- A.N. Other
- Naval Intelligence, History - WW2, History - Between the wars
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Kuru
- March 2016 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
By John Harris
Around Australia’s northern coast and islands before and during World War II a small band of civilians in remote locations was asked to volunteer as official Coastwatchers. Little has been written about these people who served along Australia’s own northern coast.They eventually became part of a larger coastwatching network which included New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. As the war progressed, the whole coastwatching operation became most secret, particularly to protect the identity of Coastwatchers in New Guinea who found themselves behind enemy lines. Identifying information was not placed on record and eventually, in an attempt to protect the identity of the Coastwatchers, the term Coastwatcher was dropped altogether and replaced with code words.1
Prior to World War II, Len Harris (the author’s father)2 was a missionary on Groote Eylandt in North Australia. One of an informal network of unofficial observers, he had a pedal radio, reporting any unusual activity as part of a daily radio schedule. After Japan entered the war by attacking American and British bases in the Pacific, this previously loosely-organised band of observers was placed directly under the command of the Royal Australian Navy. Harris was one of those formally sworn in as a Coastwatcher. It is hoped that by telling his story, a little of the unrecognised service of these few dedicated Australian volunteers and, their Aboriginal friends will be better understood.
The first Australian Coastwatchers
After World War I, the Royal Australian Navy faced the problem of monitoring Australia’s long, undefended northern coast where an enemy could operate without hindrance, even without detection. Acting on the advice of Captain J.G. Clare,3but working with very limited peace-time resources, the Department of Defence established a network of unpaid civilians to observe and report on activities on the coasts of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. In time of war, these Coastwatchers would become Australia’s frontline. Australia’s own northern coast was still vulnerable and so the Navy soon recommended that the scheme be extended to include the Australian coast. The Department of Defence agreed and issued a directive in March 1927.
I am directed to inform you that the Department of Defence has devised an organisation, known as the Coast Watching Organisation, whereby selected civilian residents in coastal regions will report voluntarily to the proper authority unusual movements, activities, etc. coming under their notice in time of war. An outline of this scheme together with Coast-Watching Guide, showing method of reporting, is attached.
Although the comparative absence of communication precludes an extensive application of the scheme there, it is now desired to include North Australia in the scope of the Organisation… (and)…supply the Government Resident, Darwin, with copies of the Coast-Watching Guide for distribution to such officials or trustworthy civilians whose location renders them particularly suitable for inclusion in the scheme.4
On the remote northern Australian coast, the Northern Territory authorities sought volunteers among the relatively few suitable-placed residents, mostly Christian missionaries who had local knowledge and good contacts with Aboriginal people. They were advised of the creation of the Coastwatching organisation and asked if they were ‘prepared to act under this scheme and make any reports from time to time which may become necessary and where opportunity offers’.5
Twelve people were finally appointed as Coastwatchers.6Six of these were Government officials so only six were true volunteers. Five of the six volunteers were missionaries at the Bathurst Island, Goulburn Island, Roper River, Groote Eylandt and Milingimbi (Crocodile Island) Mission Stations. Each of these responded formally in writing expressing their willingness to serve as Coastwatchers as an act of duty.7
The volunteer Coastwatchers were issued with the official Coast-Watching Guide,8 a very serious and strongly-worded document, referring in bold capitals to their duties ‘in time of war or proclaimed imminence of war’. It went on to detail the reporting of warships, submarines, aeroplanes and the landing of enemy troops. Fortunately in those first years, there was virtually no recognisable enemy activity on which to report. In practice, however, these first Coastwatchers understood that although this was not war time, their role was still to report unusual or suspicious happenings. But their means of communication were at first far more limited than the Guide presumed, with no access to the telephones or post offices mentioned in the guide.
An example of the Coastwatchers’ communication problems occurred on 15 January 1933 when Aborigines from the east coast of Groote Eylandt came to the mission and reported that a month previously they had seen a steam ship with one funnel travelling north. Missionary Leslie Perriman immediately wrote a report on this sighting but as it transpired, the already irregular shipping to Groote was further delayed and the letter did not leave Groote Eylandt until 28 February when Perriman himself was able to board a vessel en routeto Roper River. He delivered the letter to Roper Bar Police Station. It finally reached Darwin on 20 March, just over 3 months from the original sighting.9
Communication to and from Groote Eylandt, however, was about to be revolutionised. In the 1920s, Rev. John Flynn (‘Flynn of the Inland’)10of the Presbyterian Church’s Australian Inland Mission was planning his Aerial Medical Service, the precursor of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Conscious of the problems of communication over vast distances, he employed talented young engineer Alfred Traeger to work on the design of a small, easily-operated radio transceiver.11Traeger developed his legendary pedal-operated radio, based on German First World War equipment.
