Preserving Brisbane’s key role in WWII
Brisbane played a key role in WWII in the theatre of the Southwest Pacific. After the attack on Pearl Harbour, America entered the war and decided to stage their main military camp for the liberation of the Southwest Pacific in Brisbane. General Douglas MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area (SWPA) and established his HQ in Queen Street. In all close to 1 million US soldiers passed through Brisbane, many staying at tent camps in Victoria Park.
The actual military camp – Camp Columbia – was established in Wacol. The military facilities covered an enormous area of approx. 10kms by 5 kms and many suburbs have been built over these facilities after WWII.
- Wacol Railway siding Dispatched ordnance to the war zone
- Camp Columbia, Wacol US staging camp for 5000 men. Netherlands Government in Exile 1944-1946
- Motor Pool For Camp Columbia
- Darra Station. Declared ‘black’ to separate warring black and white US soldiers
- Officer Candidate School US training centre for officers in the SW Pacific
- Emergency Landing Ground B1 type (over 800 m); RAAF controlled
- Small Arms Renovation Plant Repaired small arms for reuse
- Camp Darra. Ordnance workers camp for 200 men
- Darra Ordnance Depot. Supplied the US army in the Southwest Pacific
- Archerfield House. Centre for civilian guards of Ordnance Depot
- Camp Freeman. Quartermasters camp with 1000 men
- Chemical Camp. 200 men in Blunder Road
- Searchlight Station. On private land in Brookbent Road
- Charcoal Pits, Pallara. Made alternative fuel for vehicles Neighbouring Military Facilities
- Archerfield Aerodrome. Australian, US, British, Dutch training field
- Camp Muckley. US military camp
- RAN/RAAF Stores. Ammunition depot (now in Greenbank MTA)
- Redbank Army Camp. Major Queensland Army Camp – up to 2500 men
While General MacArthur’s HQ has been preserved as a museum, most other facilities – notable Camp Columbia – have been largely forgotten.
Archaeological research conducted at the former site of Camp Columbia by the University of Queensland and funded by the Dutch Government has brought the site back into the spotlight. There are several remnants of the Camp in bushland at the Pooh Corner Bushland Reserve (a publicly accessible reserve owned by BCC).
Camp Columbia Heritage Association Inc 5–10-year vision
The 5-10 year plan is to develop a heritage centre on the site that will host the environmental, historic and cultural aspects of the site in broader context of the Aboriginal history, the natural environment and close to 160 years military history of the site. This Centre could be designed along the military nissan huts that were used during WII and/or the barracks used by the military and later the migrants.
For the shorter period 1-2 year we are developing a digital heritage interpretation plan. This will also be used to develop the outside signage and the exhibition material that will displayed in the breezeway of the Environmental Centre for the site. Utilising what is left of the infrastructure and buildings to tell the story of Camp Columbia.
As the site has international significance for Australia, USA, Netherlands, Britain and Indonesia, the plan is to look for international collaboration.
In the longer term the history and heritage of Camp Columbia could be part of a much larger heritage/tourism project linking the various sites together. (MacArthur Building, Camp Columbia, Archerfield Heritage Room, Victoria Park and perhaps interpretation signs through the suburbs that once played such an important role in Brisbane’s WWII history).
The initial focus is on the remnants of Camp Columbia within the Pooh Corner Bushland Reserve. There is an Environment Centre that would be ideal for exhibiting interpretative displays, highlighting the various themes linked to the area. Starting with its Aboriginal History, Early Queensland history (1840s), Refugees centre for people from Netherlands East Indies, WWII and the Wacol Migration Centre.
In the Reserve itself there is already a walking track that can be used, but a few extensions are needed to get closer to the actual facilities and remnants of buildings that are still there. The precinct is split in two by Sandy Creek and an investigation is needed to see how in the future they might be linked and/or kept separate with separate access points. All of this can be staged, based on Council approvals and funds coming available.
We have an opportunity to get funding from the Dutch Government but that needs to be matched on a $for$. One of the options we discussed with Brisbane City Council is if they would be willing to do work in relation to creating the extra paths and some clearing around the monuments that are still there.
Camp Columbia Heritage Association