Commonwealth War Workers Housing Trust Hostels

Munitions Workers Hostels No.1, 2 and 3

Military accommodation
Brisbane City

(No.1) Tonks Street, (No.2) Nettleton Court, (No.3) Fegen Drive, Rocklea 4106

In 1943, the recently built Rocklea Munitions Works converted its operations from Australian army ammunition production to aircraft engine repairs for the US forces. Both the urgency of this work plus the large workload required by the USAAF meant that more civilian war workers were required. Brisbane was suffering an acute wartime accommodation shortage so two modern hostels were constructed near the Rocklea Munitions Works in an effort to attract workers living outside of Brisbane. Hostels No.1 and No.2 were completed before the end of 1944 but it would that the planned Hostel No.3 was not built.


The Rocklea Munitions Works was constructed during 1941. It began operating in November 1941. Initially the factory complex manufactured small arms ammunition and artillery shells for the Australian army, with the workforce mainly drawn from Brisbane and surrounds. In 1943, the Rocklea Munitions Works ceased ammunition production and switched to undertaking engine overhauls for the US Army’s Air Force (USAAF). General Kenney’s 5th Air Force, based in the South-West Pacific Area required a rapid turnover of engine repairs so that the maximum number of planes could be employed in offensives against the Japanese.

The factory’s workforce was expanded and recruitment for more workers was conducted intra and interstate. By 1943, with the large number of Allied service personnel based in and around Brisbane, accommodation was in very short supply. So to attract more war workers to the Rocklea factory complex, there was a need to offer modern, affordable accommodation located close-by.

The Commonwealth War Workers Housing Trust requested that the Allied Works Council build three hostels that could house both male and female war workers. Only non-married workers could lodge at the hostels. These workers would be engaged in engine overhaul or airframe repair duties at either the Rocklea Munitions Works or at nearby joint USAAF and RAAF Archerfield air base. Hostel No.1 was in Tonks Street. Hostel No.2 was in Nettleton Court. Hostel No.3 was to be in Fegen Drive. Each Hostel was planned to provide beds for 600 residents and employ 50 staff that undertook cooking, cleaning, gardening and maintenance duties. Both war workers and hostel staff lived at the hostels.

By October 1944, Hostel No.1 was close to completion and three-quarters occupied. It already accommodated nearly 450 workers. Only pedestrian paths and roads needed to be finished. The buildings of Hostel No.2 were nearly finished but unoccupied. It was handed over to the Department of the Army before the end of 1944. It would appear that Hostel No.3 might not have been built. The Brisbane City Council extended the Salisbury tramline thereby making it easier for the war workers to access the shops and entertainment available in the city.

Hostels No1 and No.2 offered 28 sleeping units or apartments. Each hostel had a community kitchen and dining hall. The hostels included a number of surrounding ancillary buildings including a resident and staff central laundry block, a boiler house and separate food and linen Bulk Stores. Approximately 40 buildings comprised layout of the twin hostels.


National Australian Archives, File Series: BP262/2, Item: 9178, Joint Parliamentary War Expenditure Advisory Committee visit to Queensland, October 1944.