NEWSTEAD HOUSE
BREAKFAST CREEK, BRISBANE, QLD
DURING WW2

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Brisbane WW2 V Now
Newstead House

By Roger R. Marks with Peter Dunn

Only a few copies left

 

A Photo Unit 1, a photographic detachment of the 832nd Signal Service Company, Signal Section, USASOS had their barracks at historic Newstead House at Breakfast Creek during WW2. They were attached to the Photo Laboratory of the Army Pictorial Service, US Army which was located in the nearby historic house "Cintra" at Boyd Street, Bowen Hills adjacent to Luna Park (Cloudland).

The Historical Society of Queensland RHSQ had to vacate its museum at Newstead House to allow the occupation by the 832nd Signal Service Company. RHSQ decided to continue its activities at their headquarters in the city. RHSQ had obtained an office in the Builders Exchange building at 24 Wharf Street, where their monthly meetings were held in the large lecture room in the same building.

Ovid Di Fiore was a member of Photo Unit 1. Prior to living in Newstead House, Ovid had lived for quite a few months in the Hotel Imperial in King's Cross in Sydney. Prior to this they had taken over several offices on the sixth floor of the Bank of New South Wales building in 15 Wynyard Street.  

 


US Army Signal Corps photograph via Ovid Di Fiore

Newstead House during WW2. Note the extra window on the left hand wall
and chimney on that end of the house which is no longer in existence.

 

Newstead House on 4 August 1942, with Breakfast Creek immediately to the
north of it. The famous Breakfast Creek Hotel is directly across the bridge.
To the center left of the photo can be seen the GMH Allison Overhaul
Assembly Plant  "Igloos"
on Sandgate Road, and
Albion Park racetrack can be seen at the top of the photo.
(Photo via Russell Miller
and David Spethman)

 

Newstead House. There are signs of many slit trenches dug in the yards of Newstead House
and at the end of the point there are signs of possible anti-aircraft gun locations. The building in
the north west corner of the property, near the bridge is an air raid shelter. 
(Photo via Russell Miller
and David Spethman)

On 30 January 2005, I received an e-mail from Ovid Di Fiore, who was a member of the Photo Unit 1, a photographic detachment of the 832nd Signal Service Company who lived in Newstead House and worked in the Photographic Laboratory in "Cintra" at Boyd Street, Bowen Hills. Ovid sent me a number of US Army Signal Corps photographs that he has in his possession showing Newstead House and "Cintra" during WW2.

These are truly historical photographs that probably have never been seen before in Australia. These photographs were featured in a number of events at Newstead House in August 2005 associated with the VP60 Celebrations.

Ovid lived in Newstead House from late Feb 1944 to late June 1944. While he was there he was totally unaware of the existence of the Breakfast Creek Hotel just over the bridge. The 832nd Signal Service Company had originally arrived at Newstead House on 15 August 1942.

Ovid Di Fiore

 


Photo:-  Ovid Di Fiore

Stretcher beds used by the men of the 832nd Signal Service Company inside Newstead House

 


Photo:-  Ovid Di Fiore

Playing volley ball on the lawns of Newstead House during WW2

 


Photo:-  Ovid Di Fiore

The men of the 832nd Signal Service Company reading on the veranda of Newstead
House. "Blackie" their Labrador mascot can be seen in the foreground.

 


Photo:-  Ovid Di Fiore

Relaxing on the veranda of Newstead House during WW2.

 


Photo:-  Ovid Di Fiore

The foyer of Newstead House during WW2. That hole in the wall at the right of the
photograph is still there!. Note the fireproof door at the left of the photograph. It was
mounted on wheels. The room behind that door originally also had a concrete floor.

 

Ovid Di Fiore's mother once sent him a tin of cookies. Ovid shared them with his buddies and he suggested that they would taste better if they were dipped in wine. So, out came a bottle of wine and they all started dunking their biscuits in the wine. “Blackie”, their black Labrador mascot, begged for some biscuits from each of the men. Ovid said “He ended up staggering about, his eyes rolling about, drunk from the effects of the wine! He finally wandered off into a corner and fell asleep, as most drunks do.”

Ovid still has over 150 letters that he had written to his parents during WW2. An extract from a letter from Ovid to his parents dated 27 Feb 1944:-

"I am now in Australia, sitting in the quarters of our lab. The house where we sleep is situated in a spacious park with the city all around us.“

An extract from a letter from Ovid to his parents dated 31 March 1944:-

"All the boys sleep in a house (“Newstead House”) situated in a neat little park handy to the trams and buses. The food is quite good and usually there is plenty of it. We eat in a large mess hall (Luna Park) which is right next to our lab building (“Cintra”). Our lab is also in a house not far from our living quarters (“Newstead House”) and overlooks the surrounding area from the top of a hill. The only unpleasant feature of its location is that, when I miss the truck bringing the boys to breakfast, I must trudge up the hill..."

