, and those who wish to apply for admission should do so by letter or in person to the Chief Minewatcher, Naval Staff Office, Commercial Bank Building, Queen Street."

 

Each of the Minewatching posts in the Brisbane area were about 6 feet square and were equipped with a stretcher. Each Post in Brisbane when operational was to be manned by two Minewatchers with one Minewatcher on watch duties at any point in time.

 

Two WNEL Minewatchers at their post on the banks of the Brisbane River in November 1942.

 

Note the Minewatchers emblem on the armband of the WNEL inside the Post bunker.
The emblem was a dark navy blue with an anchor and the word "Minewatcher" in red.
Lady inside bunker is holding a bearing plate used to locate position of suspected mines.

 

Minewatcher armband emblem

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Russell Miller for his assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCES

National Archives of Australia - Mine Watching organisation - Moreton Bay & Brisbane River, Series No MP1049/5, Control Symbol 1924/4/594, Item Barcode 471258

 

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This page first produced 2 February 2015

This page last updated 04 January 2015