'Ryndarra', No.2 Australian Army Women’s Service Hospital
2nd AWAS Hospital and 27th AWAS Barracks
- Medical facility
- Brisbane City
23 Riverview Place and 7 and 20 Heritage Close, Yeronga 4104
The Australian Army leased the large nineteenth century home 'Rhyndarra' from 1942-46. During 1942-43, it was used as a barracks, training centre and transit camp by the 27th Australian Army Women’s Service (AWAS) unit. In late-1943, construction began on a women’s military hospital in the grounds surrounding 'Rhyndarra'. Completed by June 1944, the complex of buildings became No. 2 AWAS Hospital. The hospital remained in operation until after the war and was utilised for the processing and demobilising of Australian servicewomen in 1945-46.
'Rhyndarra' was completed in 1889 as businessman William Williams’ residence. In 1897, the Salvation Army leased 'Rhyndarra' for its Yeronga Girls Industrial School. In 1907, the Salvation Army bought the property and continued to operate the orphanage until 1942. The Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) requisitioned 'Rhyndarra' for a training facility and staging camp for personnel on transfer. It was designated 27th AWAS barracks. AWAS had been formed in mid-1941 to release manpower for recruitment into the fighting units. Recruiting began in early 1942. By 1944, there were over 20,000 AWAS personnel who could either serve with the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (AIF) units or with the Australian Military Forces (AMF or the militia) units.
In 1943, the Allied Works Council approached the
Commonwealth Department of Public Works to build a women’s military hospital in the grounds of 'Rhyndarra'. Designing the hospital wards was completed by 16 August 1943. Designated the 2nd Australian Women’s Army Service Hospital (No.2 AWASH), the complex was finished by June 1944. The hospital was placed to the northeast of 'Rhyndarra'. The hospital accommodated 160 patients. The complex comprised fibrous cement and weatherboard wards (including a separate Officers’ ward), kitchens, an operating theatre and an Admissions Building/Regimental Aid Post (RAP) linked by covered walkways. 'Rhyndarra' was utilised for administration offices, officer’s quarters and for nurses’ recreation rooms. Minor alterations were made to the house while the old stable was converted to a quartermaster’s store (Q store). There were also outer buildings housing a morgue, a pathological laboratory, general recreation hut, a linen & blanket store, 3 boiler houses, showers, latrines and a sewerage treatment plant. Separate to all of these structures were an Isolation Ward and a V.D. Ward. An Australian Army Medical Women’s Service (AAMWS) barracks comprising small huts were located along the northeast boundary. The Nurses Quarters were placed to the southwest.
The Army defined No.2 AWASH as a base hospital. These hospital types were established in capital cities or within rural base camps. Unlike the temporary but mobile nature of tented casualty clearing stations that were established in combat zones, base hospitals had more permanent timber, fibrous cement sheet and/or corrugated iron structures. A base hospital could also be established in an existing large building (e.g. 'Rhyndarra') requisitioned by the Commonwealth. All women’s military hospitals were base hospitals and 26 were built. No.2 AWASH operated as both a base hospital and an AAMWS training facility.
The Australian Army Medical Women’s Service developed from the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD). The Australian Red Cross trained civilian women as VADs to assist hospital nurses. The VADs were unpaid and they performed essential work in camp or base hospitals. In 1941, VADs were brought under the Army’s jurisdiction, volunteering for full-time service and were granted the rank of private. But the VADs were still administered by the Red Cross and so in December 1942, the Australian army established the AAMWS to enable control of all VADs serving in military hospitals. The AAMWS performed basic medical procedures and assisted the work of the trained Army nurses of the Australian Army’s Nursing Service (AANS). During the war, the AAMWS had 8,500 serving members.
Before shifting to Yeronga, No.2 AWASH had been formed at the Redbank Army Camp and was linked to the AIF’s 2/4th Australian General Hospital (AGH). Only three specialist women’s military hospitals were established in Australia during World War II: No.1 AWASH at Claremont in Western Australia, No.2 AWASH at Yeronga and No.3 AWASH at Concord in Sydney. The AAMWS personnel trained at Yeronga served in Brisbane’s military hospitals: 2nd Australian Camp Hospital at Chermside, 3rd Australian Camp Hospital at Enoggera, 4th Australian Camp Hospital at the EKKA Grounds, 10th Australian Camp Hospital at Coorparoo, 102nd Australian General Hospital at Ekbin and then Holland Park, the 112th Australian General Hospital at Greenslopes, as well at Yeronga’s No.2 AWASH. Other AAMWS staff trained at Yeronga served interstate and overseas.
At War’s end in September 1945, the AAMWS was demobilised with No.2 AWASH caring for recuperating patients and for holding the medical checks required before women were demobbed. The Commonwealth retained No.2 AWASH and purchased the site in 1946.
BCC Heritage Unit citation
Allan S Walker. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 5 - Medical - Volume I - Clinical Problems of War (1962 reprint)