An extract from a letter from Ovid to his parents on 16 May 1944:-

“I am sitting on the back porch of our quarters which used to be a museum but has been inhabited by the boys of our outfit ever since they arrived here"

Ovid told me that all the rooms at Newstead House were used for sleeping. In one of his letters home, Ovid complained there were no desks. They had no chairs except for those on the veranda. To socialise they would sit on their “cots” (stretcher beds). If they had a party they would move the “cots” against the walls or into another room.

In an e-mail from Ovid he stated:-

“I recall few parties at Newstead House. Most of them did not involve others than the group of us who lived there. They were more in the nature of get-togethers where we would drink some warm Australian beer and relax of an evening. Nothing boisterous or misbehaving in any way. Quite innocuous but nevertheless fun.”

There were no kitchen facilities at Newstead House for the men. While working at the Photo Lab in “Cintra”, they would eat their meals “in a large mess hall” in the adjacent camp at Luna Park (Cloudland). At other times, they ate at the mess facilities at the Chemical Warfare School in Crosby Park on the other side of Albion Park racecourse.

Ovid was given an assignment to photograph General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz on 27 Mar 1944. Ovid told me about this assignment as follows:-

“Only 2 photographers were present - myself, representing the US Army and another Navy photographer, representing the US Navy. We had to wait 3 days before we were permitted to go upstairs to MacArthur's headquarters. We were ushered into a waiting room before we were allowed to enter the meeting room. As we walked in, MacArthur put up his hand and said "I'll give you four minutes", Not five, mind you, but four !”

 


US Army Signal Corps Photo # SC 190409

General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Nimitz in GHQ, SWPA
on the 8th Floor of the AMP building
in Brisbane on 27 March 1944.
I believe this is a photograph taken by my friend Ovid Di Fiore. 

 

Ovid told me that the Laboratory closed in January 1945. Ovid's friend Norman Dannen and the rest of the unit flew to Hollandia. Norman's plane, a C-47 Dakota, had engine trouble and had to touch down in Cooktown in tropical north Queensland. It had on board all the equipment, supplies and gear from the photo lab at "Cintra". After repairing the engine, they continued on to Hollandia.

Over the years there have been stories about a small photo laboratory being located in the ceiling of the bathroom of Newstead House. When the ceiling was refurbished it was noticed that it was a different construction to the rest of the house. So far David Gibson, Director of Newstead House, has been unable to confirm this story. Is it true, or is it another one of those many urban myths? I believe it is an urban myth.

The 94th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment dug in their four .30” calibre anti-aircraft guns at the point at the end of Newstead Park in about April 1942. A searchlight unit from the 94th Coast Artillery Battalion was based on the higher ground in Newstead Park during WW2. I believe they may have had two searchlights in Newstead Park.

It is believed that an Australian Searchlight Unit of the 56 Battery Royal Australian Engineers (RAE) was located in Newstead Park from about 1944.

The 113th Light Anti-aircraft Regiment was the first unit to man a 40mm Bofors Gun on the end of the point in Newstead Park. The 155th Battery of the 113 LAA first manned the gun at about 0800 hours on 22 August 1942. When the 113 LAA moved out, their gun site was taken over by 605 Troop of the 114 Light Anti-aircraft Regiment. They operated the 40mm Bofors gun in Newstead Park from about Jun/Jul 1943. The men of 605 Troop comprised:-

Phil Carne (Gun Sergeant)
Ted Costello * (Bombardier)
Bill Costello *
Mick McMenamin
Cliff McGrath
Jack Jones
Freddy Stubbins
George Worrall
Dave White
Ernie Crew

* brothers

They camped on the ground in the original bandstand in Newstead Park. 

 

The original bandstand in which the men of the 114 LAA camped

 

Today's bandstand in Newstead Park

 

Ernie Crew of 605 Troop of the 114th told me that the Bofors gun was right on the point and was already dug in when they arrived in Jun/Jul 1943. They altered the gun site quite a few times with camouflage. He remembered seeing the race horses at Albion Park racecourse. They were not allowed to go to the Breakfast Creek Hotel.

