World War II radio receiving station at Birkdale gets state heritage listing

PROTECTED: The Birkdale radio receiving station is one of south-east Queensland's most well-preserved examples of World War II infrastructure.Photo by Chris McCormack
PROTECTED: The Birkdale radio receiving station is one of south-east Queensland's most well-preserved examples of World War II infrastructure.Photo by Chris McCormack

THE Birkdale radio receiving station - one of south-east Queensland's most well-preserved examples of World War II infrastructure - is now state heritage listed.

The station was an important part of the US Army's South Pacific campaign, giving Brisbane-based General Douglas MacArthur a direct, secure link with Washington DC.

It is believed to have been the first site in Australia to receive the Japanese surrender message.

Queensland Heritage Council chair Debbie Best said most people travelled past the receiving station on Old Cleveland Road East without realising they were passing one of the South Pacific's most important World War II communications centres.

"With a direct line to Washington, the receiving station allowed General MacArthur to communicate with the United States via encrypted teletype messages within minutes, a vast improvement on the time-consuming relayed Morse code that the radio network replaced," she said.

"Messages were received by radio at Birkdale and then relayed via cable to General MacArthur's various Brisbane war offices.

"It is said General MacArthur even slept at the complex when the need demanded it."

When constructed in 1943, the receiving station was 630 meters from the road, built on swampy ground to minimise radio interference and was secluded by forest.

Its surroundings remained largely unchanged, Ms Best said.

The complex was used in 2017 as a Commonwealth radio testing site.

Birkdale Progress Association president Pam Spence - who gave an oral presentation to the Heritage Council about the station in May - said she was pleased to have played a role in protecting this site for future generations.

"Birkdale Progress Association dons the hard hats and digs the trenches to fight to save our heritage," she said.

"(We) made the huge effort to protect this radio receiving station because we value our heritage."

Elements entered into the heritage register include the receiving station building, a generator outbuilding, the service yard between the buildings and the access road to the station from Old Cleveland Road East.

Ms Best said there were other south-east military radio installations during World War II, including at Rocklea, Hemmant and the Redland Bay Golf Course.

"However, the Rocklea and Redland Bay infrastructure is long gone, and the building at Hemmant, which resembled the Birkdale building, was converted into a private house in the 1980s," she said.

Ms Spence said she was in contact with Henry Flora, 102, who was the US Officer in Charge of the Hemmant station during World War II.

"(He) will be thrilled to hear that this station has received heritage status and protection," she said.

The Birkdale Progress Association also thanked Capalaba MP Don Brown, Division 10 councillor Paul Bishop, historian Peter Dunn and researcher and author Laurence Murray.