Queerah Explosives Magazine Reserve

Ammunition facility

Swallow Road, White Rock, Cairns 4870

By March 1942, with Japan’s entry into World War II, all explosives from the Stratford magazine were transferred to a larger site at Queerah, south of Cairns. The magazine-keeper, however, resided at Stratford for the duration of the war, as the military were occupying the new quarters at Queerah.

Today the Queensland Government operates explosives reserves at Queerah, Brookhill near Townsville, Bajool south of Rockhampton, and Helidon near Toowoomba. Queerah Explosives Reserve contains five magazines of an original six, which are located on a now-discontinued railway spur line.


The first magazine at Cairns was a barge anchored off the east side of Trinity Inlet in 1884. The area is still known as Magazine Creek.

A powder magazine and detonator store were constructed at Stratford, near Cairns in 1901 for the Marine Department, which was then the government authority responsible for storing the large quantity of explosives being shipped into the port of Cairns at the turn of the century for use by the government and the mining industry.

By the mid-1920s the Stratford area had become urbanised and land at a more isolated location was purchased at Queerah and a reserve was proclaimed in 1931. Government budget restrictions caused by the Depression meant that construction was not commenced until 1940. The magazines and the magazine keeper’s house were completed in 1941. With Europe at war and fear of an invasion, the Queerah facility was taken over by the military.

By early 1943 the Queerah Explosives Reserve was being used to store a range of military ordnance including naval depth charges. An explosion occurred at the magazine in October 1943 when damaged ammunition was being discharged under military supervision. Several military personnel were injured and one of the magazines was destroyed.

Responsibility for the control of all explosives imported into Queensland was transferred to the Queensland Department of Health in 1964. On the mining fields explosives magazines are administered by the Mines Department.


Pearce, Howard (contributing author).

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.

Queensland Department of Mines and Energy, History of Queensland Explosives Reserves, DME Website, 2010.