Ernie Crew said they had another gun site directly across the river in Bulimba. Ernie said they had a boring time while they were in Newstead Park. Half of them would stay on the gun site while the other half went into town. Ernie never went up to Newstead House. He did however befriend one of the Americans living in Newstead House, a fellow he seems to remember was called "Norm". Ovid had a friend called Norman Dannen who was also at Newstead House but on checking it seems it must have been another "Norm" that Ernie had befriended.

Ernie Crew told me about another interesting person he observed while he was in Newstead Park:- “There used to be a chap that used to come down on a Sunday and put his boat just out on the point and he’d pull up a few fish there, he’d never miss. Every Sunday he’d come down, and put his line there.” 

 

Ernie Crew remembered the Draughts square in the park. Ernie told me:-

“The old boys used to come down and play Draughts on the big square in the park.”

 

Ernie said they fired two live rounds from their gun while in Newstead Park. Ernie remembers an incident at Camp Chermside before they moved to Newstead. Ernie said “They were using live ammunition and they used to sight anything going along the road. One was a bus, but inevitably they have to take the pin out, and one went off out there. Towards the bus. It didn't hit it luckily! It just disappeared. Don’t know where it went!!”

Ted Costello of the 114 Light Anti-aircraft Regiment said they were still involved in a little bit of training while at Newstead Park. Ted said they did their initial training at Camp Chermside with 2 pieces of timber (no guns!). Ted said it was more or less a holiday for them while they were at Breakfast Creek.

Ted Costello told me “We had a darn good gun site cause we all knew each other. My brother Bill was on the Fast Traverse Wheel. I was in charge of the Predictor. Billy Fletcher had a gun site straight opposite us. And they got a boat somewhere or another and used to come across.”

The 651 Light Anti-aircraft took over the 40mm Bofors gun site in Newstead Park when the 114 Light Anti-aircraft Regiment moved north. They were the last unit to man the gun site in Newstead Park. The 651 Light Anti-aircraft also had guns at:-

Whinstanes
Bowen Hills (Cloudland)
On a farm at Myrtletown

The Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) also spent some time in Newstead Park. An extract from a Diary of someone in “C” Company, No. 4 Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps reads:-

“10 June 1943 Compulsory Parade of whole Company in Orderly Room. 79 Present.”

“13 June 1943 Thursday – Company transported to Newstead Park to meet Bofors officers and arrange training

In January 2004, 71 year old Rosa Hocking, told me that her family had lived in Breakfast Creek since the late 1800's. She knows Newstead House and Newstead Park very well. She grew up playing in Newstead Park. She can remember when the Americans were there. There was an old WW1 rusting "Big Bertha" gun right on the point. Rosa and the other children used to slide down its barrel. Rosa said that  there were tunnels built under the point and she believes they went back to Newstead House. Rosa confirmed that she had been in these tunnels when she was young.

The BCC built a concrete and brick-walled design of Air Raid Shelter in Newstead Park. It was BCC Air Raid Shelter No 144. It was located near Breakfast Creek adjacent to the original bridge. It was probably removed to make way for the new road bridge. There were over 250 air raid shelters built in Brisbane by the BCC during WW2.

Legend has it that the Battle of the Coral Sea was masterminded from Newstead House. I have heard a similar “story” about a house on the side of Castle Hill in Townsville. At the time of the Battle, General Douglas MacArthur was still located in Melbourne. Perhaps the RAN or US Navy may have occupied Newstead House for a short while before the 832nd Signal Service Co. arrived on 15 Aug 1942. US Naval activities only started in earnest in Brisbane on evening of 14 April 1942 when USS Griffin (mother ship) and her company of submarines tied up at New Farm. Prior to this, there was only a US Naval Liaison Office located in Brisbane comprising 1 Officer and 1 Yeoman. Construction work for the US Naval Base did not start until 11 May 1942 (after the Battle of the Coral Sea). So was this a true story, or just another one of those many urban myths?

There was a murder in Newstead Park during WW2. I believe it may have happened on 13 April 1942.

 

Can anyone help me with more information on
Newstead House or Newstead Park during WW2?

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Russel Miller and David Spethman for their assistance with this home page. I'd also like to thank Ovid Di Fiore, a member of the Photographic Detachment of the 832nd, for his kind assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCES

"Brisbane WW2 v Now - Book 1 - Newstead House"
by Roger R. Marks with Peter Dunn

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

I need your help

Copyright

©  Peter Dunn 2015

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any information or photographs


"Australia @ War"
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This page first produced 11 January 2004

This page last updated 28 August 2015