Chermside Army Camp observation post
Geebung State School site
- Civil defence facility
- Brisbane City
250 Newman Road (formerly Geebung Road), Geebung 4034
This was an observation platform built by the Army in the tallest tree on a Geebung hill in 1942. It provided views of Moreton Bay and it was one of a series of Army observation posts established across Brisbane’s northern suburbs. While the Geebung observation post continued to be manned until the end of the war, it was an emergency stopgap measure put in place until it could be super ceded by more modern facilities such as a radar station.
Chermside Army Camp opened in October 1940, for the training of units of the Australian Military Forces (the militia or 'Chocko soldiers' as the troops returning from the Middle East nicknamed them). Its initial layout was in Alonzo Sparkes' paddock off Ellison Road.
The Chermside Army Camp’s authorities were keen to maintain community goodwill within the Geebung/Zillmere/Chermside farming districts. So troops training around the districts were ordered to:
…take precautions against damage to crops and gates etc on land used for training purposes. Where possible existing gates will be used and closed after use. Damage to private property will be reported immediately to HQ orderly Room. TREES. Under no circumstances are green trees to be cut down or mutilated in any way.[i]
But this order did not apply to one particular tree in Geebung. At the top of the hill off Geebung (now Newman) Road was Grenning’s paddock. It was named after the pioneer family that had first bought and cleared that block of land in the nineteenth century. By 1941, Grenning’s paddock was owned by a Brisbane Industrial School (now part of QUT Gardens Point campus) teacher named Morgan. Grenning’s paddock later became the site of the Geebung State Primary School.
The tallest wattle tree on the hill in this paddock had its top branches trimmed by the Army in order to build a large observation platform in 1942. A tall, wooden ladder was built leading up to this enclosed platform that was described by local residents as resembling a tree house. This platform gave Army observers a view out to distant Moreton Bay. The observation post was also used for aircraft identification, fire-watching (an important role in districts given over to crops or bushland) and as a signal post. It was one of a number of similar observation posts located across Brisbane’s northern suburbs, including a navigation tower built on a hilltop in West Chermside (now 18 Florentine St) and the requestioned bell tower of the new (built 1941) Pius XII Catholic Seminary off Nudgee Road, Banyo. The observation posts were connected by an army telephone line to the Headquarters of Brisbane Fortress Command located at St. Laurence College on Stephens Road, South Brisbane.
Soldiers from Chermside Camp would stand continuous guard during daylight hours only and watch for sightings of enemy planes or ships. The bored soldiers allowed the local boys (but not the girls it seems) from the districts to climb up to the platform and use the Army’s binoculars to scan the surrounding farmland. As it was a reasonable distance from the Camp’s tent lines, some soldier/musicians were also sent up to Grenning’s Paddock, to undertake their bugle practice.
Local residents have recalled that there was another Army observation post, located in an old house on top of a hill on Ellison Road, Geebung. The local children called it 'the Haunted House". The observation posts were connected to the Chermside Army Camp via telephone lines that the Army signalmen laid along the ground.
At the end of the Second World War in September 1945, observation posts were quickly abandoned or destroyed. The Army observation post in the tree in Grenning’s Paddock was abandoned and its wooden ladder was pulled down and burnt to prevent children from climbing up to the platform in the tree. The tree itself was bulldozed as part of the site preparation for the construction of the Geebung School that opened in 1948.
[i] AWM file, Series AWM54, Item 709/10/16, [Orders Standing (including enemy) - Camp:] Standing Orders Chermside Camp Area, Australian Military Forces Camp Standing Orders by Captain H.E. Hopkins, Commanding 17 Australian Personnel Staging Camp Chermside, January 1946, p 3.
Jonathan Ford, Marching to the Trains - the Chermside Army Camp Remembered, (Brisbane: Ford, 2005).