The invention of the pedal radio suddenly gave isolated outposts the possibility of a link with the outside world. The Australian Inland Mission distributed 150 of them for free to remote settlements such as missions and cattle stations. Almost all were equipped with them by the mid-1930s.12The initial intention was to give these isolated communities access to medical aid but this new instant method of communication proved to have many more uses.
The Northern Territory Administration quickly saw the advantage of the new radio communication for policing and other official purposes. The Naval Intelligence Division also recognised the value of the new technology to their volunteer Coastwatchers and, by the mid-1930s, ensured that all mission stations on the northern coast and islands accepted and understood their responsibility to report any enemy activity. The agreement was that Coastwatchers would make daily radio contact, whether there was an important reason or not, via the Australian Aerial Medical Service radio station in Cloncurry from where messages were relayed to the appropriate authorities and through which, in return, they could receive instructions. This was to become the legendary daily radio schedule – ‘the sked’.
As the potential value of the Coastwatchers became even more evident, attempts were made to provide some more specific support than the previous ‘biennial letter’.13Those on the Northern Territory coast were visited from time to time by the Northern Territory Administration’s patrol boats as part of their police and customs duties although the furthest Coastwatchers such as the missionary on Groote Eylandt may only have been visited annually.
One of the tasks of the patrol officers was checking up on Japanese fishing luggers. The Japanese were permitted to come ashore to take on fresh water.14The Northern Territory authorities were anxious about preventing loss of revenue if the Japanese failed to pay duties on pearl shell and other dutiable catches. There was an agent in Darwin through whom Japanese luggers were supposed to be registered but there were also many unregistered luggers and the trade was difficult to control.
The abuse of Aboriginal women was also a particular concern. All luggers were supposed to seek specific permission to enter waters adjacent to Aboriginal Reserves. An added security issue arose when it was realised that some Japanese luggers had radios and that they could intercept messages from the Coastwatchers.
On 8 October the Rev. Chaseling at Yirrkala Mission Station sent a telegram in the following terms to the Administrator in Darwin:-
Foreign luggers continually anchoring Bremer Island Melville Bay Area (Stop) Repeated attempts to molest native women.
The Administrator has advised that the contents of this telegram were known to the Japanese pearling agents in Darwin at the same time as, if not earlier than, he received the telegram. It will be appreciated that the sending of messages which can be picked up and read by the Japanese vessels would only tend to act as a warning…15
Following discussions between the Administrator and the Navy, it was determined that from this time on, sensitive radio messages should be transmitted in code. Enquiries revealed that some missionaries already possessed a copy of Bentley’s Code.16This was not necessarily for secrecy. This kind of code book was commercially available and mainly used for brevity as telegraphic messages were costly and charged by the character. Naval Intelligence, however, had the ultimate control and decided on an alternative cypher system, ‘Everybody’s Pocket Code’17which they distributed in sealed packages to seven mission stations.18 Although it was also a commercially available code, the rationale was that Japanese crews were unlikely to be able to decipher the code or, if they could, it would take them too long for it to be of any advantage to them. With the distribution of the code, the Navy assumed full control of the Coast-Watching organisation.
While this is primarily a war time organisation, they have been instructed to communicate direct to this Office, and if possible, Navy Office, Melbourne, any movements of foreign craft etc. in their area during peace time, which may be of interest.19
The mission pedal radio transmissions could not reach Melbourne and so what happened in practice was that the missionary Coastwatchers radioed Cloncurry as they had always done and the radio operator there relayed any coded messages concerning foreign vessels to the Navy.
In 1938, in order to improve the policing, customs and coastwatching network, a purpose-built Patrol Vessel, PVKuru, was constructed in Sydney and commissioned to regularly patrol the Northern Territory coast and islands and visit the Coastwatchers.20Captain John Bell was at the time Chief Officer of the Coastal Patrol.21He automatically became Master of the Kuru on its arrival in Darwin.22
The new patrol vessel was effective along the coast adjacent to Darwin and nearby islands but the acknowledged reality was that it was still impractical to patrol as far away as the Gulf of Carpentaria with any degree of regularity. The missionary at Groote Eylandt was told that he need not continue daily reporting of Japanese vessels in the Gulf unless they were committing a serious offence, as no immediate action could be taken from as far away as Darwin. In retrospect, it is a pity that the Japanese vessels were not perceived as a security threat and that they were not more closely monitored but the Navy’s resources were simply insufficient to patrol the Gulf and the threat was not sufficiently recognised until too late.
