Why This Site
is three quarters of a century since the 84th and 55th U.S. Navy Construction Battalions (CB's - Seabees) built the Mobile Number 9 U.S. Navy hospital at Camp Hill on vacant land behind the Camp Hill hotel. This very large hospital was part of the American World War Two effort against the
Japanese. It covered the area now containing Arrol, Errey, Ascham, Morven, Aubrey and Arrowsmith Streets and accommodated up to 3000 people.
After the war, War Service Homes purchased the area. Ex-servicemen bought the plots and built houses for their families.
One of the ex-servicemen was my father Bill Morgan, who, with my mother Jean, moved there in 1952.
was probably typical of ex-servicemen in that area, having served at the
siege of Tobruk and fought at Shaggy Ridge and Milne Bay. One of our
neighbours had been a commando in Timor. They all shared the relief and
appreciation of being able to settle down and raise their families - there was a strong spirit of mutual support in the community.
Children in the neighbourhood had grown up knowing of the wartime
American hospital, and had seen some remnants of the camp's foundations.
There was also the unusual layout of the streets, with sweeping curves
and a number of "Y" junctions, unlike the nearby rectangular layout. By
the end of the 1990's memories had faded, and I had given little thought to the wartime use of the area where I had grown up.
I bought my parents' old house, and when new neighbours asked in June 2001 about the area's history I realised that all I knew about the American hospital was that, well, it had been there.
I decided to find out what I could.
With my old school friend John Cotter, we set about searching the Internet and the libraries. There was very little information in the local library and nothing in the State library. The Carina BCC library put us in touch with Judy Rechner, historical researcher, who was able to tell us some details, including the fact that part of the area had been used for sporting fields during the 1930's. Judy also suggested we try the BCC Archives, from where I was able to purchase a 1946 aerial photo of the site, showing the surrounding area and the layout after most of the buildings had gone.
From the Internet (Peter Dunn WebPages Ozatwar) we were able to find out two possible names for the camp. These possibilities were "Mobile 9 at Belmont" and "Fleet Hospital 109 at Cannon Hill?” These subsequently
turned out to be the same site behind the Camp Hill hotel - the name had
changed in 1944.
We also came across the U.S. Navy website, and discovered that there was
a Bureau of Medicine and Surgery page. With the two possible names to go
on, an email to their contact point produced a quick response. There followed several emails and phone calls as we gathered further information, leading to the arrival of an envelope containing copies of WW2 Navy documents about the hospital. Unfortunately there were no photographs.
From this we started to compile the history of the hospital from June 1943 to February 1945, and decided to put up a website as the best way to give people access to this part of the history of Camp Hill.
Our first web page effort was along the lines of "got to start somewhere". The only photo was the 1946 aerial shot, and the free web page hosting service closed down shortly after we had everything working. We then moved the site to Optus and progressively added further information and photos.
I also contacted retired Major Bill Bentson, ex U.S. Army (WW2 onwards) who lived at Toowong.
Bill was able to provide more information, a couple of photocopied photographs and contact names of Australian women who had been civilian employees of the hospital.
Contacting these women was a very satisfying aspect of the research. They were able to supply photos and reminiscences, and were pleased that the history was being saved.
In February 2002, I wrote to the local paper advising the web page details. This resulted in a number of contacts, including one from Peter Nunan of the Queensland Maritime Museum. He had been researching the WW2 U.S. submarine base at New Farm and told me there were some photos of the Camp Hill hospital in the U.S. National Archives. We were able to obtain these plus more details of the buildings.
Researching the history has been an interesting exercise in just what
information is available when at the start it appears nothing is known.
It is surprising the twists and turns that lead to information flowing in.
We are grateful to the following for providing help, encouragement and information
André Sobocinski (US Navy Bureau of Medicine Navy History)
Staff at the Brisbane City Council Archives
First site written Nov 2001
Updated May 2002 (building details & plan)
Updated June 2003 (info on postwar use)
Updated July 2006 (addition of Sept 1944 Magazine)
Updated Sept 2007 (addition of August 1944 Magazine)
New website written Sept 2017