13 Australian Advanced Ordnance Depot
Tolga Advanced Ordnance Depot
- Supply facility
- Atherton Tablelands
Tate Road, Tolga 4882
From December 1942 the headquarters of the Australian Army in north Queensland transferred from Townsville to the Atherton Tableland with the main administrative centre around the town of Atherton and the nearby settlement of Tolga. A huge schedule of construction work under the direction of the Allied Works Council commenced, involving the building of tent encampments, hutments, mess kitchens, hospitals and storage sheds.
Stores and equipment had to be provided for troops training on the Tableland, also replacement of lost or worn-out clothing, equipment and weapons for troops of the Australian Imperial Force units of the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions returning from the Middle East and New Guinea. What was to become the largest Australian Army storage and repair centre on the Tableland was established on a hillslope west of Tolga, early in 1943. Known as 13 Australian Advanced Ordnance Depot (AAOD), the complex consisted of about 150 buildings, including 18 large igloo storage sheds, an attached vehicle park, salvage area and workshops. The centre of the site is located between present Griffin Road and Tate Road, Tolga.
Most buildings were removed after the closure of the depot in 1946 and the area reverted to farm and grazing land. Today the concrete slab floors of eight igloo storage sheds remain, with others having been removed recently to make way for an expanding housing precinct. An early farm house which has been relocated onto a slab, was used during the war as a AAOD officers’ quarters.
Wartime operation of 13 AAOD was undertaken by LHQ 2/1 Australian Advanced Ordnance personnel. It was a large unit commanded by Lt-Col LW Gale with about 1000 personnel including about 200 members of the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS). Many of the men of 13 AAOD had been classed as unfit for active service, having already served in the Middle East and New Guinea.
On 16 August 1943 a unit of 54 Australian Deputy Commander, Royal Engineers (Works), arrived in Tolga to begin erection of 18 large igloo storage sheds for 13 AAOD. The sheds were approximately 60 metres by 18 metres and about 9 metres high, giving each a large unbroken floor area. In addition to the storage sheds, 13 AAOD consisted of the usual officers’ and mens’ mess huts, kitchens and recreation huts, tents for the men and barrack huts for the women, an open air picture theatre and two tennis courts.
The ordnance was divided into four depots, each having an office, sheds and igloos of various sizes for storing equipment. No.1 Sub Depot had vehicle parts and tyres. No.2 Sub Depot, clothing, and all personal requirements. No.3 Sub Depot, revolvers, light machine guns, heavy artillery and other weapons. A Returned Stores Depot (RSD) was responsible for repairing all stores returned to it including damaged clothing. This was repaired by AWAS seamstresses. Also attached to 13 AAOD was 13 Transport Section, used for general transport around the complex and transporting AWAS members from their barracks to the depot.
Attached also was 7 Australian Ordnance Vehicle Park with hundreds of trucks, jeeps and vehicles of all types. To the north was 1 Australian Advanced Workshop Salvage Unit. Some distance away was 7 Advanced Ammunition Depot.
During removal of ammunition from the Tolga ammunition dump on 26 November 1946, a truck carrying a huge amount of cordite exploded, critically burning three personnel all of whom subsequently died of their injuries and were buried at the Atherton War Cemetery. Those killed were from 1 Advanced Ammunition Depot, 7 Advanced Ammunition Depot and 7 Ordnance Depot.
The Queensland Country Womens’ Association 'Haven' hut in the Atherton Hospital grounds was a former 7 Ordnance Depot recreation hut from Griffin Road, Tolga. It was relocated to the hospital in 1946 when the QCWA was reformed having been disbanded during the war years.
Pearce, Howard (contributing author).
Vera Bradley. I Didn’t Know That: Cairns and districts Tully to Cape York, 1939–1946, Service personnel and civilians, Boolarong Press, Brisbane, 1995.
Peter Nielsen. Diary of WWII North Queensland, Nielsen Publishing, Gordonvale, 1993.
Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.