Len Harris becomes a Coastwatcher
Church Missionary Society missionary, Rev. Leonard John (‘Len’) Harris,23arrived on Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria early in 1939. On the island were several hundred Aboriginal people of the Warnindilyakwa group,24two or three mission staff and, at Umbakumba in the north of the island, a trader and beachcomber, Fred Gray.
Not long before Harris arrived, Qantas Airways had pioneered their ultimately short-lived Sydney-London mail and passenger flight using C-class Empire flying boats.25With very short flight ranges compared to modern aircraft, the flying boats had to stop to refuel 39 times en route London. Between Townsville and Darwin, one of these refuelling stops had recently been set up with a small staff at the lagoon at Umbakumba.
One of Harris’s many duties was to maintain the daily radio schedule. He thereby assumed the task of Coastwatcher – the person referred to in official documents as the ‘Missioner’. CMS simply told him that the radio schedule was one of his responsibilities. As for operating the pedal radio, he taught himself with the help of a few notes. There was no formal induction to the role but merely advice telegraphed by the radio operator at Cloncurry. Fortunately, one of Traeger’s main aims had been to develop an easily-operated radio which required no previous training or experience.
I was at the Emerald River Mission on Groote Eylandt. My contact with the outside world was with the famous pedal radio set. Mine had a large dry battery for receiving but for transmission depended on the pedal dynamo underneath the wireless table. In those early days, wireless contact was with Cloncurry. I was 8XK Groote Eylandt and every day I made a call to Cloncurry to send or receive telegrams. Besides the missions, several cattle stations had a pedal radio and Mr Traeger at Cloncurry was the ‘life-line’ for many people in the outback. 26
If the radio operators did not know each other already, they found themselves daily hearing each other’s messages and very rapidly became a network of friends, often called upon to help each other.
Not long after I arrived, Roper River Mission was in trouble and needed urgent help but there was something wrong with their pedal radio and they could only manage a very weak Morse Code signal. I could pick it up on Groote but Cloncurry was too far away. I wasn’t yet trained in Morse Code but there was a Morse Code alphabet pinned to the wall in front of me, so I just got on with it.
As for detecting any ‘enemy activity’, Harris and his colleagues were given little if any instruction and so, with the benefit of hindsight, they were probably not as vigilant as they might have been. But they did not know that war was looming nor had they been told to be suspicious of the Japanese fishing boats which had been visiting the Gulf waters for decades unless they were obviously acting illegally. That mistake was not the Coastwatchers’ fault but due to official short-sightedness regarding Japanese intentions in Australian waters.
Japanese fishing boats were common in the Gulf although I personally never communicated with any of them. They did sometimes have contact with Aboriginal people. I saw cloth and tins of tobacco that Aboriginal men had got from the Japanese, trading for pearl and trochus shell, but their relationship with the Japanese was not always amicable. I heard about the abuse of Aboriginal women but the luggers kept well clear of the missions. I could only presume they were legally fishing our waters. In fact Aboriginal men on the mainland at Caledon Bay just north of us had been arrested for aggression towards Japanese fishermen27– surely an indication that the authorities were aware of them and permitted them to be there.
But the crews were certainly not just fishermen. They included Japanese Navy personnel. Sometimes when I was with fishing with the Aboriginal men, I saw them in uniform myself on the decks of the luggers when they came in close to drag their fishing nets in the shallow water. They watched us through binoculars but I had binoculars myself and I managed to observe them unobtrusively too. After I had reported this a few times, I was told it was not necessary to keep reporting it every day and that the Japanese luggers were permitted to come on shore to take on water. Even back then before the War, this was a bit of a surprise to me that no-one seemed to be officially interested in what the Japanese boats were actually up to. It didn’t take much to work out that the Naval men did not travel all the way from Japan on the fishing luggers. They must have met up with the luggers on a ship north of us somewhere. Of course, later on we found out that they had been mapping the coast in preparation for a possible future invasion. But even back then before the war, rumour had it that if you wanted a good map of the Gulf you could buy one in Japan.
