1942 - Army Wireless Chain - west of Melbourne

Project Overview
1800s - Land Telegraphy
1874 - Guglielmo Marconi - a Tribute
1895 - Wireless Telegraphy
1901 - Wireless Telegraphy
1902 - Wireless Telegraphy in Australia
1904 - Australian Coastal Radio
1906 - Wireless Telephony
1912 - Melbourne Radio - VIM
1914 - Shortwave Wireless Telephony
1920s - Commercial Shortwave Telephony Development
1920s - Receivers
1920 - The huge RCA Longwave Station in New York
1920 - Wireless broadcasting in Australia
1920s - First shortwave stations in Victoria
1921 - Discovery of Shortwave Propagation
1921 - Koo Wee Rup (Victoria) Experimental Wireless Receiving Station
1923- Longwave Broadcasting in Australia
1923 - Evolution of Australian Domestic Radio
1924 - 3LO - Melbourne's Second Broadcaster
1924 - 3AR - Melbourne's first broadcaster
1924 - The Braybrook (Melbourne) Transmitting Site
1925 - First Shortwave Stations in Western Australia
1926 - First Shortwave Stations in New South Wales
1926 - RAAF Communications - Laverton (Vic)
1927 - Beam Wireless Worldwide
1927 - Beam Wireless from Australia
1928 - ABC Lyndhurst (Victoria)
1930 - AWA Receiving Station at La Perouse (Sydney)
1930 - AWA Radio Centre at Pennant Hills
1933 (to 1969) - Shortwave Radio Clubs in Australia
1936 - Ship Broadcaster - the MS Kanimbla
1939 - Belconnen Communications Station (Canberra)
1940 - RAAF Receiving Station at Werribee (Victoria)
1941 - RAAF Frognall (Melbourne)
1941 - ABC Brisbane
1942 - Army Wireless Chain - west of Melbourne
1942 - Dutch Stations in Australia
1943 - ABC Radio Australia - Shepparton (Victoria)
1943 - Army Shortwave HF Stations in Melbourne
1944 - ABC - Radio Australia - Looking Back
1945 - PMG Receiving Station - Highpark (Victoria)
1945 - Radio Australia - DXers Calling
1946 - Radio Australia - Communications Programs
1946 - VNG Time Signal Station
1948 - Radio Australia QSL Cards
1948 - ABC Sydney
1966 - ABC Cox Peninsula (Darwin)
1970 (to 2012) - Shortwave Radio Clubs in Australia
1975 - ABC Gnangara (Western Australia)
1975 - ABC Carnarvon (Western Australia)
1978 - Omega Navigation Station - Woodside (Victoria)
1985 - ABC Northern Territory
1989 - ABC Brandon (Queensland)
2003 - Private Shortwave Broadcasters
Timeline - Part One - 1839 to 1927
Timeline - Part Two - 1928 to 2012
SPECIAL - Licencing of Shortwave Broadcasters
SPECIAL - Radio Receivers for Shortwave
SPECIAL - Radio Monitoring as a Hobby
Bibliography, References and Resources
Links to the author's personal websites

1967 - Rockbank receiving station

1943 - antenna feeder lines at Rockbank

During the Second World War major radio masts appeared at Rockbank (Army Receiving Station) and Diggers Rest (Army Transmitting Station), about 40 km west of Melbourne. The Americans established these stations, or bases, which were intimately associated with events of great historical importance to Australia.  

The surprise Japanese air-raid on Pearl Harbour on December 7 1941 had created a new Pacific arena in the Second World War, and brought the United States into the conflict.  In the following months the Japanese conducted lightening advances throughout South East Asia  including, on  February 15 1942, the defeat of the British fortress at Singapore.  Four days later the Japanese carried out the first of their bombing raids on Darwin. 

