Water Street Army Depot

Valley Drill Hall

Training facility
Brisbane City

342 Water Street, Fortitude Valley 4006

The Water Street Army Depot was opened by the Commonwealth Government in 1925, utilising an 1880s Queensland colonial defence forces drill hall that was shifted from Boundary Street, Spring Hill. During World War II, the Water Street Army Depot acquired more buildings for its principal role as a recruit processing centre for the Australian Military Forces (militia), the 6th Division A.I.F., the Volunteer Defence Corps and the Civil Construction Corps. The Depot closed in 1988. It is one of only four, infantry drill halls remaining of the 12 such halls built throughout Brisbane.


The old drill hall (built 1884) at Boundary Street, Spring Hill was relocated to a new army depot site in Water Street, Fortitude Valley in 1925. From 1925–39, the depot expanded and it was the base for an infantry battalion of the Australian Military Forces (AMF or militia).

After the outbreak of World War II, the drill hall was one of

just three AMF depots in Brisbane selected by the Federal Government to accept and process the volunteers enlisting as part of Queensland’s contribution to the new 2nd Australian Imperial Force (AIF). At the same time, the Depot continued to accept new recruits wishing to join the militia. While militia soldiers could, constitutionally serve only within Australian territory, the AIF was specifically raised for overseas service. This had been the case in World War I, when five AIF divisions were raised. When the 2nd AIF was announced, it followed that its first component was designated the Sixth Division. Prime Minister Menzies announced the raising of the 2nd AIF on 15 September 1939. Queensland was to provide recruits for one complete and one part battalion that would be part of the new division’s 18th Brigade. Volunteers undergoing suitability assessment had the choice of joining the 2/9th Battalion or two companies of the 2/12th Battalion.

Fitness requirements for acceptance into the 2nd AIF were high and the medical examinations of prospective volunteers were conducted at the Water Street Depot. AIF recruitment caused a dramatic drop in militia numbers as many men transferred from the Australian Military Forces (AMF) to the AIF. In June 1940, after the Fall of France, compulsory home service (militia) training was introduced for unmarried men and widowers without children between 18 to 35 years of age under Class 1 of the Defence Act. Recruits had to undertake six months compulsory training. Many men went to the Water Street Depot with their call-up papers where they were processed for service with the A.M.F. Initially, men were assessed for whether they qualified for exemption from the call-up as they worked in an identified 'Essential Industry' or were immediately required for rural seasonal work. Those men remaining underwent medical examinations. Conscription into the militia raised its numbers nationally to 173,000 by the end of August 1940.

On 15 July 1941, a home-guard force entitled the Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) began to be raised across local districts. At least one company of No.1 Battalion, Post Office Volunteer Corps, later incorporated into the VDC, trained at the Water Street Depot during World War Two.

From early 1942, foreign residents and skilled civilian tradesmen living in Brisbane were encouraged to assist the war effort by joining labour organisations, particularly the Civil Construction Corps (CCC). Again, the Water Street Depot was one of the principal Brisbane sites providing medical examinations and enlistments for these war workers. Permanent public servants serving the Allied Works Council (AWC) and allocated the task of overseeing the CCC manpower requirements were sent to the Depot. To cope with the ever-increasing demands for recruitment, more than 20 additional structures, mainly offices, were erected on the site during World War II (1939–45). After the war the majority were removed though four of the larger huts across southern frontage were retained.


  • National Australian Archives (NAA), Item 1022943, J344 QA1963/235M Water Street Army Depot
  • NAA, item 1382350, J56 QL3966/2/15 Fortitude Valley - Drill Hall area - Surveys
  • NAA item 1699923, J1018 LS6916 Fortitude valley - army drill hall, identification
  • NAA item 1386890, J56 QL2933 Valley - Water Street - Army - Residences at depot
  • NAA item 1710970, J2774 W2778, Brisbane Drill Hall, Water Street - Block plan
  • NAA item 894348, J2698 QA10339 Water Street Army Depot - No 1 Dental Unit
  • NAA item 894347, J2698 QA10334A Water Street Army Depot - Conversion of buildings into model ward
  • NAA item 1710967, J2774 W2774 Brisbane Drill Hall, Water Street
  • NAA item 1710998, J2774, W2826 Brisbane Drill hall, Water Street, Caretakers cottage
  • NAA item 1711756, J2774 W5472 Brisbane, Water Street Drill Hall - additions
  • NAA item 1711757, J2774 W5489 Brisbane, Water Street Drill Hall - Sergeant’s mess.
  • Brisbane Courier, 1880–1933
  • The Courier Mail, 1933–1954
  • Ford, Dr. Jonathan (Jack), A Brief History of the Site Occupied by the Australian Army’s Gona Barracks, at Kelvin Grove, Queensland, (Brisbane: Ford commissioned report, 1998).
  • Long, Gavin, To Benghazi - Australia in the War of 1939–1945, Series 1 (Army), Vol.1, (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1961).