Radar at Point Lookout

The SCR-268s

The SCR-268 (Signal Corps Radio no. 268) was the US Army’s first radar system. It was developed to provide accurate aiming information and used in gun laying systems and directing searchlights against aircraft.

An external view of the Radar Transmitter

Rod Griffin RAA (Royal Australian Artillery) elaborates:

‘Several SCR-268s were landed with other cargo in Brisbane in January 1941 – if not earlier. The equipment was intended for the Philippines but was diverted here (to Brisbane). One set was sent to Amberley for the RAAF to play with and another to Redbank. The Redbank set was assembled a la jigsaw by Lts Ian Mckenna and Alan Charity (both of whom had previously attended a Radiophysics course in Sydney) but despite assistance from CSIR radiophysics an error was made in phasing connections of the elevation aerial. When we (the NSW group) arrived at Redbank the set had been erected and trials were then commenced for AA (Anti -Aircraft) use but because of the aerial error they were abortive as the set would not track for elevation. So the set was moved to Caloundra. 

‘Another set was sent to Point Lookout. This was done prior to Easter 1942. Bill Lovell’s section operated the set until the arrival of 103RS RAAF, which was formed on 6.4.1942. Bill’s section remained with them until some-time in May.

‘At about the same time the Caloundra set was moved to Point Danger. The RS103 was disbanded on 29.7.1942.

‘RS101 – RS108 were the designation of RAAF units operating MAWDs (modified air warning devices i.e. SCR 268s modified by reducing the pulse recurrence frequency to give a range of 100 miles in lieu of the gunnery set’s range of 22 miles).’

An external view of the Radar Receiver

Getting the 268 up to the Lighthouse at Point Lookout

Bill Lovell RAA relates:

‘From Amity Point to Point Lookout we struck some sandy patches and had to use metal strips which I think were called Marsden Strips. We had four. Originally they were meant to be used side by side to make a bed for aircraft to take off (doesn’t matter how they get down). We used ours the long way. When the truck got to the end of one set the other was put in front and so on and eventually to Point Lookout. Now just south of the guest house (where we were housed) was an old track that went somewhere up towards the lighthouse. At the start of the track a tree had grown which we had to remove.’

The Rufus King

Floyd Gilmer RAA: ‘Salvage of the Rufus King commenced on 15.7.1942 approximately 48 hours after going aground. Rod and Phil started to signal the Rufus King with an Aldis lamp. Waves up to 14 feet high were breaking over the ship and they had difficulty working out what their signalman was saying. The ship was starting to break up when they chucked it in for the night.’

(Bill Lovell explains: At that time, the Americans used a different signaling code from the Australians, who had adopted the British code).

‘The first Americans I saw on Stradbroke was the morning after the Rufus King ran aground, which, by the way, was tracked by our boys working the midnight shift until it stopped. I would hazard a guess that the authorities would have probably got word from us first that the ship was stationary, as all our contacts were sent to somewhere in Brisbane. Anyway, those of us who were not due to go on duty until the afternoon decided to walk the beach to Amity to see what was coming ashore.  As we could see the ship was broken in two, the sea on the bar at the time was very rough and breaking over the ship. It had a couple of Kitty Hawks lashed on its forward deck. When we got to the beach leading up to Amity the Americans were everywhere retrieving 44-gallon drums of aviation fuel coming ashore. Also, there were heaps of tins of coffee coming in, but they were only concerned about the fuel.

‘I well remember how they commandeered us for an hour or so to help in the search for a drum of fuel. It could be plainly seen that a drum had been rolled up to the edge of the beach and had disappeared (some local got it for sure) however a search of the area was fruitless.

‘Anyway, back to the RAAF: they were not on the island when the ‘Rufus King’ ran aground, that’s for sure. 

‘The RAAF took the operation over from us some time after 17 July. Probably arrived on the Monday after that date (20th July). We were with them for abut a week or so before we left, handing over, then getting familiar with the equipment.

‘I became friendly with a chap in the RAAF crew, Wally Bond, who told me that the RAAF was taking over all long-range RDF establishments. I was disappointed when we handed over to them as we had pioneered the first long range RDF into operation at Caloundra, Point Danger, and Point Lookout.’

Extracts from documents supplied to Peter Ludlow by Bill Lovell, November 2013

Inside the Radar Receiver