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Lennon's Hotel

'Bataan'

  • Military accommodation
  • Brisbane City

cnr Queen and George Streets, Brisbane 4000

The new Lennon's Hotel on the corner of Queen and George Streets Brisbane was opened in July 1941. A hotel of the same name had operated on the site since at least the 1880s. The most modern hotel in wartime Brisbane it offered the best service and visiting celebrities frequently stayed there. From July 1942 it became the residence of the Macarthur family and many of the senior officers working at the SWPA headquarters.

History

The 'Pensacola' convey of US troops diverted from the Philippines arrived in Brisbane just before Christmas 1941. The senior US officer, Brigadier General Barnes, established a temporary headquarters in Lennon's Hotel, occupying it until January when it was moved to Melbourne. It is likely this early occupation influence the decision to make it the residence of General Douglas Macarthur, CINCSWPA, and his family when his headquarters moved to Brisbane in July 1942. An advance US Army party visited Brisbane from 14–16 June 1942 to prepare for MacArthur's move there. The move north began on 15 July. MacArthur left Melbourne on 21 July and he took two days to reach Brisbane. His party comprised nine generals, 10 colonels, 10 lieutenant-colonels (inc. Philippines President Carlos P. Romulo), nine majors, 12 captains, 12 first lieutenants & three second lieutenants.

Upon arrival in Australia Macarthur began a trait of naming his places of residence (and an RAN warship) after the site of his defeat in the Philippines. The hotel was given the codename of 'Bataan' and the US military telephone exchange established in the hotel became known as the 'Bataan Exchange'. It was manned by female civilian switchboard operators who had been instructed by Macarthur to answer incoming calls with "Hello, this is Bataan." It has been said that Brisbane residents frequently called B-3211 just to hear the words.

Macarthur, his wife June, son Arthur and servant Ah Cheu, and many of his 300 staff moved into Lennon's on the eve of 20 July 1942. The Macarthurs had three adjoining suites on the 4th floor. One suite was MacArthur's office. One suite was his quarters. His son & nanny lived in another suite. His personal physician lived in the fourth suite. All entrances were guarded but public lounges in the hotel remained open.

After exhausting the Lennon's menu of which the General was not fond, June Macarthur and Ah Cheu began shopping locally and cooking their own food. A dining room was set up in June's suite where she would wait for him to return from his office in the AMP building. Macarthur quickly established a daily routine when he was in Brisbane. He did not leave Lennon's until 10am when he travelled to the office. He stayed there until 2pm and went home for lunch and a nap, returning to the office at 4pm. He usually returned to his suite around 8 or 9pm.

Macarthur actively cultivated a populist image, and his appearance in Brisbane streets, always accompanied by two uniformed bodyguards carrying sub-machine guns, was guaranteed to draw a crowd. Locals waited outside Lennon's just to see him pass, and to make it easier for them to identify which entrance he would use, he had a striped awning erected over the doorway. His black limousine, in which he travelled from Lennon's to SWPA headquarters, had the number plate USA-1 while his wife's was USA-2.

Once his advance base was set up in Port Moresby, Macarthur travelled between the two towns. His wife and child remained in Brisbane, and while in Moresby the General occupied the former government residence, which he also named 'Bataan'. In October 1944 he returned to the Philippines, though it was not until mid-February 1945 that June and young Arthur Macarthur finally left the Lennon's Hotel in Brisbane and sailed for Manilla.

Source/comments

Floor 3: HQ US Forces in Australia (General George Barnes & HQ Troops Brisbane Area est. 23/12/41, CO: Colonel Alexander L P Johnson (until March 1942); Top Floor: MacArthur Family residence (from July 1942) & US officers of the 'Bataan Gang'.

BCC Heritage Unit files

Manchester, William (1983), American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880–1964, Laurel, 1983.

Last updated
30 June 2014