United States Navy Fleet Hospital No. 109
- Medical facility
- Brisbane City
29 Aubrey Street, Camp Hill 4152
In April 1942, the United States Navy (USN) arrived at New Farm to establish a submarine depot. The USN ran its Base 134 completely independent of the US Army’s establishment in Brisbane - Base Section 3. Sick and injured sailors were initially dealt with at a USN dispensary at New Farm. But as casualty numbers rose, the Commander of the US 7th Fleet authorised the construction of a naval hospital at Camp Hill in 1943. It was built on a large area of vacant land centred on a hill. Fleet Hospital No.109 operated until early 1945 when, with US forces pushing towards Japan, the hospital was dismantled and shipped to a Forward Area in the Philippines. As well, during 1944–45, the USN maintained a Prophylactic Station close to the many brothels of South Brisbane.
The United States Navy (USN) operated just one hospital, designated Mobile Hospital No.9 in Brisbane. It was built at Camp Hill on high ground, as the USN medical staff thought that its elevation and breezes would aid patient recovery. Camp Hill was close to the Brisbane River and the USN Air Station Colmslie that received constant flights of Catalina flying boats. The USN hospital commenced its services on 13 July 1943. It dealt with all US naval personnel, the sick or wounded evacuated from the battle zones or sailors based in Brisbane.
Most buildings were US-designed prefabricated structures brought as cargo to Brisbane. These were steel-framed and covered in wood and fibrolite. The Seabee Naval Construction battalions that were based at Eagle Farm built the first hospital buildings. Australians undertook the subsequent construction under the direction of the Allied Works Council. For example, in 1943, Alfred Snashall Anthon Pty Ltd supplied and installed water pumps around the site. Any Australian work was billed to the Reciprocal Lend Lease (RLL) program. In 1943, Camp Hill was a largely undeveloped, outer suburb and so the Americans had to lay their own water and sewerage pipes for the hospital complex. Mobile generators brought in by the military powered the hospital. Its main entrance was off Old Cleveland Road, with the hospital site close to the Camp Hill Hotel. The Camp Hill tramline provided transport into the City’s varied recreation facilities.
A 2,600-bed hospital complex was placed within a large site that comprised 171 individual buildings of differing styles and sizes and its own internal road network. The complex included mental wards (for treating combat fatigue) and a navy brig (i.e. jail). A total of 859 personnel were allotted to Fleet Hospital No.109. They comprised 58 male officers (doctors and specialists), 52 nurses (all holding officer rank), and 2 US Marine Corps officers commanding 16 marines plus 9 members of the American Red Cross Society. The latter were under the direction of the American Red Cross Field Director’s Office that was located at 'Terrica House' at 236–250 Adelaide Street in the City. Captain H.A, Bruckshaw was the commander of Fleet Hospital No.109 in May 1944. In June 1944, the complex was redesignated US Fleet Hospital No.109. At its peak period across much of 1944, the hospital admitted 8,411 patients, about half of who recovered and returned to active duty and half evacuated to the USA.
Due to the proximity of a number of popular brothels in South Brisbane, the USN medical staff established a Prophylactic Station in the area on 3 October 1944. The Prophylactic Station issued condoms to the sailors to prevent the spread of Venereal Disease (VD) or other sexually transmitted medical conditions. Although the Station’s exact location has not been verified, it was thought to be located in the Birt Chill Room in Stanley Street, South Brisbane. This was the premises used by the Rear Echelon headquarters of the US Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) Medical Section as a warehouse in 1945. The other possible location was USN Receiving Barracks located at Davies Park, West End.
USN Fleet Hospital No.109 closed on 28 February 1945. Many of its prefabricated buildings were dismantled and shipped to the Philippines. The Prophylactic Station closed on 16 June 1945. Post-war the hospital site was developed into a housing estate centred on a public space, now Lavarack Park (named after a World War II Australian general). The hospital’s sealed roads became Arrol, Arrowsmith, Ascham, Aubrey, Errey and Morven Streets.
For further information visit http://members.optusnet.com.au/~davidmorgan2/
- National Archives of Australia, Series BP1/1, Item Vol.21, Allied Works Council - Queensland, meeting minutes No. 256–325, 1943.
- US Army, Telephone Directory, May 1944.
- US Navy Bureau of Yards and Docks Section, US Naval Base, Navy 134, Brisbane, Defense Aid - Reciprocal and Review Board Report - General, 1946.
- Commander Service Force Seventh Fleet, United States Navy Base 134, Brisbane- Base Facilities Report, 1946.
- Dunn, P. Australia @ War