By her son David Hill.

Joan McConachy was a secretary at Camp Columbia, Brisbane working for the Dutch Army as she later told her son David. Joan was born in 1924 at Winton (Central West QLD) and moved to Brisbane around 1943 from the then family home (Cattle Station), “Dotswood” at Charters Towers in Far North QLD. This very large property later became an Australian Defence Force Training Facility

In Brisbane during the war, she met her future husband Daniel Hill (Danny) born at Brisbane 1920, an Air Gunner and a Wireless Operator with the RAAF on Dakota DC3 Aircraft. Most likely the 36 Squadron – RAAF they operated from among other places Mareeba (near Cairns) and Townsville and transporting troops and supplies to PNG as well as to Dutch New Guinea. Danny had mentioned to his son that he was operating from Cairns, that must have been from the base in Mareeba.

Danny said they all fondly called the DC3 the “Biscuit Bomber”, given the nature of her role by dropping supplies to troops. After the war he briefly was an air controller at Archerfield Airport.Danny later in life told his son he was always disappointed he missed out on an aircrew posting to Europe, as he got food poisoning in Melbourne while on RAAF training. He ate an “off” oyster sea food meal that was provided to him by the family that billeted him in Melbourne. His son said that looking back, he was pleased for this mishap in Danny’s younger life as his very existence likely pivoted on that dodgy meal. This given that over 70% of these airmen didn’t survive Europe.

A touching anecdote from Joan is that General McArthur, working in his Queen Street office in the city, sometimes took his lunch out and went to the Windmill at Spring Hill, where he quietly sat on a park bench. Joan went to him while he was having his lunch. She told him that her mother had died and that she wanted to go to her funeral. She asked the General if he could organise for her to fly to Townsville, which he did. Sitting on the same bench many years later around 1964, she told her 4 year old son about this meeting.

You see, her mother died on the cattle station “Dotswood” unexpectedly from pneumonia. They couldn’t seek medical attention for her as the “mighty” Burdekin River was in flood and they were totally isolated from medical assistance.

Before Joan left Dotswood for Brisbane in the middle of the war, she spoke fondly of the American aircrew’s who had R&R leave often at Dotswood from their US Airbase nearby at Charters Towers. They would fly low over the homestead and drop chocolates and stockings as gifts to the family. Joan said you couldn’t get these luxuries during the war, but the Americans had it all!

The pictures below are from her time at Camp Columbia. We have used the exact text as it has been written at the back of the pictures as held by Joan. Two pictures don’t have a accompanying text. Also all pictures are stamped and numbered at the back. Most probably indicating that they have been approved by the Netherlands East Indies Government in Exile.

Joan always told her son about her time I was “working for the Dutch Army”. Joan said this with great pride, as she and the other girls no doubt were privileged to sensitive and secret information that past through the typing pool. She treasured these photos as they held special memories for her with new friends, a special team of people, in the most trying times of all their young lives.

See also:

Return to Camp Columbia Heritage Park, Wacol, Brisbane TOC

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