FLEET RADIO UNIT DETACHMENT ADELAIDE RIVER
RADIO STATION ADELAIDE RIVER, NT
DURING WWII

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The Fleet Radio Unit Radio Station at Adelaide River was officially titled as "USN Supplementary Radio Station Adelaide River". An official document dated 30 September 1945 shows the following name for the unit - "U.S. Naval Attachment, Fleet Radio Unit, Navy 136". The radio station was erected at the request of the Commander of the 7th US Fleet on Mount Bundy station which was under a Pastoral Lease operated by Mr. Wyatt.

There was a direct teleprinter line back to FRUMEL in Melbourne. The teletype machines at FRUMEL headquarters ran continuously 24 hours a day receiving the flow of traffic from the W/T Station at Adelaide River. The Radio Station had a permanent circuit to Fleet Radio Unit Pacific (FRUPAC) and it apparently moved forward with Admiral Nimitz’s headquarters in 1945.

 

Plan of Fleet Radio Unit Adelaide River

 

Ex Chief Warrant Officer Sidney Burnett

 

Chief Warrant Officer Sidney Burnett was a radioman with FRUMEL in Melbourne. He was part of the last group of men to escape out of Corregidor. Sidney Burnett was keen to get closer to the action and as such he was dying to be posted to the Radio Station at Adelaide River in the Northern Territory. 

Chief Warrant Officer Sidney Burnett and LTJG Keith (Keg) Goodwin selected the site for the new US Navy Fleet Radio Unit Radio Site at Adelaide River on 28 January 1943. The new site was operational by the end of March 1943.

Sharon A. Maneki's book indicates that the site was located on the old Marakai Station just east of the center of the river. This is the station or Pastoral lease to the north of Mount Bundy. Perhaps this was an initial location before the final site was chosen at Mount Bundy.

The RAAF assisted the US Navy in establishing the Radio Site. Buildings were not initially erected at the site to avoid the Japanese spotting the site. Eight-man tents were borrowed from the nearby Australian army camp. During the wet weather the teletype machine operator had to keep his feet on the table to avoid getting an electric shock each time he hit a key.


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Entrance Gate to the Fleet Radio Unit Detachment Camp

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Sign placed on the entrance Gate to the Fleet Radio Unit Detachment Camp by Doug Tilley

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Concrete foundation for the HF/DF Receiver Building

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

1943 Beer bottle on the slab of the HF/DF Receiver building.
There are many similar beer bottles in the area.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Tie down bolts for the central pivot support for the HF/DF equipment

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Closeup of the above Tie down bolts

 

On 13 August 1943, CDR Holtwick forwarded a letter to LTJG Goodwin, which reportedly contained an instruction book for a Model DAB-3 HFDF equipment being sent to Adelaide River. LTJG Goodwin was instructed to carefully read the instruction book and then select a site so the equipment could be set up immediately upon arrival.

A report mentioned some testing was accomplished using a small portable HFDF set, which had been furnished to the station, perhaps the Model DAG set mentioned earlier. Receiving conditions were known to be good and no difficulty was expected with the planned HFDF installation.

In September 1943, a 25’x25’ cement-decked building was constructed on the northwest corner of the station to house the Model DAB HFDF equipment. The site was chosen as being free of any interference but it cannot be definitely stated that this was the clay pan area previously discussed. This HFDF equipment was reportedly used primarily to support the intercept mission by locating Japanese transmissions and did not participate in an HFDF net except on request.

A narrative written in August 1945 stated that HFDF bearings from the HFDF station at Exmouth Gulf were forwarded to the Royal Australian Air Force W/T (Wireless Telegraphy) Unit #2 or 51st Australian W/T Section at Bachelor, Northern Territory, for use in conjunction with their own. The Exmouth Gulf bearings were then forwarded to Adelaide River for delivery to FRUMEL along with Adelaide River’s bearings. On 30 November 1943, FRU7THFLT gave the DAB’s coordinates as 13-13-27S 131-07-53E (225 yards due west of the intercept station measured by pacing).

