United States 44th General Hospital
Prisoner Of War (POW) medical station
- Medical facility
Church Road (cnr Nora Road), Jensen 4818
The United States (US) 44th General Hospital at Black River was established with 1000 beds. This could increase to 1500 in an emergency and the site was planned for 4500, though this did not occur. The location was believed to be ideal due to the natural landscape of the gum trees and the view of the surrounding hills. The slope of the terrain afforded natural drainage, unlike the 12th and 13th Station Hospitals in Townsville. The buildings were of a specially designed 'tropical type' to suit the climate and were shipped pre-fabricated to the site.
It was considered far enough from the city to be removed from noise, but provided good access with a sealed road to Townsville nearby, a railroad siding on the Cairns-Townsville railway within a mile, and the Bohle air strip four and a half miles away.
Construction of the US 44th General Hospital at Black River commenced in November 1943, with concrete slabs being laid for the wards in December. The Queensland Main Roads Commission was tasked with the preparation of roads, paths and drainage at the site and delivered concrete for the paved areas. Delays in the shipping of prefabricated buildings from Sydney, meant the project, including roads and sewage, took seven months to complete.
By the time the hospital was completed, the entire United States Army hospital program in the Townsville region (Base Section Two) had been deactivated and combined to establish the US 44th General Hospital at Black River. This resulted in it becoming the largest United States military hospital based in north Queensland.
The hospital became operational in February 1944. In May 1944 the US 63th Station Hospital at Gordonvale closed with patients transferring to Black River. Other hospitals to close in the May-June period and transfer patients to US 44th General Hospital at Black River include; 12th Station Hospital at Mysterton and 13th Station Hospital at Aitkenvale. Buildings were also transferred to this hospital from the 85th Station Hospital at Majors Creek/Woodstock which had ceased operation in January 1944, with one converted to a Chapel.
Japanese prisoners of war on route to southern internment camps were brought to this hospital for ailments and general health checks.
In October 1944 the 44th General Hospital departed and the 89th Hospital took over, eventually closing in 1945.
Several of the hospital ward’s slab foundations and connecting paths now located on private property, can still be seen via satellite imagery near the corner of Church Road and Nora Road, Black River.
Pearce, Howard and The State of Queensland (Environmental Protection Agency) 2009, WWII-NQ A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of North Queensland during World War II, Queensland Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.
Base Two, The Bayonet of Australia, Volume One, Notes from American War Records of World War Two, Vol 1. [Typescript held in North Queensland Collection, James Cook University].
Base Two, The Bayonet of Australia, Volume One, Notes from American War Records of World War Two, Vol 3 Chaplains’ Office. [Typescript held in North Queensland Collection, James Cook University].
Queensland. Main Roads Commission & Queensland. Main Roads Commission 1949, The History of the Queensland Main Roads Commission during World War II, 1939–1945, Govt. Printer, Brisbane.
Ray Holyoak (contributing author).