Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland Exhibition (Ekka) Grounds
- Military camp
- Brisbane City
574 Gregory Terrace, Bowen Hills 4006
Used as a showground since 1876, the Exhibition Grounds (locally known as the Ekka) have a long association with the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland (RNA). Because of it’s wide open area close to the centre of the city, the exhibition grounds have been used as military camping grounds during a number of conflicts. In that time the RNA’s Exhibition have only been cancelled twice: once after WWI during the 1919 influenza epidemic, and again in 1942 when the grounds were occupied by military personnel.
The Ekka had been used for military tournaments during the 1890s, and when heavy rain in late December 1899 flooded the Pinkenba mobilisation camp for Queensland troops bound for South Africa, they were evacuated to the Exhibition Grounds. From January to late March 1900 the grounds were as a campsite for assembling contingents. During WWI [1914–18] a recruiting and training camp, complete with rifle range, was established at the Exhibition Grounds, though the annual Exhibition occurred with minor interruption. Returning servicemen from the war brought with them the influenza virus which was devastating Europe, and the grounds were used to erect isolation wards for the nearby Brisbane General Hospital.
During the Second World War, the Exhibition Grounds were again occupied from late 1939 to 1944 by military authorities as a venue for training, accommodation and embarkation of troops. Troops at the exhibition grounds initially slept in pig and cattle pens; the bars beneath the John MacDonald Stand became wet canteens; and troop trains departed from the railway platforms normally used by show patrons. In 1940 and again in 1941, the military vacated the grounds temporarily for the August Exhibition. Following the entry of Japan into the war in December 1941, American troops were stationed at the showgrounds and the Exhibition of 1942 was cancelled, but a limited Ekka was held in 1943 and 1944.
As late as May 1944 the Ernest Baynes Stands housed some of the facilities of 4th Australian Camp Hospital, including wards, kitchens, and quarters for nursing staff and women of the Volunteer Aid Detachment, and a Regimental Aid Post. Other units known to have been based at the site included 31 Australian FOD located in buildings adjacent to the corner of Gregory Tce and Costin Street. The 4 Australian Base Supply Depot occupied structures located between Gregory Tce, Alexandria Street and Water Streets. At some stage barracks associated with the 6 AWAS was also located in Costin Street. A Leave and Transit Depot (LTD) was located at the Grounds and recruits signed up here for the AIF and were despatched to various camps to begin training. A large number of tents and prefabricated huts were allocated to the LTD, including special areas set aside for the RAAF. The LTD was moved to Moorooka in March 1945. The US military had stores on O'Connell Street, and a US RTO was located at the railway station.
Following the war the RNA purchased a number of buildings from the military, for use on the site. The RNA Council Stand, erected in 1923, bears a brass plaque dedicated to military personnel stationed at the site during both world wars.
6th AWAS Barracks (Costin St), 31st Aust BOD and 7th BOD stores, 4th Australian Camp Hospital, Brisbane Exhibition Leave & Transit Depot (l.T.D.),
Sinclair B and Rough B, “Meeandah Mobilisation Camp, 1899", QLHF, Brisbane, 2001
NAA Brisbane Exhibition Ground - Site Plan [1/E/18]