United States 153rd Station Hospital, 105th General Hospital
University of Queensland Gatton Campus (Queensland University)
- Medical facility
Warrego Highway, Lawes 4343
The University of Queensland Gatton Campus was requisitioned by the US Army for the 153rd Station Hospital from March to July 1942. It was used by the 105th General Hospital Unit until July 1944, and some buildings were held by the Australian Army as a Reserve Hospital until 1945.
The campus is located south of the Warrego Highway at Lawes, about 6km east of Gatton. Surviving campus buildings used by the Americans include the Foundation Building and Morrison Hall, at the south end of the campus, and the Sir Leslie Wilson Hall, relocated to the west side of the campus. A purpose built US morgue (now a chapel) is located southwest of Morrison Hall.
Timber wards were once located east of the Foundation Building and Morrison Hall, in the Residential area south of Hall Road. Tents were also located south of the timber wards, in the area of the Hugh Courtney Rugby Oval. A US rubbish dump was located about 50m southeast of the present piggery at the southeast of the campus.
About 600m north of the Warrego Highway, on the west side of the road opposite the campus entrance, is a sewerage treatment works, along with an octagonal concrete pump house (north of the treatment works, east of the road); both built in 1942 during the military occupation of the campus.
The University of Queensland Gatton Campus was established in 1897 as the Queensland Agricultural College, and in the early 1920s it was re-structured as the Gatton Agricultural High School and College. From 1942 to 1944 the College was used as a field hospital by the United States Army, but teaching continued on a reduced scale in new temporary buildings to the northeast of the original campus. College wartime work included the testing of alternative fuels and growing crops of opium poppy, urgently needed for the production of morphine.
In March 1942, 85 acres of the College’s land and the majority of its buildings were transferred to the United States Army. The 153rd Station Hospital, the first operational US Army Hospital in Australia, occupied the site from 15 March until it departed for Port Moresby on 10 July 1942. This unit was later located at Southport Boys School. The 153rd was replaced at Gatton on 11 July by the 105th General Hospital (most of the latter’s staff were drawn from Harvard University), which had arrived in Australia in early June 1942. It was raining the day the 105th arrived, and the campus “…with its old-fashioned wooden buildings and with rain dripping from the deep green foliage of the trees, looked like a scene from a Somerset Maughan’s novel set in a tropical clime".
The 105th operated from the College until July 1944, as the primary military hospital supporting General Macarthur’s South West Pacific campaign. Increasing numbers of US casualties arrived during late 1942 and early 1943, with another large influx arriving in early 1944. The 105th then moved to Biak island in the Dutch East Indies. As well as treating nearly 19,000 patients, the 105th developed particular expertise in the treatment of injuries and illness in the tropics.
The timber 1897 Foundation Building was used as both the administrative headquarters for the US Army and as a laboratory and pharmacy. The timber, brick and stucco 1936 Shelton Hall (now Morrison Hall) was used as the hospital, its dormitories well suited for use as hospital wards, with dental services, X-Ray facilities and operating theatres located on the ground floor. The timber Sir Leslie Wilson Hall, originally a Gymnasium built in 1899, was used by the Americans as a theatre and for church services. The theatre was an important factor in reducing monotony; movies were shown 5 or 6 nights a week, Australian and American performers and entertainers appeared on stage, and officer-and-nurse dances were held there (dances for the enlisted men were held monthly in adjacent towns). The hall was relocated to its present position on the west side of the campus in 1978.
Extensive temporary facilities were erected by the Civil Construction Corps, including nearly two dozen large timber hospital wards, interconnected by covered walkways, on the eastern side of the inner campus. Other buildings erected included quarters for officers and nurses, a post exchange, mess halls, recreation halls, a receiving office and a craft shop. The locality was also enhanced by the formation of gardens and sidewalks.
Contractors included MR Hornibrook Pty Limited and Stuart Bros, and tenders for painting the wards and other buildings were received in September 1942. A large 'tent city' was established to the south of the inner campus, serving as living quarters for soldiers undergoing rehabilitation. Although these facilities no longer exist, a number of more permanent facilities were also constructed during the period of military occupation, including a Sewerage Treatment Works and a Pump House north of the Warrego Highway. The remnants of a rubbish dump established by the US Army exist about 50 metres southeast of the present piggery.
In 1943 a ‘U’-shaped morgue was constructed, used for the examination and preparation of deceased soldiers for transportation back to their families in the United States. In 1944 the two most northerly wings of the building were removed prior to the Americans leaving the College, and the remaining timber and fibrous cement clad section was converted into a small chapel in 1959.
The College repossessed most of its buildings in late 1944, but some were held until 1945 by the Australian Army as a Reserve Hospital. After the war the College continued to operate as both a secondary and tertiary institution until the high school section was closed in 1962. In 1990, the College merged with the University of Queensland.
A cairn and plaque commemorating the use of the College by the United States Army 105th General Base Hospital was erected opposite the main dining hall and was unveiled in 1968. In November 2004 the Remembrance Day service at the campus also commemorated the 60 years since the American’s departure, and a descendent of the original Lone Pine tree was planted near the Foundation Building.
University of Queensland Gatton Campus (Queensland University). Queensland Heritage Register 601672.
The 105th General Hospital: two years Down Under. July 1942-July 1944. Magazine prepared by the Staff of The Post Record. Approved for Publication by the Military Censor of General Headquarters, South West Pacific Area.
Buchanan, Robyn, Historical Report on Gatton College, unpublished manuscript, Buchanan Heritage Services 2002.
Newlands, Leo. A historical tour: the significance of precincts and buildings of the University of Queensland Gatton College, University of Queensland, Gatton 1999.
University of Queensland Gatton Campus Map.
National Archives of Australia, LS222A. Hospital at Gatton for the US Army-Block Plan, 6 June 1942
National Archives of Australia, USM53 PART 1. Tamborine [US Army] Camp (Contained items relevant to Gatton)
Remembrance Day, Links newsletter, Issue 632, 25 November 2004, p.7. University of Queensland.
History News, American Community News newsletter, Summer 2004, p.8. Australian-American Association Brisbane, American Legion and AMCHAM.
Dunn, P. 153rd Station Hospital Base Section 3.