Royal Netherlands Navy Wireless Telegraphy Station
In part extracted from the Hume Heritage Report and
also Peter Dunn's "Australia
@ War" web site www.ozatwar.com
According to local residents in Craigieburn and the Hume Heritage Report, the property 420 Craigieburn Road, Craigieburn was a Dutch Indonesian radio station during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), 1942-45.
It was then taken over by the Department of Civil Aviation, and since about the late 1960s it has been used for residential purposes ever since. On the land were three or four sets of radio aerials, each a diamond pattern of very high timber poles, about 25 metres tall, situated on the back paddocks, and connected by shorter poles to a radio station. Later a huge c.30 metre steel radio mast was erected on the property, closer to the building. The installation was thought to have been built by the PMG.
The radio station consisted of a large open
asbestos-concrete and masonite shed with a
concrete floor, with a separate shed for sleeping quarters at one end. Over recent decades this was converted to the present house on the property. The present owners have lived in the house since the 1960s.
A local resident whose farm house was quite close,
and had a good view of the
emplacement and remembers Dutch Indonesian men, mostly in a foreign uniform, manning the installation. He thought that the intelligence headquarters for the operation was in St Kilda, from whence the men were driven out to work their shifts.
The station was manned day and
night. Although a Sergeant sometimes came to buy eggs from his family's farm, they did not get to know the men well. In addition to the Dutch there were also two men with very little English, probably Malay Indonesians, who also purchased eggs from his family. These men were engaged in manual outdoor tasks, such as breaking the stones to lay the driveway (probably the present one) and thinks that the State Electricity Commission built the electricity substation. The concrete block walls of the substation were there during the war, as he remembers the two workers using the wall to shelter from the wind.
Extracted from Peter Dunn's "Australia @ War" web site www.ozatwar.com
After the battle in the Java Sea, the Dutch navy evacuated to Ceylon and Australia. In Australia the Dutch set up new communications radio networks.
A wireless Telegraphy Station was set up at Craigieburn with the help of Australian authorities. In July 1942 a radio link was opened with the Dutch navy's radio station at Ceylon, HQ of Admiral Helfric who was C in C of all Dutch forces in the far east.
Dutch intelligence in Australia was NEFS, Netherlands Armed Forces Intelligence Service, which was an element of Allied Intelligence Bureau. This service wanted to send intelligence parties to Java to find out what was happening under the Japanese occupation. For radio communications with these small groups of agents the radio station at Craigieburn near Melbourne was not suited. These parties would use small, low powered radios to transmit their intelligence, so a forward radio-station was created at Batchelor 60 miles south of Darwin.
A Dutch naval historian Bezemer wrote......
"Housed in tents and huts in the bush, Navy W/T personnel had a demanding job listening for the faint signals of agents trying to make contact and report. Bachelor acted as a post office. After receiving coded messages, it was then sent via Craigieburn to NEFIS in Melbourne vv. Later also American and Australian intelligence services started using Bachelor for communications with their intelligence parties in different operational areas. For instance secret information from American parties in the Philippines ended abruptly during the successful landings at Leyte in October 1944"
Tens of thousands of code groups were handled by the radio station and at it's peak Bachelor was in contact with up to twenty Dutch, Australian and American intelligence parties in enemy territory.
The appearance of the walls and metal fixings
are consistent with a date of construction around the WW2 period.
After the war the installation was taken over by the Department of Civil Aviation,
during which time it is thought to have been used in association with the Essendon Airport. It is believed to have been one of a series of such installations between Mangalore and Essendon airports. There is still some stenciled signage associated with this use on the installation.