Kelvin Grove Military (Defence) Reserve

Kelvin Grove Training Area (1948), Gona Barracks (1960s)

Military camp
Brisbane City

No. 3, 7, 12, 25 and 26 Gona Parade (and 11 Musk Avenue), Kelvin Grove 4059

The Kelvin Grove Defence Reserve opened in 1913. It was renamed a Military Reserve in 1921. By 1939, it comprised five drill halls, two gun parks, an artillery brigade office, artillery officers’ mess and the Frank Moran Memorial Hall. It was a training centre for artillery, signallers, Royal Australian Engineers (RAE) and the Australian Army Service Corps (AASC- supply) of the part-time Australian Military Forces (AMF). The site comprised an Upper Barracks facing Kelvin Grove Road and a Lower Barracks facing Sylvan Road (Blamey Street). The Lower Barracks was undeveloped land used as a Riding School (stables) and grazing for the AMF units’ horses.

No buildings appeared in the Lower Barracks until 1941. After the arrival of US Forces in Brisbane in 1942, their heavy engineering machinery levelled Kelvin Grove’s hilly, sloping parade ground. They created a sunken road (nicknamed 'The Golden Stairs') connecting the Upper and Lower Barracks.

The artillery units were transferred north in mid-1942. Kelvin Grove became a centre for the training of army engineers and signallers. By the War’s end on 15 August 1945, Kelvin Grove was a major militia training facility for militia units fighting in New Guinea, New Britain, New Ireland and Bouganville.


One of the first units mobilised at Kelvin Grove was the 5th Field (artillery) Regiment. By 13 September 1939, the 42nd and 43rd Batteries had assembled in the Artillery Drill Hall. The 105th and 111th Batteries assembled at the gun parks. That same month, the first motor transport arrived for the artillery. Signals Corps, RAE and AASC militiamen also reached Kelvin Grove. The 9/49th Signals Unit and the 61st Battalion were operating from the 1914 Infantry Drill Hall, where the Regimental Aid Post (RAP) remained until November 1945.

Militia conscription began on 20 October 1939, bringing fresh recruits to Kelvin Grove. A Garage/Workshop was planned in November 1939. Its construction was a response to the army’s motorisation. This building became the Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (AEME) Brisbane area workshops, used by the AEME radar section. US engineers completed this saw-tooth roofed building.

By 1940, the artillery was fully motorised. In 1941, 25 pounders replaced the old 18-pounder guns. Lieutenant Colonels Gordon Kirkwood and Cranston McEachern led the 5th and 11th Field Regiment respectively. In December 1940, each became a two-battery regiment (12 guns). Their third battery (4.5-inch howitzers) was disbanded. During 1940–41, soldiers (e.g. Kirkwood and Eachern) volunteering for AIF service disrupted militia effectiveness. On 11 December 1941, conscription was expanded. Militia service became full-time. The artillery were fully mobilised on 10 January 1942 and, in May, left for northern Australia.

A Post Masters General (PMG) Department (PMG) School for Linesmen-in-Training was built by July 1941 in the Lower Barracks. As the PMG offered to train army signallers with its linesmen, it was granted a-10-year tenure of School. Later, the Lower Barracks was scrub-cleared to accommodate a Signals Corps camp of pre-fabricated huts near the School.

The Lower Barracks held the Headquarters, Commander, 2nd Royal Engineers (CRE) plus a RAE camp housed in 27 pre-fabricated structures. The CRE oversaw all Army construction projects within southeast Queensland. The RAE Maintenance Company provided tradesmen, including Australian Women’s Army Service members, for near-by army projects. By 1943, the RAE Drill Hall was Headquarters, the 2nd South Queensland Line-of-Communications Sub-Area.

The Provost Corps established its Brisbane headquarters in the Artillery Drill Hall. The Riding School was requisitioned by the military police as an emergency detention compound. Overcrowding at these ex-stables saw a military riot erupt amongst the prisoners on 13 January 1943. The AASC Drill Hall was later occupied by the Area Officer, Metropolitan Composite Area.


A Brief History of the site occupied by the Australian Army’s Gona Barracks at Kelvin Grove; 2 NA digital plans
Dr. Jonathan Ford, A Brief History of the Site Occupied by the Australian Army’s Gona Barracks at Kelvin Grove, (Brisbane: Ford, July 1998).
NA files
John Oxley Library photographic collection