Stanley John Bancroft
by Max Bancroft
My father, Stanley John Bancroft died in hospital in 1985 of Mesothelioma, the lung cancer, caused by asbestos. The day prior to his death he told me this story.
During the later years of world war two, he had been working for the Postmaster General's Department as a Senior Radio Mechanic in charge of a group of men installing microphones and broadcasting equipment in what is now called 'The Old Parliament House. They also installed radio broadcasting equipment at the 2CY Studios at Civic Center in Canberra and the Transmitter site at Red Hill. This work was necessary so parliamentary proceedings could be broadcast over the ABC network Australia wide.
One morning he was riding his motor cycle to the Transmitter site in fog and came upon another chap sitting astride a motor bike at an intersection while studying a map. Dad pulled up alongside and said "Are you lost mate". The other fellow replied "Is this the back way into Canberra". Dad laughed and said "This is the main road they are all gravel roads around here". He noticed the chap had a guttural European accent but wasn't concerned as the Federal Government had a lot of 'Free Dutch' working for them who had been displaced from the Pacific Islands by the advancing Japanese.
A few days later Dad was putting our family aboard the train to Sydney at Kingston Railway Station in sending us to his parents place in Sydney to celebrate Christmas. As we walked along the platform we came upon a new BMW motor cycle with delivery tags attached to the handle bars for transportation to Sydney. Being a motor cycle enthusiast, Dad recognised it as being the bike he had seen the other rider sitting astride recently and he immediately became interested and began examining it. A voice behind him said "Do you like that bike mate! It's the one they took off the German spy".
Dad turned around to find it was the Station Master speaking to him. They swapped stories. Dad was told a party of Fifth Columnists planned to bomb Parliament House while the parliamentarians were meeting in session. It was hoped many would be killed and the country would then become a "headless chook" and the Germans would then walk in and take over the country.
The next day Dad happened to be working in Parliament House and came upon Billy Hughes the Prime Minister in the corridors. They were acquaintances as Dad had taught the parliamentarians how to use the microphones. Dad asked the P.M. about the German Spy and was swiftly taken by the elbow and was forcibly ushered into an anti chamber where witnesses were called to hear and witness what he had to say.
He was quizzed and related what he knew and was then told various families of Irish and German ancestry with anti-British sympathies contacted Germany by radio asking for assistance. They had a plane but didn't know how to construct bombs or drop them with any accuracy. A German Pilot was put ashore from a submarine at Huskisson. He motored overland and made contact with the conspirators.
The forerunner of ASIO had got wind of the plot and had sharpshooters laying in the wheat fields surrounding a farm house observing the conspirators. The bombs were constructed and loaded aboard the plane. The engine was started, and the plane began to taxi. The families began waving the pilot off at which stage the sharpshooters stood up and shot out the tires halting the plane.
The conspirators were rounded up and confined for the duration of the war (to Dad's knowledge they were never charged). The pilot was transported to Melbourne and was later shot as a Spy.
Dad had to swear an oath of secrecy that he would not divulge what he knew for thirty years which has long since lapsed.
He told me the story has never been told because the families involved were very powerful back then and they still are today.
Rumors were rife in Canberra and questions were raised in Parliament. It was reported in Hansard but was hushed up rather than panic the populace.