US Army Port Offices (Water Transport Division) and Troop Movement Office

Brett’s Wharf

Naval/port facility
Brisbane City

Kingsford Smith Drive, Hamilton 4077

After the arrival of the US forces in Australia and movement of Japanese forces towards Port Morseby, the need to ship men and equipment north from Brisbane became critical.

Existing shipping facilities at Brett’s Wharf, Hamilton Wharf and Newstead Wharf allowed the Allied forces to dock in Brisbane, though the facilities were expanded to meet the increased requirements. Brett’s Wharf was the main shipping facility for in-bound troops and those bound for New Guinea and other northern parts. Crated and deck cargo air craft bound for assembly facilities at Eagle Farm airfield were unloaded there.


Built by company Brett & Co., Brett’s Wharf served as the unloading point for USAAF aircraft destined for assembly at Eagle Farm airfield. The wharves in the Hamilton reach of the Brisbane River represented the predominant trend in the development of the Port of Brisbane, which was the provision of port facilities by private commercial interests.

It was the main point of departure for the so-called US 'Liberty ships', and for the US Army transport fleets. It held the US Army’s Port Offices and Water Transport Division and the Troop Movement Office. Brett’s Wharf and Hamilton Wharf were operated jointly by the US Army’s Base Section 3 Port Command. It utilised the existing docks, warehouses and 40-ton crane but provided the labour force and the equipment such as modern forklifts. The US Army Port Commander had his office at Brett’s Wharf.

The USAFIA had been making use of merchant marine freighters from San Francisco but it was inadequate for the task and the Army acquired its own merchant fleet as part of the Army Transport Service, (which later became the Army Transportation Corps). Twenty-one freighters from the Dutch shipping line Koninklijke Paket-vaart Maatschappij (KPM), having fled to Australia after the fall of Java, were chartered by the ATS, and became the nucleus of what was known as the 'X Fleet'. The vessels ferried men and equipment between Australia and New Guinea throughout the war. Both fleets were armed with whatever weapons could be obtained locally or even salvaged by the Small Ships Supply-Section. The fleet grew until it included 19 Baltic Coaster or N3 types, 15 concrete ships, 20 Liberty ships, and 33 of the coastal C1 or 'Knot' type. Many of these ships also tied up at Dalgetty’s wharf when in Brisbane.

Another fleet of smaller shallow draught vessels was assembled by the US Army for work amongst the reefs and isolated landing places of New Guinea. It was known as the ’s Fleet' and was made up of trawlers and schooners and other small boats that could be found and crewed. This fleet was apparently referred to as the 'catboat flotilla.' Many Australians and New Zealanders crewed the vessels as part of the Civilian Branch of the ATS Water Division, while some crew actually enlisted in the US forces.


US Army Telephone Directories Oct. 1943 & May 1944

Grover’s U.S. Army ships and Watercraft of World War II

Roger R. Marks, Brisbane WW2 v Now, Vol. 7, “Brisbane River - upstream from Brett's", (Brisbane: Marks, 2005).

United States Army Services of Supply, Headquarters Sub Base Three - Australian Base Command, (Brisbane: US Army, February 1946).