Darra USAAF and RAN Ordnance Ammunition Depot
- Ammunition facility
- Brisbane City
Freeman and Government Roads, Darra 4076
The USAFIA Ordnance had established its Base 3 in Brisbane by March 1942. Like the other Ordnance bases across Australia, Base 3 was a service command and communication zone, and 'received, assembled, and forwarded all U.S. troops and supplies, and operated ports and military installations.'
When the US 41st Division arrived in Melbourne in early April 1942, the 55th Ordnance Ammunition Company was sent on to Brisbane. In line with the ordnance supply plan it established an ammunition depot in the western district of Base 3, choosing Darra as a suitable location. The 55th at Darra operated with around 50 civilian mounted guards and a similar number of civilian labourers. Although the main function of this depot was to store ammunition for both the US Army and the Army Air Force, it also was the storage area for general ordnance supplies until August 1942.
As the New Guinea campaign was enlarged, Brisbane was designated the main base of supply. A new ordnance Service Centre was established at Coopers Plains for general supplies and Darra depot was enlarged to deal specifically with ammunition.
Around 1943 the 636th Ammunition Ordnance Company was also based at the Darra depot, though some of the company had moved forward to Milne Bay by July 1943. For a short time the 577th Ammunition Ordnance Company, which arrived in Brisbane in June 1943, was also camped at Darra before it was shipped north, returning later in the year to Camp Oxley and work at the Darra depot.
Bulk supplies of chemical weapons brought into Australian by US Army forces were stored at Darra, as well as at Kane Ammunition Depot in Geelong, Victoria. By the end of 1943 the darra storage yards had been enlarged and is recorded as holding 'nearly 435 tons of bulk agents, nearly 90,000 artillery rounds, a small supply of toxic smoke candles, and empty bombs, spray tanks, and land mines.' Some of those agents included mustard gas and lewisite (both skin irritants), tear gas, a nose irritant known as DM, and a stockpile of howitzer shells containing a blister gas. The site experienced at least one recorded gas leak and decontamination.
The US Army vacated Darra in November 1945. About 8000 tons of the chemical weapons and an unknown quantity of ordinary ammunition from US stores at Darra was dumped off Cape Moreton, beyond the 100 fathom line. Some chemical weapons were also buried on site. It was not until 1956 that Darra was cleared of buried chemical weapons, including mustard and tear gas, lewisite, and other experimental compounds. About seven tons of soil was reportedly removed from the former depot.
The Royal Australian Navy used part of the site for storage of munitions after the US forces left.
Dunn, P. 'The Small Arms Renovation Plant at Ellen Grove' Australia @ War
Geoff Plunkett, 'Chemical warfare in Australia'. Australian Military History Publications, Loftus, 2007.
Lida Mayo, The Ordnance Department: On Beachhead And Battlefront United States Army In World War II, Center Of Military History United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1991 first Printed 1968
B E. Kleber And D Birdsell, The Chemical Warfare Service: Chemicals In Combat, Center Of Military History, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1966
Vicki Mynott, World War Two Stories From Brisbane’s South West: Richlands, Darra, Wacol, Goodna and Oxley, Richlands, Inala and Suburbs History Group Inc, 2006.