Yesterday                            Tomorrow

January 21st, 1944 (FRIDAY)

UNITED KINGDOM: London: Eisenhower holds a first meeting with his commanders to plan the Allied invasion of France.

Frigate HMS Narborough commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)

447 Luftwaffe bombers, with a small number of He 177s, attempt to bomb England but the RAF is waiting for them and they suffer heavy losses including the first He-177 shot down over England. (Jack McKillop)

GERMANY: Berlin: In half an hour over Berlin, 769 Lancasters and Halifaxes last night dropped over 2,300 tons of bombs on the city. It was the heaviest blow yet directed at Hitler's capital, with bombs falling at 80 tons a minute. The city was covered by cloud and the effects of the raid are not yet clear; however, the main railway line to Hamburg was cut and a factory making radar for the Luftwaffe was destroyed. One plane dropped its bombs 30 miles from the city, by chance wrecking a factory of the Todt Organisation. The raid took place in the early evening. German radio stations went off the air soon after six o'clock and came back some two hours later but the RAF still lost 35 planes and 172 aircrew; 243 Berliners died.

In 11 major attacks on the city since the "Battle of Berlin" began on 18 November, the RAF has dropped 17,000 tons of bombs. Some 1,300 acres of buildings, equal to twice the area of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens in London have been destroyed. Despite the damage the results of this sustained onslaught are not as great as the RAF expected on either German morale or production - and its own losses are becoming unacceptably high.

 

AUSTRALIA: Canberra: After a week of talks here the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand have today signed the Australian-New Zealand pact. Australia's leader, Mr John Curtin, described the agreement as a landmark in international collaboration in the Pacific.

The text of the pact will not be published until it is formally ratified, but it covers the establishment of a regional defence zone in the South-west Pacific, co-operation in the war effort and agreement of armistice terms.

On 3 December 1943, a decision was made that up to 25 RAAF aircrews would be attached to the USAAF's Fifth Air Force to gain experience with B-24 Liberators as the RAAF were due to receive this type of aircraft in the near future. Five Australian crews were attached to a USAAF unit at Charters Towers. The Captains of these crews were:-

Sqn. Ldr. John B. "Long John" Hampshire Sqn Ldr. Jack O'Brien

Sqn. Ldr. Bill Rehfisch Sqn. Ldr. "Rusty" Rayson

Flt. Lt. Gordon "Mick" Jaques

One of the more notable flights they took part in was occurred today.

After their briefing they were met at their aircraft by a US Army chemical-warfare specialist, who had earlier supervised the loading of mustard gas bombs. These bombs were over a metre long and about 15 cms in diameter, weighing about 45 kgs. Each B-24 Liberator carried 60 mustard gas bombs.

The five RAAF crews took off along with the Commanding Officer at Charters Towers, Lt. Col. Joss Crowder. Flying for 90 minutes, at less than 1,000 feet to minimise the chance of a drop in pressure causing a leak, they bombed a small island in the Great Barrier Reef (assumed to be Brook Island).

Sqn Ldr. Hampshire had been advised by Lt. Col Crowder that 50 volunteers from US military prisons were used as guinea pigs for the mission. They had been promised freedom if they would occupy underground tunnels during the bombing mission. Hampshire was told by Crowder that all 50 prisoners had died in this mustard gas experiment.

The following information is part of a response by Senator Newman - The Minister for Defence - providing an answer to a "Question on Notice" by Senator Woodley in the Australian Senate on 25 August 1997:-

The `Brook Island Trial' took place on North Brook Island in February 1944. It was the culmination of various tests which had been conducted in the Innisfail area. Aircraft weapons, comprising both gas filled bombs and various types of gas spray were tested using Beaufort bombers from Bowen. The effects were measured on Japanese-style bunkers and foxholes containing goats.

Chemical sampling equipment was installed, and troops landed at various times after the bombing in different types of anti-gas protection equipment. The testing of mustard gas on volunteers took place on the mainland at Innisfail. This physiological research was to determine the effects of mustard vapour on the human body under tropical conditions. Other tests conducted at Innisfail included the tolerance of man to dibutyl phthalate, which was used to suppress the vector of scrub typhus, and the effect of wearing anti-gas clothing on the ability of troops to perform normal duties and do heavy work in a tropical rain forest. Details of the testing are summarised in the `Gillis Report', which was tabled in Federal Parliament on March 1987 by the then Minister for Defence.

There was no Army hospital at Woodstock. The 2/14 Army General Hospital was located in Townsville. During the mustard gas trials at Innisfail, a ward at Innisfail hospital was dedicated for use by the medical and scientific staff conducting the trials. The ward was used from 1943 until the end of 1944 when the Field Experimental Station and the 1st Field Trials Company were moved to Proserpine.

Medical records or case histories were maintained on all volunteers, not all of whom were hospitalised. Most, if not all, of these case histories are contained in `Chemical Warfare--Trials', Australian War Memorial Series 54, 179/5/7, Parts 1 to 10. These records are open for public access.

Personal medical records were maintained during the trials and would have formed part of the volunteer's medical record. At the end of the war, the medical records of all ex-servicemen were sent to the then Repatriation Department in the State of enlistment of the member.

Brook Island was used for the aerial delivery of mustard vapour.

Hinchinbrook Island was not used for testing purposes, but was used occasionally as a staging area for personnel waiting to go to Brook Island to check the equipment after bombing had taken place. There is no evidence that Dunk Island was used for any military activities. (Denis Peck)

 

PACIFIC: Aboard the USS BUNKER HILL with Glen Boren: We arrived at Funafuta and dropped anchor at 1208 hours.

U.S.A.: Destroyer USS Walke commissioned.

Light cruiser USS Vincennes commissioned.

Minesweeper USS Caravan commissioned.

Destroyer escorts USS Leland E Thomas and Chester T O'Brien laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)

CANADA: Frigate HMCS NEW WATERFORD commissioned.

Corvettes HMCS Belleville and Smiths Falls laid down Kingston, Ontario. (Dave Shirlaw)

 

Top of Page

Yesterday        Tomorrow

Home