Combined (Operations) Training Centre, Toorbul Point
7th Amphibious Training Centre and 1st Water Transport Training Centre
- Training facility
Bribie Island Road, Sandstone Point 4511
A Combined Training Centre (CTC) was established at Toorbul Point (now Sandstone Point) in mid 1942, in order to train army and navy units in amphibious warfare. A training camp with jetties, slipway, mock ship, workshops, lecture rooms, messes, accommodation and camp sites was established along the shoreline either side of today’s bridge to Bribie Island. The CTC was used by both the US and Australian armies and navies, including the 7th Division 2nd Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF), Australian 4th Armoured Brigade, US 1st Cavalry Division and the US 32nd and 41st Infantry divisions. After boarding vessels at Toorbul Point, practice landings of men and vehicles were carried out on the beaches of Bribie Island.
Today, little remains of the CTC. The campsite extended along the shoreline of the Pumicestone Passage northwest of the bridge, and north of the Bribie Island Road, as far as the northwest end of The Circuit, while jetties continued along the shoreline past the marina and Kai Ma Kuta Drive. Southeast of the bridge, the camp site continued around the shoreline of Deception Bay about as far as Sunbrite Court. Traces of the camp’s internal road remain southeast of the bridge.
In order to carry out General MacArthur’s plans for an Allied amphibious advance from New Guinea to the Philippines, Australian and US forces required training in amphibious landings. Such training in turn required co-operation between the army and the navy and in mid 1942 the First Australian Army under Lieutenant General John Lavarack was considering sites for a Combined (Operations) Training Centre (CTC). The First Army was formed in April 1942 and initially included the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 10th Infantry Divisions (Militia), 1st Motor Division (Militia) and the 7th Division 2nd Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF), although units were soon reallocated elsewhere.
By late June 1942 Port Stephens in NSW had been chosen as the site for the main CTC (HMAS Assault—established September 1942), while Toorbul Point (now Sandstone Point) in Queensland was chosen as a local centre where the 7th Division 2nd AIF could begin its training. In July 1942 approval was given to construct training equipment, including 'mock-ups' for boats, ships’ sides and derricks. The Queensland Main Roads Commission (MRC) history of 1949 notes that during the war the MRC upgraded the road from Caboolture to Toorbul; constructed a debarkation stage and a catwalk; a slipway, gantry and hatchway of 10 tons capacity to lift boats to a twin log skidway; carried out strengthening and repairs to existing vehicle and personnel jetties; and constructed an additional vehicle loading jetty, a jetty to represent a mock ship, a fuel unloading wharf with pump house, boat pound, four naval accommodation buildings, mooring piles, drainage of the camp area and two signal towers.
Toorbul Point wasn’t an ideal site for the navy. Although it provided a sheltered anchorage for landing craft, the area was narrow and ocean-going assault ships could not approach the site; there were sand bars between the site and Bribie island; and there was no sheltered beach close to the camp that was usable at all stages of the tide for training (although there were such beaches on Bribie Island). The intent was to train in a variety of beach environments, including surf, mud and mangroves, and creeks and rivers, with various beach exit types and different hinterland terrain. Bribie Island offered sand and mud environments, but no rocks or cliffs, gravel or shingle, and the only hinterland terrain type was dead flat and covered in thick scrub. As a result of the above shortcomings, and Toorbul Point being unsuitable for actually embarking troops for an expedition or carrying out final rehearsals in comparative secrecy, Port Stephens would be used for advanced training.
Toorbul Point was, however, the best site in South Queensland from the Army’s point of view, and it had sufficient space for a training camp, its staff, and camping areas for troops. The camp was located either side of today’s bridge to Bribie Island, with most of the jetties (for vehicles and personnel), a jetty with a mock ship, a slipway and a catwalk being located northwest of the bridge/north of Bribie Island Road. Workshops, lecture rooms and messes were also located north of the road, while an officers’ mess, officers’ huts, hospital, several houses and the army camping area were located south of the road. Accommodation was mainly in tents, and kitchen, ablution and latrine blocks were spread along the shoreline south of the bridge about as far as Sunbrite Court.
By 1 July 1942 a Major Rose had been appointed to the Staff of the CTC at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, to organise and control the army wing of the Toorbul-Bribie Island Combined Training School. The headquarters of the CTC was in the house of Mr Colin Clark. The naval wing, commanded by Sub-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant-Commander) John Morrell Band from October 1942, was to include landing craft and crews, but at early this stage no landing craft were available, and initially training used army folding boats and local motor craft. For example, the passenger ferry SS Koopa was among the larger civilian vessels requisitioned by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) for use at the CTC.
Eventually, instead of civilian craft towing lines of folding boats full of troops, purpose-built US landing craft became available. In May 1942 Captain Daniel E Barbey of the US Navy was appointed to organise a new Amphibious Warfare Section within the American Navy Department. Promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral in December 1942, in January 1943 he assumed command of Amphibious Force, Naval Forces Southwest Pacific. In March 1943 the latter became the Seventh Fleet, and its Amphibious Force became the VII Amphibious Force, which used both the RAN amphibious training centre at Port Stephens and the CTC at Toorbul/Bribie Island (the latter became known as the 7th Amphibious Training Centre). American Army units which trained at Toorbul Point included the US 32nd Infantry Division (at Camp Cable south of Brisbane from July 1942), the 41st Infantry Division (based in Rockhampton from July 1942) and the US 1st Cavalry Division while it was at Camp Strathpine in Queensland (during 1943).
The Australian Army’s 4th Armoured Brigade was located at Toorbul by late 1943, and its tanks were carried across to Bribie Island for exercises. AIF infantry divisions also continued to use the training centre. The 3rd Water Transport Group, Royal Australian Engineers (RAE) was formed in 1943, and it established a Water Transport (Small Craft) Training Centre at Toorbul Point. In late 1944 this merged with a landing craft training centre at Victoria Point, Brisbane, to form the 1st Water Transport Training Centre at Toorbul Point. The naval wing of the CTC was also known as RAN Station 5. As well as the army and navy, the RAAF participated in combined operations training, simulating enemy air attacks to make the exercises more realistic.
"Former Allied Combined Operations Centre", Reported Place 23889, Queensland Heritage Register
Queensland Main Roads Commission, 1949. The History of the Queensland main Roads Commission during World War II, 1939–1945. Government Printer, Brisbane.
McCarthy, D. 1959. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 1 - Army. “Volume V - South-West Pacific Area - First Year: Kokoda to Wau."
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Donald, Ron, 1995. Fort Bribie. The story of wartime Fort Bribie and Toorbul Point. Bribie Island RSL.
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National Archives of Australia, Folder T Folio 5. Toorbul Point Amphibian Training Ground - Plan [1/T/15] 1944
National Archives of Australia, Folder T Folio 6. Toorbul Point Amphibian Training Ground - Plan [1/T/15] 1944.
41st Infantry Division (United States), Wikipedia
Australian War Memorial Photographic Collection