411TH ENGINEER BASE SHOP BATTALION, U.S. ARMY
BASE SECTION 5
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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visits since 4 July 2001

 

In October/November 1942, Lt. Colonel E.F. Klinke, of General Command HQ, SWPA negotiated with the AWC and the owner of Hull Timber Syndicate to purchase some land bound by Kenny Street and Trinity Inlet in Cairns in far north Queensland. The mill was supplying essential timber for the Australian Defence Forces and would therefore have to stop production during their relocation to new premises. The owner used this to his advantage and sought assistance from Allied Works. This lead to very protracted negotiations for the purchase of the land.

In the meantime, AWC were constructing accommodation and plant facilities for various sections of the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade and the 3rd Engineer Special Brigade.

The sale of the land at Kenny Street was finalised on 25 January 1943. The Hull Timber Syndicate relocated to the railway siding at Wangan near Innisfail.

The existing mill building was converted to a Mess Hut and Company Headquarters by Williams and Hodge, a local private contractor. Another 57 barrack buildings were erected along Dutton Street, Hartley Street and Kenny Street. The AWC also erected facilities for the 2nd Engineer Special Brigade adjacent to the Captain Cook Highway at Trinity Beach.

Company "C" of the 411th Engineer Battalion left San Francisco, USA at 8.30 on 24 December 1942 aboard a Norwegian or Dutch ship. They arrived in Auckland, New Zealand at 6:00 am, on the 18 January1943. They landed in Townsville, north Queensland on 25 January 1943. They stayed at Camp Cluden until 31 January 1943 when they moved by train to Edge Hill in Cairn. They left Cairns on the Liberty Ship, Geo. Eastman,at 10:00 am on 31 May 1944. They unloaded at Milne Bay, New Guinea at 3:pm on 5 June 1944. The left Milne Bay on 4 July 1945 on an Navy APA. They stopped over in T Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea. They then moved on to Manila and Batangas. 

Company  "A" and "B" left on board the Dutch ship "Tabinta" on 7 January 1943.

The 411th Engineer Base Shop Battalion, U.S. Army was based in Kenny Street in Cairns, North Queensland from 1943 to 1944 where their role was to build Landing Craft Vessels (LCVP Barges).

The first units of the 411th Engineer Base Shop Battalion arrived in Cairns on 5 February 1943 on board "Tabinta". They were accommodated temporarily at the Staging Camp at Collins's Paddock at Edge Hill until their barracks were completed. They were located between Collins's house on the hill, Vessey's Farm and Woodward Street. They established lookout locations and machine gun posts on the foothills of Mount Whitfield and Mount Lumley. In the meantime, other battalion members commenced construction the main Higgins Boat Assembly Plant and warehouse on the old mill site in Kenny Street. The 450 foot assembly line was a hive of activity when it was operational.

Company "A" was located on Sheridan Street, while HQ Company and Company "D" was located in an area bounded by Hartley Street, Dutton Street, Kenny Street, and Bunda Street.

One of those who arrived on "Tabinta" on 5 February 1943 was Lt. Frank W. Beasecker, of Co. B. One of his responsibilities was setting up the assembly procedure for the entire plant.


US Army Signal Corps Photo SWPA-43-3979
- via Robert Beasecker

Construction of facilities at the Barge Plant

 


US Army Signal Corps Photo - via Robert Beasecker

Construction of facilities at the Barge Plant

 


Photo:- via Robert Beasecker

Lt. Frank W. Beasecker at far left inspecting one of the LCVP's under construction in Cairns

 


Photo:- via Robert Beasecker

Lt. Frank W. Beasecker in 1942

 

Their first plywood barge was completed on 7 April 1943. It was launched by Joe E. Brown, the famous American actor and comedian. "B" and "C" Company would build the three-ply hull and fit the internal floor. The hull was then cradled on to the monorail to facilitate the installation of armour plating. A Grey marine diesel was fitted, plus propeller, rudder, and various mechanical and electrical fittings. After it was painted, it was then transferred to a specially designed carriage and launched. Its identification number was painted on the barge after it was launched. 7 boats a day would roll off the production line.

 


US Army Signal Corps Photo SWPA-43-5187 - Photo via Robert Beasecker

Men busy at work on the Cairns assembly line

 


US Army Signal Corps Photo SC 184677 - Photo via Robert Beasecker

 Bay Seven of the 36 foot Knocked Down Landing Craft assembly line in Cairns showing
engine installation, coamings, and gun rings on craft during its construction 11 April 1943

 

The cradle assembly was then removed and used to start another new barge. Timber for the barges was supplied by Cairns Timbers Mill Pty. Ltd. in Spence Street, Cairns. The diesel engine and other material was shipped in from America.

