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Grassy Hill - The Radar Station

Just as Captain Cook had found Grassy Hill such a natural vantage point, so the aspect proved a natural option for new communication and detection technologies as they were developed.
Grassy Hill - The Radar Station

Radar Station circa 1942

Ship to Shore

Cooktown Maritime Radio commenced operations from Grassy Hill in 1913. Established by the Shaw Radio Company and soon taken over by Amalgamated Wireless A’Asia Ltd (AWA) the radio station had the call sign V.I.C. and was located east of the lighthouse. It was a large brick and concrete structure with a 200 foot high (70 metre) timber antenna supported with guy wires. Beginning with regular ship to shore communications, the outbreak of World War II saw the radio station become an important part of the local war effort. By the end of the war, radio communications had improved to the extent that some coastal radio stations were closed. Cooktown Radio closed in 1945, and subsequently the tower was destroyed by fire. The buildings were salvaged and are now part of a private residence.

New Technology for Cooktown

A Radio Direction Finding station (RDF) arrived aboard the vessel Mako in November 1942. Radar was a new and secret technology at this point in the war and the Cooktown base was one of 32 ground stations to be established around Australia. The RDF was to be positioned on the open eastern spur of Grassy Hill, just below the Lighthouse, and as there was no road to the top of Grassy Hill at this time, erecting the facility was an arduous chore. The efforts however were well worth it and the siting was excellent for its purpose. Steady ranges of up to 200 miles (320 kilometres) were routine.

Dressed to Kill

In its open position on the spur facing the sea, the RDF was something of a sitting duck for enemy aircraft. Camouflage was provided by a steel frame draped with hessian strips. Completed, it resembled a “Queenslander” type home and was intended to look like the lighthouse keeper’s cottage – the shape also disguising the large roof mounted antenna.