- Training facility
Etna Creek, The Caves, Milman, The Caves 4702
Camp Caves was home to the US 24th Infantry Division, part of the US I Corps, between September 1943 and early 1944. The camp, north of Rockhampton along the Bruce Highway and the North Coast Railway line, stretched from Etna Creek Road to Alligator Creek. Another I Corps Division, the 41st Infantry Division, had arrived at Rockhampton in July 1942 and was accommodated at Camp Rockhampton, between Moores Creek northwards along the Bruce Highway almost to Parkhurst; either side of the Rockhampton-Yeppoon Road before the intersection with Artillery Road; and south of Artillery Road between the Rockhampton-Yeppoon Road and Sandringham. Other camps in the vicinity of Rockhampton included Camp Nerimbera, Camp Thompson’s Point, Camp Keppel Sands, Camp Yeppoon and Camp Wallaroo. The main combat units of the 24th Division included the 19th, 21st and 34th Infantry Regiments, 3rd Engineers Battalion and the 11th, 13th, 52nd and 63rd Field Artillery (FA) Battalions. After moving to Goodenough Island (New Guinea) in January 1944, the 24th Division engaged in an amphibious assault on Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea in April 1944, as part of Operation Reckless.
Between mid 1942 and early 1944 Rockhampton was home to two of the four full US Army Divisions (the 24th, 32nd and 41st Infantry divisions, and the 1st Cavalry Division) which trained in Queensland During World War II. The 41st Division, a National Guard unit, was the first US division dispatched to Australia, with contingents arriving at Melbourne and Sydney during April and May 1942. After training at Puckapunyal in Victoria, the division, initially called the “Sunset Division” and later the “Jungleers", was sent to Rockhampton in July 1942, where it was accommodated in Camp Rockhampton.
The US I (1st) Corps Headquarters, under Major General Robert L. Eichelberger, arrived in Rockhampton in August. At this time I Corps included the 41st Division and the 32nd “Red Arrow” Division (also a National Guard unit), which had arrived in Adelaide in May 1942. However, the 32nd did not go to Rockhampton, instead camping south of Brisbane at Camp Cable (from July 1942 before heading to New Guinea from September 1942). The 32nd had been offered to Australia in return for Australia leaving its experienced 9th Division, 2nd Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF) in the Middle East.
The third division to join I Corps, and the second US division sent to Rockhampton, was the 24th Infantry Division, which arrived in Rockhampton in September 1943. The 24th was originally the Hawaiian Division, and it retained the latter’s shoulder sleeve insignia of a taro leaf. The main units of the 24th Division were accommodated at Camp Caves.
After arriving at Rockhampton the 41st Division commenced training in jungle warfare, and each battalion in turn was sent down to the Toorbul Point Combined Training Centre near Brisbane, for training in amphibious warfare. Units of the 41st Division fought in New Guinea during 1943 and in April 1944 the Division landed simultaneously at Hollandia (Dutch New Guinea) and Aitape (New Guinea) in Operation Reckless and Operation Persecution, in an attempt to isolate the Japanese 18th Army at Wewak. The 24th Division also landed at Hollandia as part of Operation Reckless, having prepared at Goodenough Island from January 1944.
While at Camp Caves, the 24th Division was spread along the Bruce Highway and the North Coast Railway, north of Rockhampton. Area ‘A’ (24th Division Medical Battalion) was west of the Bruce Highway, either side of Etna Creek Road; then east of the railway line came areas ‘B’ (east of Etna Creek siding, 19th Infantry Regiment with 3 battalions) and ‘C’ (34th Regiment with 3 battalions; plus “410” siding with 8 warehouses west of the railway line). Area ‘K’ (Quartermaster Coy) was west of the Bruce Highway, north of Steiners Road; Area ‘J’ (724th Ordnance Coy) was north of Auton and Johnsons Road; Area ‘D’ (21st Infantry Regiment with 3 battalions) was located east of the highway, north of Fourteen Mile Road and along Gunder Road; and Area ‘I’ (3rd Engineer Battalion) was west of the highway opposite Barmoya Road.
Areas ‘H’ (24th Division Headquarters, MP Coy, Artillery HQ, 24th Division Reconnaissance, Signal Coy) and ‘G’ (11th Field Artillery (FA) Battalion) were west of the highway (although part of ‘H’ was east of the highway). North of Plentiful Creek Road there were ammunition dumps either side of the highway; then Area ‘E’ (63rd FA Battalion) north of highway; and Area ‘F’ (13th and 52nd FA Battalions) south of the highway (which used to follow Flood Road to cross Alligator Creek). Area ‘L’ (two landing strips) was north of Flood Road before Alligator Creek, to the east of Milman Road. Areas ‘M’ to ‘Q’ (I Corps Artillery Units) were to the southeast of the main camp, either side of Artillery Road, to the southeast of Sandringham. The American Red Cross used the hall building at The Caves.
Small arms firing ranges for Camp Caves were located east of the North Coast Railway, north of Greenlake Road. Ranges for the artillery units at Rockhampton included the Cawarral, Cobberra, Josekeleigh, Salt Flat, and Sugarloaf artillery ranges.
The Queensland Main Roads Commission apparently started some work on Camp Caves in November 1942, for the 2nd Engineer Special (Amphibious) Brigade, but this work was stopped. Land hiring dates for Camp Caves commenced in July 1943, through November 1943, and the main construction agency was the Public Works Department, along with work by RL Schofield; R Cousins & Sons; R Cousins & Co Pty Ltd; R Coward, and troop labour. Detailed maps of the locations of individual buildings within each area can be accessed in digitised form from the National Archives of Australia website; control symbols MAP 7 to MAP 13. Lists of buildings and contractors can be found at MAP 109 to MAP 114; and units in occupation are listed in the schedules of garbage collection, MAP 144 to MAP 145. All areas of Camp Caves were vacated between January and March 1944.
Queensland Main Roads Commission, 1949. The history of the Queensland Main Roads Commission during World War II, 1939–1945. Government Printer, Brisbane.
Casey, Hugh J., ed. 1951, “Volume VI: Airfield and Base Development", Engineers of the Southwest Pacific 1941–1945, Washington, D.C, United States Department of the Army.
McCarthy, D. 1959. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 1 - Army. “Volume V - South-West Pacific Area - First Year: Kokoda to Wau."
Dexter, D. 1961. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 1 - Army. “Volume VI - The New Guinea Offensives."
Charlton, P. 1991. South Queensland WWII 1941–45, Boolarong, Brisbane.
National Archives of Australia. various items, control symbols: INDEX; MAP 5 to MAP 18; MAP 44 to MAP 59; MAP 60; MAP 62: MAP 63; MAP 77; MAP 79; MAP 81; MAP 83; MAP 102; MAP 109 to MAP 114; MAP 129 to MAP 133; MAP 144; MAP 145; MAP 150.
Dunn, P. Camp Caves near Rockhampton, Qld
41st Infantry Division (United States), Wikipedia
24th Infantry Division (United States), Wikipedia
32nd Infantry Division (United States), Wikipedia