HMAS Moreton Wardroom and Officers’ Mess

City Botanical Gardens Café

Brisbane City

147 Alice Street, Brisbane 4000

From 1943 to 1946, this building, the former City Botanical Gardens’ Curator’s Residence, was used by the Royal Australian Navy. The Navy enlarged the residence so that it could be used the Wardroom and Officers’ Mess for HMAS Moreton. This was the name given to the shore establishment operated by the Navy in Brisbane. Members of the Women’s Royal Australian Navy service were permanently stationed at the HMAS Moreton Wardroom and Officers’ Mess.


The kiosk was built in 1909 as the on-site residence of the curator of the Brisbane Botanical Gardens. Curator Ernest Walter Bick retired in 1940 and in March, the administration of the Gardens was handed to the Queensland Government’s Department of Public Works for the duration of the war. Thus the Curator’s Residence remained vacant during 1941–42. As a civil defence measure, Public Works built air raid shelters within the Gardens site in 1941

As the wharves and buildings of the Queensland Naval Depot were situated nearby at 1 Alice Street (opposite Queensland Parliament House), the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) decided to utilise the Curator’s Residence with its kitchen and dining room facilities.

The RAN requisitioned the Curator’s Residence along with several huts/sheds within the Botanical Gardens in March 1943. As well, the RAN occupied a large area around the Gardens Point section, where it constructed dozens of temporary buildings or structures. The Curator’s home became a wardroom and an officers’ mess for HMAS Moreton. A wardroom was used for officer’s meetings while a mess provided food and beverages to sailors. HMAS Moreton was the name of the small Brisbane naval base that was located beside the Brisbane River at Merthyr Road, New Farm. Trams allowed access from New Farm to the Botanical Gardens though the wardroom and mess were probably used more often by the officers from the Queensland Naval Depot.

Seven members of the Women’s Royal Australian Navy (WRAN) led by chief cook Dottie Bourne were stationed at the HMAS Moreton Wardroom. The WRANs were accommodated near the wardroom and slept in the Botanic Gardens Museum located nearby (now the City Botanic Garden’s Kiosk’s outdoor drink bar. The Curator’s Residence was extended by the RAN to create a large dining hall and a larger kitchen to feed the large number of RAN personnel who were to eat at the HMAS Moreton Mess. Access to the Botanical Gardens was curtailed with the Gardens closed in the evenings. As the threat to Brisbane diminished, such restrictions were raised with a return to public evening access at Christmas 1943.

The RAN continued to use the Botanical Gardens’ Curator’s Residence throughout the war. The RAN returned the building and huts to the Brisbane City Council in 1946 just prior to the appointment of a new curator - John Rare Bailey. It remained the Curator’s Residence until the 1970s and the building was subsequently converted into a kiosk.


BCC Heritage Unit file