This crisis impelled Prime Minister Curtin to make his historic declaration that Australia’s future would now depend more on its relationship with the USA than with Britain.  In March 1942 US General Douglas MacArthur arrived in Australia to co-ordinate the war against the Japanese.  Australia’s war effort was being controlled from Melbourne’s Victoria Barracks on St Kilda Road, and MacArthur also established his headquarters in Melbourne.

These were Australia’s dark days, of slit trenches in parks, concrete air raid shelters and city ‘brown-outs’.  

In May 1942 Japanese midget submarines attacked Sydney Harbour. 

International radio communications were vital to the establishment of US headquarters in Melbourne.  By April 1942 survey works for radio stations at Diggers Rest (transmitting) and
 Rockbank (receiving) stations had been completed.

In April four rhombic aerials, mounted on sixteen 30 metre masts, were commissioned at both Diggers Rest and Rockbank to connect US command with ‘Panama, Pearce, Washington, and Bombay (India)’.

After conquests throughout Asia - in China, the Philippines and Singapore - the focus of the Japanese by late 1942 was the invasion of New Guinea, where they were met by Australian and US forces. Two key naval battles dealt a major blow to the Japanese offensive. The Battle of the Coral Sea in May, while inflicting equal damage on both sides, repelled the Japanese naval assault on Port Moresby. In the Battle of Midway in June, the US and allied forces inflicted a major defeat on Japan.   

While the New Guinea campaign continued throughout 1942, these naval battles represented a
turning point in the war. MacArthur pronounced that the allied forces recapture of Sanananda in northern New Guinea in January 1943 signalled the start of the Japanese collapse. 

US forces were now on a northward offensive, on an island hopping campaign in the central and south Pacific. Their infrastructure, including radio communication facilities, moved north with them. The Diggers Rest and Rockbank stations were no longer of use to the US military command. On January 12 1943 an Australian War Cabinet agendum advised that the Australian Army had recently taken possession of the Diggers Rest and Rockbank radio
 stations, and their cable connections to the city communications centres.

The rhombic aerials inherited by the Australians from the Americans had been directed at Darwin (and ‘Chunking’), Townsville and Port Moresby, London, San Francisco and Noumea.

By the war’s end the stations were the Australian Army’s link with London and other Commonwealth centres in South-East Asia (Delhi, Kandy, Singapore and Welllington), and Rabaul in New Guinea.  In the immediate post-war period, Diggers Rest and Rockbank were also the lynch-pins of communication between the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces, handling all UK, NZ and Indian traffic between Melbourne and Japan (Kure). 

In the late 1940s into the 1960s the Diggers Rest and Rockbank stations were the radio transmitting and receiving centres of the Australian Relay Station of the Empire Army Wireless
Chain and the AMF communication system.’  

1963 - Rockbank receiving building

1963 - Rockbank receiver room

1945 - Army hut - Diggers Rest

1945 - Diggers Rest antennas

1945 - Diggers Rest transmitters

Army Wireless Chain
The stations were the hub of Australia’s defence communications strategy.

Their major communications tasks were associated with the 

‘British Commonwealth Army Wireless Chain (known as the AWC) which … links the War Office and UK Defence Ministry with Commonwealth countries and overseas theatres, namely Canada, East and West Africa, Ceylon, Singapore, Middle East, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.’

The stations also maintained communication with other Australian Army centres (including Long Range Weapons Experimental Establishment). They also operated communication with Honolulu on behalf of the Department of Civil Aviation. They then played a critical role in international radio coverage of the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956.

A modernisation plan of the AWC provided a major period of construction works at Diggers Rest and Rockbank from the late 1950s and into the 1960s.

The bases are now decommissioned, and the tall masts and arrays, once a major landscape feature of the Rockbank and Diggers Rest areas, have now all been dismantled. All that remains are huge concrete
blocks (aerial or stay foundations), now bulldozed into piles at Diggers Rest, some empty complexes of c.1960s brick buildings, and, at Diggers Rest, a large bow steel roofed structure,

AT5/AR8 set, used in WW2 (Australian War Memorial)

Enter supporting content here

Contact the author at this Email link