Cassowary Coast Regional Council

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October 3, 2019 - Historic WWII coast watchers display at Cardwell Museum

Back in World War II, hundreds of Australians headed into the hills with backpacks and radios to keep watch for fleets of Japanese ships and bombers that were raiding Australia and the islands to the north.

They were known as the Coast Watchers and their activities are the subject of a new museum exhibition which starts this weekend in Cardwell.

These soldiers – but also many civilians – later became legendary for their service in defence of Australia during the war. The Coast Watchers became far north Australia’s early-warning defence network against enemy attack.

Equipped with a range of radios and all the spare batteries they could carry, the Coast Watchers took up position in high vantage points to help provide advance warning of many aerial attacks on Australia’s far north, including Japanese bombing raids on Darwin in 1942.
As part of the exhibition, a group of radio enthusiasts will gather at the Cardwell Visitor and Heritage Centre on Saturday (5/10) at 10am with a display of some of the surviving pieces of equipment from the era. 

“Coast Watchers included army, navy and air force, as part of the Allied Intelligence Bureau – but it also included many civilians in remote areas of the top end of Australia,” says Mike Patterson, wartime history buff and amateur radio operator. 

“There were plenty of civilians involved – with Post Masters, policemen, even missionaries and grazers, farmers. It was all-in.”

Mr Patterson is part of the group of radio enthusiasts who will be showing equipment and talking about the role of the Coast Watchers on Saturday morning.  

He said the display of old war-era radio equipment was held in Cardwell last year as well, and people came from Townsville, Cairns, Ingham, Atherton Tablelands and from other areas across the far north.

The museum exhibition runs from October 5 (Saturday) -18. Hours are weekdays from 9am-4.30pm, weekends from 9am-1pm.

The amateur radio operators club will hold their special talk as part of the exhibition on Saturday from 10am.

Entry to the museum is free. For more information, contact the museum on 07 4066 2412.