Greenslopes Red Cross Hall and Hostel

Australian Red Cross Centre

Type
Recreation/community
Region
Brisbane City

Newdegate and Headfort Streets, Greenslopes 4120

These two timber buildings were built in early1945 as a wartime Red Cross recreation hall and an accommodation hostel. Used to provide entertainment for recuperating service personnel from the adjacent Greenslopes Military Hospital, the hall was a venue for films, dances, concerts and billiards and library services. Unpaid volunteers staffed them. After the war, the Red Cross continued to operate the hall and hostel for the benefit of ex-military patients who were the responsibility of the Commonwealth’s Department of Veteran Affairs.

History

The 1864 Geneva Convention led to the formation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1875. After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Australian Branch of the British Red Cross Society was formed in Melbourne. The Queensland Division was created in 1914. The aims of the Australian Red Cross were to provide comforts for sick or wounded Australian military personnel, to fundraise and to serve in military hospitals through its Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs).

During World War II, services conducted by the Red Cross included hospital visiting, welfare work, vocational training and home help. The valuable role of its VADs was officially recognised in 1942 with the establishment of the Australian Army Military Women’s Service. The VADs became paid members of the Australian Army rather than unpaid volunteers. The pioneering blood transfusion service was another wartime important Red Cross activity. The provision of comforts and other aid for POWs (Allied and enemy), war brides, refugees and service personnel overseas, including nurses continued.

The Red Cross hall and hostel at the corner of Headfort and Newdegate Streets were built on a large block of land that had been purchased by the War Services Commission in 1920. Sixteen acres of this land, bordered by Denman, Newdegate and Nicholson Streets, was transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia in 1941 and used to establish the Army’s 112 General Military Hospital (later Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital). Unlike other Australian military hospitals, the Greenslopes site had not been allocated an on-site Red Cross patient recreation facility. So the Red Cross approached the War Services Commission for use of some of its remaining land in Headfort Street, but the request was rejected. After Queensland Premier Forgan Smith intervened, the Red Cross was allocated some of this Commonwealth Government land.

In December 1944, the Federal Government approved the acquisition of 76 perches at the corner of Newdegate and Headfort Streets for the purpose of building Red Cross facilities, including a hall, library, billiards room, reading rooms, handcraft store, workroom, and storeroom. Construction began soon after. In September 1945, the land titles were transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia. A plaque fixed to the exterior of the hall states: These buildings were provided from funds raised by the voluntary workers of the Red Cross Café - Café profits £70,635 1941–1945. This café was located in the City Mutual Building at 307 Queen Street.

The Red Cross Hall provided recreation services to the 112 General Military Hospital’s patients. Many hundreds of personnel from all three military branches passed through the hospital for medical examination before and after active service, in addition to those treated for medical, surgical or other conditions. The hall was a venue for dances, film screenings, large concerts by well-known entertainers and other services. These included a library that was originally housed near the hospital’s RAAF Ward but was later moved to the Red Cross hall as well as providing billiards tables. The adjacent hostel provided beds for relatives visiting patients from interstate or intrastate.

Volunteers staffed the Red Cross Centre. Many were women who wore the Red Cross uniform complete with hats, gloves, stockings and lace up shoes. The volunteers looked after the library, did office work or “general ward work” such as shopping, taking messages and writing letters for patients. They also cared for relatives visiting patients by providing morning teas for both patients and their visitors.

After the conclusion of World War II in September 1945, the Red Cross Centre continued to provide services for returning and recuperating service personnel.

Source/comments

BCC Heritage Unit citation