Len Harris continued conscientiously performing his Coastwatching duties as best he knew how while carrying out his many other tasks. The few mission staff members under his charge worked in very demanding circumstances to provide education and particularly health care to the Aboriginal people. One important function of the pedal radio had always been medical advice. Harris himself carried out surgical procedures step by step while connected by pedal radio the Flying Doctor, Clyde Fenton.28
Although Harris was a missionary, much of his time and energy was at first taken up by the construction of an airfield.29Thus far, apart from the very recent Catalina Flying Boats, the only aeroplane to have landed on Groote Eylandt was the Flying Doctor, who was based in Katherine. Renowned for his aeronautical exploits, Clyde Fenton used to land on beaches, get Aboriginal people to help him turn the plane around, and lop trees which were blocking his take off.
Longer-haul aeroplanes were being developed but it was still a long way across the Gulf from Townsville to Darwin. The aviation authorities needed an emergency airfield somewhere in-between, particularly for emergency RAAF use. Negotiations with the Church Missionary Society to accept a contract for the construction of the facility on Groote Eylandt had commenced before Harris arrived but the responsibility of supervising the task fell to him, someone quite untrained for the job. It was a large task for the isolated little mission and the local Aboriginal men, constructing an airfield of two runways at right angles to each other, 200 yards wide and each a mile long.
The Aboriginal men were willing enough to work for a bit of pay. No one was forced to – how could I force anybody to do anything, even if I wanted to? Actually, they were all eager to be part of it, part of the strange activities of the whites, I think, a change from their everyday lives. I was never sure that some of them quite caught on to what it was all about until a plane actually landed but they were strong workers. Fortunately there was an old tractor at the Mission but I couldn’t have done the job without the half-caste Mission men especially Gerry and Fred Blitner.30They were so skilled, so hard working. They were the foremen and they got on so well with the local Aboriginal men – after all, they had been hunting and fishing with them for years.
It took us a month or so to grub out all the trees and clear the two long strips and then a few months to flatten it all. Gerry and Fred devised really ingenious ways of digging up the big boulders with the tractor and a chain. It was hard work but we did it and we were all proud of the job. It was a great day when I could get on the pedal radio and say it was finished. A few days later they sent an Air Force plane from Darwin to try out the airstrip. I think every Aboriginal man woman and child came to see a plane land for the first time. What a day that was! It was a Hudson Bomber. We heard it coming for about five minutes but when it appeared it was coming in at about 45°. It hit the ground at too steep an angle and bounced off. The pilot controlled the plane and then came in at a better angle, just skimming the trees. I was worried that our airstrip wasn’t up to standard. But the pilot laughed and said that the Hudsons were a bit front heavy and that he had sent the crew down to the tail end before the second landing.
The RAAF approved of our work. They were worried that planes like the Hudson Bomber might not make it from Townsville to Darwin in adverse weather, so they decided to make our airstrip an emergency refuelling base. They contracted us to mill timber to construct some huts. They sent some tradesmen from Brisbane to erect them and sink fuel tanks. The Aboriginal men helped them dig. They sent two men to manage the little emergency base, Wallace and Beer were their names, good blokes.
As a Coastwatcher, Harris logged in daily, ignoring ordinary Japanese activity as instructed but reporting any activities he thought worth noting. He encouraged Aboriginal people to tell him about anything new or unusual. But there was very little of significance, or so they thought, and the radio schedule was dominated by medical matters and private communications.
This false sense of security continued for nearly two years. Even when War broke out in Europe in September 1939, real danger still seemed far away to Harris and his Coastwatcher colleagues on the other remote islands around Australia’s northern coast. That was to change suddenly and decisively for the Coastwatchers in December 1941.
War comes to Australia’s north
Well before World War II began, Australian authorities, especially Naval Intelligence, were concerned about Japan’s Imperial intentions in the Pacific region, although it does not appear that they ever connected that with the activities of the Japanese fishing luggers. As early as 1935, the Director of Naval Intelligence, Commander R B M Long had tried to close the gaps in the Coastwatcher network,31especially to Australia’s north in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, but he was hampered by a peacetime lack of resources.32
Japanese aggressive territorial policies were clearly demonstrated in Japan’s invasion of China in 1937. The long, bloodthirsty and finally unresolved war with China was reaching a stalemate by 1940. Japan’s attention shifted southwards in what they called ‘Nashin-ron’, the policy of southern expansion. Japan invaded Indochina (Vietnam), from where they could pose a threat to European possessions in Southeast Asia, including British Singapore and Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), although the threat was not taken seriously soon enough in Australia.