As of 15 January 1944, it was reported that work had been completed and the DAB was functioning although its accuracy was yet to be checked out. In December 1944, this DAB was dismantled and reportedly shipped to Manus Island for installation. However, a 10 May 1945 FRU7THFLT news memorandum reported that the Model DAB HFDF equipment at Adelaide River had been dismantled and returned to Melbourne for the ultimate purpose of being turned over to the Australians but after the equipment had been checked over by the electronics repair personnel, it was stored in a warehouse because the Royal Australian Navy advised they could not use it. In addition, reference was found in FRUMEL files to a 4 November 1944 message which reportedly deleted Adelaide River from the Mid-Pacific Strategic HFDF Net but, as stated, other notations in Adelaide River files stated that the HFDF site participated in a net only upon request.

On 21 June 1943, Adelaide River’s equipment requirements and assets were listed as follows:-

 

Equipment Required On board
Receivers 18 9
RIP-5 Typewriters 15 8
Line amplifier 01 0
Tape recorder 01 0
Tape pullers 02 0
W. U. typewriter 01 0
Frequency meter 01 01
Tube tester 01 01
Signal generator 01 01
Typewriter (standard) 01 01

 

Jack Grafing told me that they only had receivers at Adelaide River until Guam was recaptured and they were then sent a transmitter, scrambler and some yeomen to operate them. They put a rhombic antenna pointing towards Guam and their traffic was sent there by radio. They still used teletypes to send traffic to FRUMEL in Melbourne. The transmitter was located a short distance from their radio receiver shack and the rhombic antenna lead was connected there.

 


Photo:- via Doug Tilley

The HF/DF Equipment Model DAB that would have been installed inside this building

 


Sketch via Doug Tilley

Click to enlarge

Sketch of the Direction Finder - Model D

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Automated Conveyor type dish washing machine beside the HF/DF Building slab

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Side view of the automated conveyor type dish washing machine

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

MT Workshop Slab (Slab No 7)

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Closeup of MT Workshop Slab (Slab No 7). You can just see
the number "7" that Doug Tilley has painted on the slab

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

One of the many signs that Doug Tilley has erected at the FRU Camp

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

WWII Fuel Drum on one of the concrete slabs

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

US Markings on the top of the fuel drum

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Vehicle Service Pit

 


Photo:- Doug Tilley 2010

This inscription in the old cement is what gave Doug Tilley the necessary clue to
work out  which unit operated this camp area in WWII. Though hard to read it says
"84 CB USNR". The Fleet Radio Unit Detachment Camp was built by the 84th Seabees

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Slab of the Men's Recreation Room at FRU Camp at Mount Bundy Station

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Another slab cleared by Doug Tilley. This is the extensions
to the Kitchen/Mess. Unfortunately this slab is collapsing.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Concrete slab for the Kitchen/Mess

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Slab No. 5 for the Chief Petty Officers Quarters

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Another sign placed by Doug Tilley on the site of the laundry building.
Note the beer Bootle standing on the slab at right.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Close-up of the sign in the above photo. Note the beer bottle standing in much the same place.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Remains of broken porcelain toilet seats

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Sign for Building No 4 - 20 ft x 60 ft Men's Recreation Room

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Survey Mark which reads "Royal Australian Survey Corps - Survey Mark U 913"

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Concrete footings for two water tanks

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Photo of one of the original water tanks on the site

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Slab No. 1 - 20 ft x 30 ft Officers Quarters. This building had a corrugated iron roof and walls. The
interior was lined with plywood and had it's own shower and latrine, 9 lights and 6 power points.
Lt. jg Keith Goodwin, 1st Officer in Charge at FRU Adelaide River lived in this building.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Building slab at the top of the hill

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Doug Tilley found this small engine (Make unknown) in the nearby
bush and has reinstated it on its original position during WWII

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Looking back towards the engine

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Note the small square concrete plinth on side of hill. This hill is located on the other
side of the track from the camp area. This is one of a number of similar concrete
plinths which were foundations for the rhombic antenna array which circled this hill.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

One of the slabs at the top of the hill where the radio site was located

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Top of the hill where the radio site was located

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Burn barrel built by the US Navy to burn all paper traffic from the
RIP 5 typewriters when they were no longer required. They had
to be burned to a fine ash so that no single character could be seen.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

US Flag flown by Doug Tilley over the site of the USN Fleet Radio
Detachment Adelaide River. Doug pays for this flag himself to honour
the men who served here during WWII. It has to be replaced every
now and then due to weathering in the hot Northern Territory sun.

