Gladstone Wharves and Water Front
Auckland Point Jetties/Port Curtis/Stevedores
- Naval/port facility
Macfarlane Street, Gladstone 4680
During World War II, the Port of Gladstone handled a vast number of US troop and equipment movement, en-route to camps in Rockhampton. The Waterside Workers and the Port of Gladstone received accolades by the Allied Forces, especially the US Forces, for their professionalism and dedication to the support of the transport and cargo vessels supplying the war effort. The main access points for the wharves were at Auckland Point and Port Curtis, to the north-east of the main centre of Gladstone.
Three US Divisions had passed through Gladstone by early 1944. The divisions were part of the US I (1st) Corps Headquarters, commanded by Major General Robert L. Eichelberger, which eventually arrived in Rockhampton in August. It initially contained the 32nd and 41st Infantry divisions, however, the 32nd Division diverted south to Camp Cable, south of Brisbane, and only the 41st entered camp in Rockhampton. 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 shoulder sleeve insignia of a taro leaf. The main units of the 24th Division were accommodated at Camp Caves, and included the 19th, 21st and 34th Infantry Regiments, 3rd Engineers Battalion and the 11th, 13th, 52nd and 63rd Field Artillery (FA) Battalions.
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.
Recognised by the US Army as the embarkation point for the Rockhampton area, Gladstone was an ideal port. It offered road access, thus offering a considerable reduction in the costs to the Railway Department of transportation of vehicles, equipment and troops by rail. Only 100 kilometres between centres, the savings meant that more rail transport was available for urgent civilian requirements.
In a report by C.G. Dennis, Chairman of the Gladstone Waterside Workers Committee, forwarded eventually to the Premier of Queensland, he explained that on Saturday 4 March 1944, US General Cremer, of the US Army’s 24th Division and accompanied by Lt-Col Hazelwood and Captain Kay, all of the American Forces, addressed the wharf side workers in Gladstone. He stated that he was “…deeply impressed with the wonderful spirit of cooperation manifested by the Waterside Workers". He explained that the workers had often done jobs to expedite the sailing of ships under conditions which would not be tolerated in peace time and he wished to express his gratitude.
Colonel Hazelwood, who had had more intimate dealings with the workers and the wharves, also spoke to the men and indicated that in his travels and dealings from Tasmania to New Guinea, he had not had achieved better results anywhere than those in Gladstone. In illustration of the point in question, he had received information from Brisbane that the predicted turn around time to handle a boat in Gladstone was about 4 days. The reality was that in Gladstone the actual average time was 18 hours. The longest waiting time to date was 48 hours due to the delay of troop trains, not due to the efforts of the waterside workers. Colonel Hazelwood concluded that “…nowhere on the Aust [sic] coast can ships be handled as expeditiously as in Gladstone".
It was obvious that the Harbour Board’s facilities were equal to the task and were highly spoken of by US Army Authorities and the Masters of vessels using the facilities. A large US Army Transport was able to lay alongside the wharves for over twenty-four hours and sailed drawing 29′ 3″. Although tides were favourable, the length of time available to the vessel, which in other ports might have run aground, was attributed to the careful and systematic maintenance dredging of the harbour.
By March 1944, it was freely rumoured that the Americans were to leave Rockhampton and be replaced by British forces. Representation was made to the Federal Government, by the Premier of Queensland for the continued use of the Port of Gladstone as an assembly and transfer point. This was supported by the Port Curtis Development League, who also made an appeal to the Prime Minister, John Curtin on the 4th April 1944 for the continued utilisation of the port for military purposes, on the basis of a national outlook for future planning.
In the advent of British troops coming to Australia and being stationed in the Rockhampton area, the Waterside Workers and the Gladstone Port Authority were eager to ensure that the site would be determined by operational necessity as being the continued assembly and embarkation point, for those encamped at Rockhampton.
The port continued to be utilised as an assembly and embarkation point until the end of the war, however not on the same scale at as was seen with the American forces. A party of Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) personnel disembarked from the transport ship Marella in early 1946 and were met by friends and relatives. This was the first group of AWAS to return home from Lae in New Guinea after the war.
Today, much of the original WWII wharf and surrounding infrastructure has been destroyed through development. In 1963, Queensland Alumina Limited established its alumina refinery on the site of the old meat works. Gladstone’s port facilities were expanded and the city launched into an era of industrial development and economic prosperity.
- Queensland Main Roads Commission, 1949. The history of the Queensland Main Roads Commission during World War II, 1939–1945. Government Printer, Brisbane.
- McCarthy, D. 1959. Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series 1 - Army. “Volume V - South-West Pacific Area - First Year: Kokoda to Wau."
- NAA Series A663 O194/1/328. Barcode 30322766 - Gladstone Harbour Board - use of port facilities for troop procurements, 1940–1944