In 1939, on the outbreak of the War in Europe, Commander Long found himself with emergency powers and more resources. He enlisted the services of his former colleague, Lieutenant Commander Eric Feldt,33who was working in New Guinea at the time but had remained on the Naval Reserve list. Feldt’s naval experience coupled with his knowledge of New Guinea made him ideally suited for assuming responsibility for the intelligence organisation in the north.
It would be my duty, firstly, to ensure the proper functioning of the organisation as it was; and, secondly, to expand it so that it would cover all our needs, using civilians as Coastwatchers .… From the point of view of defence, the islands in the North-East Area form a chain screening Australia from the north and east. It was, in fact, a fence, but with several gates, the straits between the islands. My job was to make the fence effective as soon as possible. There were some Coast Watchers in the area but not enough to cover it.34
Feldt and the Naval Intelligence Division determined at the time that New Guinea and the Solomon Islands formed the first line of defence and so Feldt concentrated his efforts on setting up an effective Coastwatching network on those coasts. Australia’s own northern coasts were considered less strategically important at the time and so little changed there. Harris and the other missionary Coastwatchers continued to do what they had always done as carefully and faithfully as they were able.
On 7 December, 1941, Japan entered the War, attacking the US Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbour and, almost simultaneously, US bases in the Philippines, Guam and Wake, and British bases in Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong. The once-distant War was now in Australia’s own region and Australian forces were under attack in Singapore. If Singapore fell, there was no doubt that the Japanese would rapidly extend their aggressive southern advance.
The Naval Intelligence Division took immediate steps to improve the effectiveness and communication capability of the Coastwatchers – and, with such increased risk of attack, this now included the previously unofficial volunteers on Australia’s own northern approaches. Immediately following the Japanese attacks, the Navy requisitioned the Northern Territory coastal patrol vessel PV Kuru, attaching her as HMAS Kuru, a tender to HMAS Platypus. John Bell had by then joined the Royal Australian Naval Reserve. His previous experience as Master of Kuru made him highly suited to command the newly- commissioned HMAS Kuru. He formally assumed his responsibilities on 8 December with the rank of Probationary Lieutenant.35One of his major initial tasks would be to revitalise the old voluntary observer network and place it on an official footing.
As part of this urgently-organised scheme, Bell visited Groote Eylandt on Kuru. Len Harris readily agreed to serve officially and was sworn in as a Naval Coastwatcher. This now-serious role not only dominated his life for the next few years but potentially placed him in real danger. The story of Len Harris, his Groote Eylandt Aboriginal friends and the Japanese during World War II will be told in Part 2 of this article, to be published in the next edition.
- One such code word was ‘Ferdinand’, taken from the children’s story The Story of Ferdinand,the tale of a bull who would not fight but preferred to sit under a tree and observe. This was to emphasize that the role of the Coastwatchers was not to fight but to be unobtrusive and watchful. The code-word ‘Ferdinand’ was used more particularly in the Coastwatching operation in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
- Unless otherwise acknowledged, quotations from Len Harris are from his papers (memoirs, notes, diaries, interview notes and other private information in the possession of the author) and are set in italics. An oral history interview containing another version of much of this information is available at Northern Territory Archives Service, NTRS 226, typed transcripts of oral history interviews with ‘TS’ prefix, 1979-ct, Reverend Len Harris, TS 64.
- Secretary Department of Defence to Secretary Department of Home and Territories, 24 March, 1927, NAA Series F1, Item 1939/59, Coast Watching Organisation in the Northern Territory
- Circular Memorandum from Government Resident to selected individuals, 2 September 1927, NAA Series F1, Item 1939/59, Coast Watching Organisation in the Northern Territory
- The twelve Coastwatchers appointed were four Police Officers; the Keeper of the Darwin Gaol; the Master (Engineer) of the Government ketch Maskee;William Pruen, a cotton planter at Shoal Bay; and the senior missionaries at the Bathurst Island, Goulburn Island, Roper River, Groote Eylandt and Crocodile Island (Milingimbi) Mission Stations.(Government Resident to Secretary of the Navy, 22 November 1929, NAA Series F1, Item 1939/59, Coast Watching Organisation in the Northern Territory)
- Responses on file in NAA Series F1, Item 1939/59, Coast Watching Organisation in the Northern Territory.
- Commonwealth of Australia, Form C.W.2, Department of Defence, Coast-Watching Guide.