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Remains of WWII slit trenches beside the above slabs

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Adjustable tie down for the guys wires for the Rhombic Antenna array

 


Photo:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Another one of the concrete plinths for the Rhombic Antenna array. It has
been painted white by Doug Tilley to aid visual identification for visitors.

 

 
You Tube Video:- Peter Dunn July 2011

HF/DF Receiver Building at the Fleet Radio Unit Detachment Adelaide River Camp

 

 
You Tube Video:- Peter Dunn July 2011

Automated Conveyor type dish washing machine at the Fleet Radio Unit Detachment Adelaide River Camp

 

 

Some more concrete slabs for various buildings at the Fleet Radio Unit Camp area at Adelaide River

 

 

Concrete slab for the Quonset hut at the Fleet Radio Unit Camp
area at Adelaide River and the 1940 GMC Truck

 

Jack Grafing told me that the GMC truck was probably the one used by the cook to drive to Darwin to buy food and supplies for the camp. The camp was not resupplied by the US Navy. They were on subsistence which meant the US Navy provided money for them to buy what was need for the camp.

 

 

NT Nomad Article on Mt. Bundy Station

 

On 15 February 1945, it was reported that the Adelaide River FRU station totalled some 25 acres in area. Of this area, 17 acres had been obtained through the “DAD” Hirings, Northern Territory Force, operating for the Commonwealth Government, National Security Regulations No. 54, while the remaining eight acres had been obtained by leasing the Mount Bundy Homestead for the duration and six months thereafter.

On 30 May 1945, operational control of Adelaide River was shifted over from FRUMEL to FRUPAC. With this change, intercepted traffic was scrambled and transmitted over the Adelaide River-Guam circuit for retransmission to FRUPAC. When this circuit was established, all teletypes and scramblers were relocated into the transmitter building at the Mount Bundy Homestead.

The US Navy had taken over part of Section 108 Adelaide River on Mount Bundy Station to establish the Wireless site and associated camp for the Fleet Radio Unit Detachment Adelaide River. In December 1944 the US Navy also took over the Mount Bundy homestead, pavilion, cookhouse and an adjoining portion of land for an operation headquarters and for the installation of some antennas under Regulation 55 over the whole portion made on Hirings Service Serial Number 135.


Photo:- via Doug Tilley

The original Mount Bundy Station Homestead being demolished 16 June 1970.
It still had US Navy signs on the walls at the time it was being demolished.

 

At the end of the war the Navy paid the grand sum of 10 Pounds compensation to the Mt Bundy Pastoral Company, C/- W. Wyatt, Esquire, of Mt Bundy Station via Adelaide River, NT for use by the US Navy of the Mt. Bundy Homestead and use of the adjoining portion of land in Section 108 from 20 December 1944 for operational purposes and installation of antennas. The Station Manager was excluded from the homestead, pavilion and cookhouse during this period. The pavilion and cookhouse had been built by the Australian Army A.D.C.S. and had been handed over to the Manager of Mt Bundy Station when the Officer's Club was vacated but he had not had a chance to use them before they were taken over by the US Navy.

Mt Bundy was handed back to the owners by the US Navy on 30 September 1945 under the direction of Captain W.T. Wright U.S.N.R..

 

Stay at Mount Bundy Station for a WWII Military Holiday
You will be amazed at the number of WWII camps in the area

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

The Quiet Heroes of the Southwest Pacific Theater:
An Oral History of the Men and Women of CBB and FRUMEL
United States Cryptologic History, Series IV, World War II, Volume 7
by Sharon A. Maneki

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Doug Tilley and Jack Grafing for their assistance with this web page.

 

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This page first produced 1 August 2010

This page last updated 12 November 2014