US ARMY 12TH STATION HOSPITAL AND MORTUARY,
BASE SECTION TWO
IN CHAPMAN STREET, MYSTERTON ESTATE,
TOWNSVILLE, QLD, DURING WWII

 

12stn.jpg (31854 bytes)

 

The US 12th Station Hospital arrived in Townsville by train from Brisbane on 18 March 1942.

The US Army 12th Station Hospital was located in 30 houses that were commandeered by the Commonwealth on about 25 March 1942 in Chapman Street, Mysterton Estate in Townsville. The first four patients moved in on 29 March 1942.

Lieutenant Robert Melloy of Australian Army Hirings Section No. 1 L of C, assisted with the acquisition of these properties in Chapman Street.

Using Department of Interior plans, staff from the Townsville Harbour Board and US Seabees, knocked out walls and rebuilt the structures to establish the base hospital and mortuary to serve the estimated 120,000 United States personnel based in the Townsville area at that time.

The houses were connected together by walkways. The hospital had 480 beds. The US Army carried out extensive drainage works in the area of Chapman Street to prevent the breeding of malaria carrying mosquitoes. The Yanks described the hospital as follows "two rows of Townsville houses, erected off the ground on stilts so that air could circulate more freely.  One of the houses was the mess hall.

 


Photo: "Chuck" Hathorn, Photographer for 4th Air Depot Group

US Army 12th Station Hospital in Chapman Street.

 


Photo: "Chuck" Hathorn, Photographer for 4th Air Depot Group

Walkway connecting the houses in Chapman Street. Looks like a tent
in the back yard of the house in the far right hand side of the photo

 

The houses on the right hand side of the street were used as wards and those on the left hand side were used as laundries, laboratories, kitchens and storage areas for medical supplies. Some of the American doctors and the nurses lived in a second block of commandeered houses. The rest of the doctors lived in some private houses. The male support staff lived in tents.

No. 14 Chapman St. was used as an Asylum for shell-shocked soldiers. Bars were fitted on all the windows in the house. It was owned by a young optometrist and his wife.

No. 16 Chapman St. was used as the morgue. A cold room was installed to hold the bodies. 

No. 20 Chapman St. was used as the X-Ray Theatre. The interior of that house was painted black. 

No. 33 Chapman St. had a communal shower and a toilet block built at the rear of the house. The owner Mr. Reuben Redhead found the foundations for these out buildings were still there when he reoccupied his property.

In about March 1942 some families in Townsville voluntarily evacuated after the Japs started occupying Lae and Salamaua. One lady who had moved inland to Charters Towers returned to her house to collect some more of her belongings to find that it had been requisitioned by the 12th Station Hospital. As she finished packing her belongings, patients on stretchers were waiting to be moved in. Others who had not evacuated from Townsville were forced to leave their houses to allow the military to take them over to set up the hospital.

Residents were apparently not able to return to their homes until 1946.

Some of the original residents who had to move out of Chapman Street were Mr. Reuben Redhead (No. 33) and Mrs Marjorie Wright (No. 5). In June 1991, Mr & Mrs Ron Keiry, were the only original residents of Chapman Street still living in the street.

In June 1942, some nurses from the 17th Station Hospital were sent immediately to the 12th Station Hospital in Townsville after they had arrived in Melbourne on 4 June 1942 minus their supplies.

On 28 July 1942 Captain James H. Park, MC the Commanding Officer of the 3rd Medical Laboratory left Brisbane for Townsville to make arrangements for camp and laboratory buildings for an Advance Section to open a Laboratory for Base Section 2 in Townsville. 2 Officers and 20 Enlisted Men left Brisbane with laboratory equipment and supplies moved to Townsville by train. They were joined by the Commanding Officer and another officer upon their arrival in Townsville. From 13 August through to the 31 August 1942, they uncrated the equipment and supplies and set up their Laboratory in the vicinity of the 12th Station Hospital in Chapman Street, Mysterton Estate, which provided their quarters and rations.

In May 1992, the year of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea major ceremonies were held in Townsville to commemorate those times. A street party was held in Chapman Street on Sunday 3 May 1992.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"Time will Tell - Memoirs of a Kangaroo Point Kid - R.S. Melloy"
As told to Diane Melloy

 

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This page first produced 5 July 1998

This page last updated 13 January 2017