- H.L. Perriman to Coast-Watching Organ-isation, 15 January 1933, 1 March 1933, NAA Series F1, Item 1939/59, Coast Watching Organisation in the Northern Territory.
10.For full biography of John Flynn (1880–1951) see Australian Dictionary of Biography, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/flynn-john-6200.
11.For full biography of Alfred Hermann Traeger (1895-1980), see Australian Dictionary of Biography, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/traeger-alfred-hermann-8839.
12.Barrier Miner, Friday 14 July 1933p 2
13.Secretary of the Navy to Government Resident, NT, 16 January 1930, NAA Series F1, Item 1939/59, Coast Watching Organisation in the Northern Territory.
14.See news item ‘Patrol Ship’s First Voyage’, Courier Mail (Brisbane) 9 May 1939.
15.J.A. Carrodus to J.W. Burton, 29 Oct 1937, NAA Series F1, Item 1939/59, Coast Watching Organisation in the Northern Territory.
16.E.L. Bentley, 1909, Bentley’s Complete Phrase Code, New York: American Code Company.
17.W.M. Saunders, 1911, Everyman’s Pocket Code, London: W. M. Clowes and Sons.
18.The additional mission stations whose Superintendents became part of the Coast-Watching Organisation were Yirrkala and Port Keats.
19.Lt Commander Alexander Fowler to the Administrator, Darwin, 24 November, 1937, NAA Series F1, Item 1939/59, Coast Watching Organisation in the Northern Territory.
21.The Telegraph, Brisbane, 7 June 1938.
22.John Symington Bell had served in the Royal Navy. Prior to his appointment to the coastal patrol, he commanded the lighthouse vessel Cape Otway.There is a large file on the Kuru, NAA Series J2826, Item NQ778, Launch Kuru Patrol Vessel. This file contains little historical information on the actual role of PVKuru, being largely a financial/administrative file concerning various repairs, refitting and overhauls of the vessel. In the years 1938 – 1940, Bell is referred to in the file both as Master of the Kuru and Acting Nautical and Ship Surveyor in Darwin, so held these two posts concurrently.
23.Leonard John Harris, b. 16/11/1911, d. 28/09/1988. Len was ordained an Anglican priest on 13/02/1938 and married Margarita Morgan on 18.02.1939 just before taking up his appointment as chaplain at the Church Missionary Society ‘s Emerald River Mission on Groote Eylandt, NT, in 1939.
24.The Warnindilyakwa people are, strictly speaking, one of a number of Groote Eylandt clans, but their name has been extended to label all Groote Eylandters and their Anindilyakwa language.
26.Len Harris’s papers. For the source of this and other quotes from Len Harris, see note 2 above.
27.Harris was correct. The most serious of these incidents occurred at Caledon Bay, northeast of Groote Eylandt, in 1932 when 5 Japanese men were speared. Aboriginal people always maintained that the Japanese were molesting the women. In a subsequent investigation, a police officer was also speared. He had ‘arrested’ a woman and the presumption was made that he was molesting her. Much has been written about this serious incident and its tragic aftermath but a useful starting point is the Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caledon_Bay_crisis
28.Dr Clyde Fenton, b. 1901, d. 1982, was the first flying doctor in the Northern Territory and his own pilot. He was called up to serve in the RAAF in 1940 and two years later, as Flight Lieutenant, he was placed in charge of No. 6 Communications Flight, taking mail and supplies to remote Coastwatchers and RAAF bases.
29.Some official information is available in NAA, Groote Eylandt aerodrome, Series No E1404, Control Symbol 274/101/24.
30.‘Half-caste’ is now generally regarded as a derogatory term, but was not always so. These part-Aboriginal people at the Mission had been rescued from town camps and such places. Fathered, then deserted by white men, neither White Australian society nor Aboriginal society accepted them. They were brought whenever possible with their mothers to live in health and safety on the Mission. As adults, they were employed on the Mission in responsible positions including teaching and nursing assistants, and captain and crew of the mission lugger. They went on to make important contributions in the wider Australian community. Gerry Blitner became Chairman of the Northern Land Council. Over 50 years later, he said, ‘We owe CMS more than we could ever repay them’. This statement and other details of these people’s lives are in John Harris, 1998, We Wish We’d Done More, Adelaide: Open Book Publishers, ch 6.
32.Eric Feldt, The Coastwatchers, Oxford University Press, 1946, p14.
35.John Symington Bell, Service Record, NAA. He resigned from the Navy in 1951 with the rank of Acting Lieutenant Commander.