US NAVY SAWMILL
AT COOLOOLABIN,
YANDINA AREA, QLD
DURING WW2

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visits since 22 August 2005

 

The 55th US Navy Construction Battalion (55th Seabees) arrived in Brisbane on 25 March 1943. The Seabees used local materials for their many projects in the Brisbane area but obtaining them provided a problem of the first magnitude. At first timber was practically impossible to obtain and in order to correct this situation a logging party from Company "B" was sent to a sawmill near Yandina, some 80 miles from Brisbane in southern Queensland to cut logs. 640,000 feet of logs were cut and yarded, and by this arrangement, the Seabees were able to secure sufficient timber for their projects.

The 55th Seabees were involved in Naval construction activities in New Guinea. The sawmill in the Yandina area was referred to in official US Navy documents as the "Yandina Logging Job". The Yandina Sawmill was to have an output of 7,000 board feet of timber per day. 

There were a few old sawmills in the township of Yandina itself, one being located in the gully to the right of the Yandina School of Arts building (Wilkinson's Sawmill) and the other being located behind the School of Arts building (Pascoe's Sawmill). However local historian Audienne Blyth told me that the US Navy Sawmill was located at Cooloolabin which is located about 12 kms from Yandina. 

Yandina School of Arts building - 21 August 2005

The Cooloolabin Sawmill was owned by Albert Foster since 1935. The site of the former sawmill is now covered by the Cooloolabin Dam. Some of the workers at the sawmill were Johnny Law and brothers Ronnie, Digger and Frank Brett. The Brett brothers had all tried to enlist but were refused as they worked in an essential industry. In 1936 the Queensland Forestry Department, through the Sawmills Licensing Act, gave preference for log supplies to sawmills that were remote from railway lines. Thus the Cooloolabin Sawmill was given sole access to Forest 318. The sawmill at Yandina was denied access to this forest until 1945 when the Cooloolabin Sawmill was relocated to Sunday Creek between Jimna and Yednia.

Seven houses were located near the Cooloolabin sawmill for the workers at the mill. In 1942, one of these houses was inhabited by 8 timber workers and a US Navy cook from the 55th Seabees. The US Navy had their own separate large camp at Cooloolabin.

Audienne said that cherry pie, like the other luxuries, was sometimes offered to the local families of sawmill workers. They were also given hams, tins of all sorts of fruits, sugar, lollies, and cigarettes. The Americans lived well and even had their own tinned butter. Local dairy farmer, Arthur Johnson, delivered fresh milk and cream daily to the Americans.

Turpentine and ironbark trees were logged by the Americans, some of them up to 80 feet long. They were turned into long piles and used to construct wharves at forward US Bases in the Pacific such as Guadalcanal. These large logs were trucked to Brisbane. Vic Foster, Albert's son, would also take large quantities of sawn timber to Yandina Railway Station. This timber was used by the American and Australian military in Brisbane. The Cooloolabin Sawmill filled one special order for four turpentine piles 125 feet long. 

Cooloolabin Hall - 21 August 2005

 

Picnic area beside Cooloolabin Hall

 

Adjacent tennis court

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Leonie McGaw, Treasurer and Newsletter Editor of the Yandina RSL sub-branch for her assistance with this web page. I'd also like to thank Audienne Blyth for her assistance with this web page.

 

REFERENCES

"Yandina Women Remember"
by Audienne Blyth

"Yandina 125 Years"
compiled by Audienne Blyth

 

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 Peter Dunn 2005

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This page first produced 22 August 2005

This page last updated 24 August 2005