Australian Advanced Ammunition Depot
7 Australian Advanced Ammunition Depot, 12 Australian Advanced Ordnance Depot, 73 Australian Field Ammunition Depot
- Ammunition facility
Baronta Siding, Flinders Highway, Hughenden 4816
Dispersal of ammunition replenishment centres away from Townsville during the crisis months of early 1942, saw the establishment of US ordnance depots at Torrens Creek and Kurukan, and a temporary Australian Army ammunition depot on the Hughenden golf links. During the latter half of 1942 a permanent Australian Advanced Ammunition Depot was constructed east of Hughenden, at Baronta siding on the Townsville-Mount Isa railway. In terms of size and extent, Baronta became one of the largest wartime ammunition depots in north Queensland, exceeded only by the US Kangaroo Ordnance depot at Kurukan north of Townsville.
The Baronta depot, extending northward from the rail siding, contained over 90 fibro-cement and corrugated iron ammunition stores located on concrete slabs; an administrative centre including offices, workshops and a brick laboratory; a camp area; a rations depot and railway spur lines. Today only the concrete slabs remain to show the extent of the complex.
Transfer of ammunition stores from Hughenden to Baronta was underway by June 1942. In early July the Allied Works Council received a first requisition for construction at Baronta siding including the erection of 35 new fibro-cement stores. Apart from relocation of the ammunition dumps which was carried out by the Army, the federal Department of Public Works was allotted the task of supervising erection of the stores using day labour obtained by the Department of Interior. Progress of the building work was delayed on a number of occasions by shortages of men and materials.
Early work in the transfer of ammunition was undertaken by personnel of 12 Advanced Ordnance Depot, accommodated at Hughenden. Completion of permanent accommodation at Baronta was delayed until at least November 1942 due to lack of building materials.
In late November, General Thomas Blamey ordered a survey of the Atherton Tableland district with the intention of using it as a combined rehabilitation and training area for Australian troops fighting in the South-West Pacific. Originally there were plans to locate one Army division in the Charters Towers-Hughenden area, with two divisions sent to the Tableland. This planning would have increased the importance of the Baronta project, but by April 1943 it was decided that all three divisions would be concentrated on the Atherton Tableland.
By mid January 1943, 12 Australian Advanced Ordnance Depot had completed the move from the Hughenden golf links to the new site at Baronta, to be joined by 7 Australian Advanced Armament Depot. Drawings of ammunition storage and camp layout for Baronta, now held by the National Australian Archives, suggest that the depot may have subsequently been occupied by a detachment of 73 Australian Field Ammunition Depot, earlier based at Tolga on the Atherton Tableland.
Pearce, Howard (contributing author).
Allied Works Council (Queensland), AWC Minutes 1942–1945, BP1/1, National Archives of Australia, Canberra.
Peter Nielsen. Diary of WWII North Queensland, Nielsen Publishing, Gordonvale, 1993.
Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.
PD Wilson. North Queensland: WWII 1942–1945, Department of Geographic Information, Brisbane, 1988.