Causeway Red Light District
US prophylactic station
Brodie Street (formally Ford Street), Hermit Park 4812
The existence of brothels in Townsville was known long before the commencement of WWII. However the large influx of American and Australian soldiers saw this 'service' expand considerably.
Townsville’s “red light district” was situated in Ford Street, behind the Causeway Hotel. A line of timber 'workers cottages' provided services to Australian and American serviceman alike. This included African-American serviceman until most of these segregated companies were transferred to New Guinea.
The locality was named after the nearby 'causeway' embankment and bridge that enabled travel to the city.
Nine houses occupied this side of Ford Street in 1942. However, by 1952 there were only five. At least two were destroyed by arson in 1945 and one residence was washed away by the 1946 flood. In an effort to erase the 'reputation' of the area, several Ford Street properties were purchased and removed by Townsville City Council. In c1969 this section was renamed Brodie Street and with the removal of the remaining houses, became vacant land.
In late 1942, Tom Aiken (Deputy Mayor of Townsville) was riding his bike home from the city when he noticed a crowd of soldiers behind the Causeway Hotel. At the centre were eight US Military Police with pistols drawn and several shot and injured Australians lying nearby. With colourful language, Aiken’s introduced himself and threatened the MP’s with official retribution. They then quickly departed and Aiken promptly forwarded telegrams to the Australian Minister for the Army and the American Commander in Chief detailing the incident.
Although the recreational facilities of the Causeway Hotel and Ford Street was likely the scene of many disturbances, a note in the Townsville HQ 9 diary states that on 28 November 1942:
The Causeway Hotel…has been placed out of bounds to all troops.
The contraction of venereal disease by serviceman was taken seriously as it meant reduced operational capability. In July 1943 a new method resulted in the apprehension of approximately 99% of all cases. The following extract reveals the extent the authorities took in reducing the spread of venereal disease:
Essentially the modus operandi was thus. As soon as a venereal disease case was admitted to a hospital, the serviceman was interviewed by a MP Investigator. Whereas descriptions were more frequently than not extremely sketchy, a file of all women of doubtful character enabled the investigator to identify the suspect in the majority of cases.
Under the venereal diseases regulations of Queensland, any qualified medical practitioner can certify that he has reasonable grounds to believe a woman was infected with a venereal disease. Therefore when such a subject was located, the civilian police obtained an order from a Stipendiary Magistrate…If upon examination, she was found to be infected another order was secured for her detention. She was then placed in a special ward of the State Hospital and treated there until cured. All known prostitutes and women of doubtful character were under constant surveillance of the police. A new venereal disease ward was constructed at Townsville General Hospital, and thus afforded sufficient space for the hospitalization of these cases.
A 'blue light' prophylactic station was manned on a 24 hour basis at both the Causeway and the Strand. Over 2600 'treatments' were administered in the July-September quarter during 1943 in Townsville.
HQ 9 Anti-Aircraft Operation Rooms [Townsville] (HQ 9 AA Ops Room) [Whole Diary - 6 items] (Sep 1942 - Nov 1943; Jan 1944 - Feb 1945), AWM 52, 4/15/6.
Routine orders-Artillery: anti-Aircraft Defences, Townsville, AWM 54, 707/9/59.