Camp Yeronga Park (US)
- Military camp
- Brisbane City
78A Park Road, Yeronga 4104
With its extensive pre-war recreation facilities, the US Army chose Yeronga Park for a military camp in 1942. Camp Yeronga Park housed a variety of units including, military police, signallers, USASOS enlisted men and WACs. The Australian Army placed an oil depot in an undesirable and low-lying section of the park. In July 1944, the WACs were joined in training at the camp by Dutch servicewomen. The US Army remained at Yeronga Park until the end World War Two. It took another two years, to restore the park for the use of the Brisbane public.
Yeronga Park was gazetted as public parkland by the local authority the Stephens Shire Council in 1888. Arbor Day tree plantings began in 1890. By 1942, Yeronga Park was well developed with fencing (1889), a bandstand (1903), toilets (1906), concrete and turf cricket pitches (1910+), Queensland Blind Cricketers Association hall (1920s), tennis courts and shed (1921), croquet clubhouse and lawn (1925), Annerley Bowling Clubhouse and green (1929), shale rock wall along Ipswich Road (early 1930s), concrete drafts board (1935) and a scout den (1941). There were shelter sheds, seats and paths of differing vintage. The park’s most significant structure was its 1921 Anzac Memorial. It comprised a tree-lined road (Honour Avenue) running from Park Road to a domed Memorial Pavilion before existing at Ipswich Road. Brick Memorial Gates were placed at the park entrance on both roads but were built and opened separately. The 96 trees planted along Honour Avenue had a metal shield with the name of an individual from the Stephens Shire who had died in the Great War.
Due to its facilities plus its access to the tramline on Ipswich Road, Yeronga Park was chosen by the US Army to be a military camp in early 1943. Construction of the large camp, including a formed parade ground with a flagpole, postal exchange (PX), open-air cinema, recreation hut, mess halls, orderly room and white-painted stone-lined camp paths was completed by US Army engineers by 23 May 1943. The troops slept in 3-man, fibrolite demountable huts. A private telephone line was laid connecting the camp directly to the US supply docks at Brett’s Wharf, Hamilton. Existing timber fencing was reinforced with barbed wire. Because of the air-raid blackout, vehicle lights were dimmed and so tree stumps were painted to aid night driving. Unfortunately the Americans used the trees along Honour Avenue for bayonet practice. The US troops played checkers on the drafts board. US Army bands utilised the bandstand including a performance by world-famous Hungarian-born US conductor Eugene Ormondy and his wife on 14 August 1944.
Among the initial units at the camp was Detachment 3 of the 833rd Service Signal Company that was detached to the US Army Service of Supply (USASOS). During 1943-44, Camp Yeronga Park remained an USASOS enlisted men’s camp. By May 1944, the headquarters company of Base Section 3 (the US Army’s designation for its Brisbane base) led by Lt. G.S. Reed was quartered at Camp Yeronga Park, as was the 799th Military Police Battalion, (led by Major W.H. Oesch) consisting of three companies of MPs. The MPs performed patrol duty in leave centres such as the City and on wharves used by the Americans. Their radio-controlled patrol cars were based at the camp. The members of General Douglas MacArthur’s personal guard detail were also drawn from the MPs at this camp.
The park was also used for Australian military purposes. In 1942, the new scout hut became the venue for sewing camouflage nets by the local women volunteers. The Australian Army requisitioned the nearby Yeronga Infants School as a BIPOD base with a fuel and oil dump placed in the lower reaches of the park. Brisbane City Council dug park slit trenches beside the bowling green. In 1943, the Army began holding recreational cricket matches on the turf wickets. The Army requisitioned the Yeronga State School’s playground in 1945.
Soon after 12 May 1944, the first US Women’s Army Corps (WAC) members reached Camp Yeronga Park by bus from Sydney where they had just disembarked.
WACs were typists, switchboard operators, chief clerks, mess Sergeants, Personnel and Transportation Officers, Executive Officers, and Assistants to Adjutants General. They could drive heavy vehicles; handle stock reports, censor mail. The 640 women were divided for service in the USASOS or the US Army Forces in the Far East (USFFE) headquarters command. The WACs rode trams from Yeronga to their various assignments around Brisbane. All the WACs found:
The lack of heat in some offices and part of the quarters, customary as it was to Australians, caused a, high incidence of minor pulmonary disorders, seldom disabling in character. Barracks were somewhat more primitive than those in the United States, with bucket latrines, outside showers, and limited laundry facilities, but were in general superior to those of male troops in the area. Wacs enjoyed city recreational facilities, and stated that they had plenty of Australian fruit and green vegetables and more than plenty of Australian mutton.
Almost immediately, one WAC went absent without leave (AWOL). She was arrested in the City after engaging in 'conspicuous misconduct' that came to the notice of the US Consul via some locals. She was promptly shipped back to the States. The USAFFE servicewomen remained at Yeronga for two weeks before 118 WACs proceeded onto Port Moresby. Two more groups of WACs sailed to Brisbane, 385 arriving on 26 June and 379 (led by Captain Ida M. Ross) on 10 July 1944. Commander of the WACs was Lieutenant Colonel Mary-Agnes Brown with Captain Charlee L. Kelly and Lieutenant Vera Mankinen as her aides. US forces began transferring their SWPA base to Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea that month. The WACs started moving to Hollandia in August with a Farewell Dance held in the camp recreation hall on 14 August. By October 1944, there were few WACs left in Brisbane.
Dutch members of the Women’s KNIL Corps joined the WACs at Camp Yeronga Park in September 1944. The Koninklijk Nederlandsch-Indische Leger (KNIL) was the Netherlands East Indies army. The Women’s KNIL Corps was established in Melbourne on 5 March 1944. It provided drivers, typists, and nurses or for military administrative positions to relieve Dutch or Indonesian males for combat duty. Initially the unit mustered 26 women led by a male officer. They trained at Yeronga but were accommodated at the Netherlands East Indies Government-in-Exile at Camp Columbia, Wacol. The WACs hosted a Welcome Lunch for the Women’s KNIL Corps members in their WACs Mess on 26 September 1944.
US troops occupied Yeronga Park until soon after the war’s end in September 1945. Restoration of the wartime damage to the park was completed in 1947. That year, two ex-US Army huts were relocated within the park to create a new scout den. Part of the existing Girl Guides’ hall at the northern end of the park is all that remains of these two huts. In 1996, the American Legion erected a memorial stone commemorating the US Army’s wartime use of the park.
Yeronga Park citation, Queensland Heritage Register 402462.
Jonathan (Jack) Ford, Allies in a Bind, (Loganholme: NESWA, 1996).
Rod Fisher, Yeronga Park Timeline, (Brisbane: Fisher, 21 May 2010).
Roger Marks, Brisbane City Council WW2 v Now, Volume 10 “Camp Yeronga", (Brisbane: Marks, 2005).
E. Treadwell, The Women’s Army Corps - United States Army in World War II, (Washington: Center of Military History United States Army, 1991)