Chermside Army Camp Area ‘J’
- Military camp
- Brisbane City
1009-1105 Gympie Road, Chermside 4032
Dedicated as a war memorial park in 1924, Marchant Park developed into a major cricketing venue by the 1930s. As such, the Army were initially not permitted to use the park, when the adjacent Chermside Army Camp opened in 1940. But the rapid expansion of the Chermside Army Camp in 1941–42 meant that the Army were allowed restricted access to merchant Park by 1943. No Army structures were allowed to be built in the park and it was largely used for driver training and for vehicle testing and storage.
In 1899, soft drinks entrepreneur and philanthropist George Marchant bought 97 acres of land at Chermside. The block became known as Marchant’s Paddock. As Marchant’s Paddock had been used for some military training, it was selected as campsite for the training of Australian Light Horse units during World War One. By 1916, the area encompassing Marchant’s Paddock and adjacent Sparkes’ Paddock was designated “Military Training Camp Chermside” or the Chermside Camp.
In 1917, Marchant offered to donate Marchant’s Paddock to the Kedron Shire Council for use as a public park. Marchant’s offer was given on the proviso that Kedron Shire resume the four acres of land owned by German migrant and blacksmith August Vellnagel. This was meant to secure the entire area bounded by Gympie, Murphy and Ellison Roads into a single public space. On 20 March 1917, the Kedron Shire Council decided to resume Vellnagel’s land and offer compensation. Vellnagel refused the offer. The issue dragged on until 1921, when Vellnagel moved his family and business across Gympie Road from the park. The Shire Council began fundraising for a Kedron Shire War Memorial to be placed at the entrance to the new park. On 3 May 1924, the former commander of the First AIF’s 1st Division, General Sir William Glasgow officially unveiled the Kedron Shire War Memorial Gates at Marchant Park. Two marble tablets on the sandstone gateposts listed names of the 273 men who joined-up to fight in the Great War, while a third tablet identified the 53 men who died during the war. The names of the five men, who had left for the Boer War were entered onto a fourth tablet.
Kedron Shire ceased after the election of the first Greater Brisbane City Council (BCC) in 1925. The new mayor William Jolly was a parkland supporter. In 1928, when town water was connected to the park, the Warehouse Cricketers’ Association (WCA) leased the park and built two dressing sheds and pitches. Six pitches were completed, making Marchant Park a major amateur cricket facility around Brisbane. As a war memorial park, it also used by the Returned Soldiers and Sailors League of Australia (forerunner of the RSL).
When Chermside Army Camp opened in the adjacent Sparkes Paddock in October 1940, no military activity was permitted at Marchant Park. But this changed as Chermside Army Camp grew in size, particularly after 7th Brigade departed in May 1942. During 1943, Chermside Army Camp expanded beyond its original boundary of Sparkes’ Paddock and across into Marchant Park. Marchant Park was public land and so the Army could not purchase it outright. Thus army huts or other permanent structures were not permitted to be constructed on any section of the parkland. The Army used the George Hastie Cricket Pavilion, erected in the memory of a WCA founding-member and long-serving club secretary, as it was the only permanent building on the site. The WCA cricket pitches were left untouched but they not maintained by the Army. Troops based at the Camp did use the pitches for recreational games though.
Marchant Park was used as an open vehicle park, for driver training and assessment and for the off-road testing of Army vehicles maintained by the Motor Transport School based at the Chermside Army Camp. In particular, this School trained women truck drivers many of whom belonged to the 67th Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) who resided in secured barracks in the Camp’s ‘H’ Block, located on the southern side of Hamilton Road. Administered by the Chermside Army Camp, Marchant Park was designated the Camp’s 'J Block' by 1945. Immediately at the end of the war in September 1945, Marchant Park returned to public use.
Jonathan Ford, Marching to the Trains - the Chermside Army Camp Remembered, (Brisbane: Ford, 2005).