Cocos Island - 1955-57

In September 1952 Qantas Empire Airways (QEA) inaugurated the first regular air service between Australia and South Africa. Cocos Island was a vital refuelling stop in the eastern Indian Ocean for this new service.

Originally a British posession, a military airstrip had been constructed at Cocos during the Second World War, but by the early 1950s it was irregularly used. On 23 November 1955, the islands were transferred to Australian control. The strip was refurbished for the new Qantas service and DCA established a base there with Aeradio, Air Traffic Control and maintenance personnel. Alan Jenkins was a DCA radio technician posted to Cocos Is for two years, from mid-1955 to mid-1957 and the photos on this page are his record of that time

The photos above and below show the regular Qantas service, in this case being operated by Lockheed L-1049C Super Constellation VH-EAI Southern Sun. There was only one return service every fortnight. At this time the Cocos-Mauritius sector was the longest over-sea airline service without an alternate airport.


Cocos Tower

The photo above shows Cocos Tower. This was originally a military structure, later taken over by DCA. The photo below shows the Tower with metal shuttering in place for cyclone protection, one of the consequences of living in the tropics.


Cocos Tower
Cocos Aeradio

Above is Aeradio Operator Bill Kier at work in the Aeradio office in 1955. At the far right hand end of the main console is a Kingsley AR7 HF receiver. These ex-wartime receivers were widely used by DCA at that time.

Below is the HF transmitter building. HF was used for both air/ground and ground/ground communication because of its long range capability. Alan remembers that the "Equipment at this stage was mainly ex wartime equipment...a lot of trouble to keep going."


HF transmitters

The Cocos Island Rescue and Fire Fighting Service comprised this Shelvoke-Drewry tanker and old Chev ambulance. Both vehicles were somewhat delapidated and prone to rust badly due to their proximity to the sea.


Cocos Is ARFF
Avro Lincoln

In addition to the regular Qantas service, there were occasionally other visitors to relieve the boredom. Above is RAAF Avro Lincoln Mk 30 A73-56 with the Control Tower in the background.

The photo below shows French Air Force Douglas C-54E 49148, callsign F-RAFA, on a world tour. The aircraft was a present to General Charles de Gaulle by the United States in 1945. The tall chap with the kepi at left front is de Gaulle and the person in white with a tie is Australia’s Official Representative in the Cocos Islands, Lieutenant Commander H.J. 'Jack' Hull.


Cocos French Visit

Below, two Bristol Freighters carrying equipment for the nuclear tests at the Monte Bello Islands off the north-western coast of Western Australia.


Bristol Freighters

The series of images below show the landing of fuel drums from Singapore. All fuels came in drums then. They were trans-shipped to a landing barge for the journey from the ship to the beach. The barge took 200 drums per trip, with up to 5,000 drums being unloaded each time.


loading fuel drums
loading fuel drums
empty drums

Below is the stack of empty drums, to be back-loaded on to the ship.


empty drums


(Photos - Alan Jenkins)

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