On 20 April 1943, Lt. Colonel James E. Bender, the Commanding Officer, approached Captain Rhodes, the RAN Officer in Charge at Cairns for the use of moorings for newly constructed landing barges as follows:-

Lt. Colonel Bender also asked Captain Rhodes for a boat patrol to keep unauthorised boats away from their new barge plant. The dry dock at the barge plant was often used by Allied ships for small repairs or painting jobs. Any landing barges that required attention were put in the dock and then lifted on to the monorail and moved to "A" Company for minor repairs or to the blacksmith or wood or machine shops as appropriate.

Once the demand for LCVP's had subsided, the plant started to construct the much larger Landing Craft Motorised (LCM's). They reduced their 7 day work roster down to a 6 day work roster. This allowed men to travel to Sydney for R & R.

Dances were often held in the PX or Canteen (Hut 16) in Dutton Street. 

The 5211th Engineer Battalion, US Army was established in Cairns in September 1943. It was composed of mostly men who had been reassigned from the 411th Engineer Base Shop Battalion plus some replacements from the USA.

An advance party of the 411th Engineer Base Shop Battalion moved to Milne Bay in April 1944. The remainder of the 411th arrived at Milne Bay on board the Liberty Ship "George Eastman on 5 June 1944. By the time they had left Cairns the 411th had constructed more than 1,000 landing craft. 

General Douglas MacArthur visited the Higgins Boat Assembly Plant on the afternoon of Friday 25 June 1943 having arrived in Cairns at 3:25pm. On the same day he watched a parachute jump by 503rd Parachute Battalion and awarded a Purple Heart to a soldier killed in the jump. He then attended a cocktail party at Hide's Hotel in Cairns followed by a conference with Colonel Smith, M.C. at 8:00 pm.

 


via Robert Beasecker

Thanksgiving Day 25 November 1943 Touch Football match
program between the US Army team and the Australian team

 

 


via Robert Beasecker

List of Players and the score card - looks like we got thrashed!!

 


via Robert Beasecker

Christmas Dinner program from 1943

 


via Robert Beasecker

Inside of the Christmas Dinner Program

 


via Robert Beasecker

Back page of the Christmas Dinner Program

 

While the Battalion was based in Cairns, a young local boy called Brian K. Bartholomew (now known as Brian K. Ryan), was the battalion's Mascot. Brian Ryan is trying to find out more information on the Unit. He still has some photo's and two Uniforms.

He has a document headed, "Order of Battle U.S. Army World War 11" by Shelby L. Stanton which shows the following information:-

Battalion Designation and Type
411th Engineer Special Shop Bn SFPE: 17 Jan 43 Australia: 30 Jan 43 New Guinea: 5 Jun 44 Philippines: 16 Dec 44 - 14,15
SFPE: 2 Feb 46 (redes Engr Shop Bn, 1 Nov 44 in New Guinea)

Formed (Source of Unit)/Inactivation* Active through 1946
17 Aug 42 Cp Edwards Mass as Engr Base Shop Bn/ 4 Feb 46 Cp Stoneman Calif

August 1945 Location
Batangas Philippines

This information was supplied By: Textual Reference Branch, National Archives, Room 2600, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740 -6001, Tel. 301 - 713 - 7250

One of the main things that Brian is trying to find is a unit Roster or list of names and home details of any members of the battalion He is particularly interested in the name of the Bugler during their time based in Cairns.

Joe Garr was a member of Company "C", of the 411th Engineer Base Shop Battalion based in Cairns during WW2.

 

Photos of the 411th's Engineer Base Shop in March 2009

Photo taken from corner of Hartley Street and Bunda Street looking towards Company "D" and HQ Company area

Photo taken from corner of Hartley Street and Bunda Street looking towards HQ Company area

Photo taken from corner of Bunda Street and Kenny Street looking towards Company B area

Photo taken from corner of Bunda Street and Kenny Street looking back towards HQ Company area

Photo taken from corner of Kenny Street and Dutton Street looking back towards HQ Company area

Incitec Pivot buildings on Dutton Street

Incitec Pivot buildings on Dutton Street

Incitec Pivot buildings on Dutton Street

Incitec Pivot buildings on Dutton Street

Incitec Pivot buildings on Dutton Street

WWII Quonset building on Caltex site on Dutton Street

Wharf area Trinity Inlet

Wharf area Trinity Inlet

Wharf area Trinity Inlet

Old foundations beside Incitec Pivot building. Not sure if they are WWII vintage

Old foundations beside Incitec Pivot building. Not sure if they are WWII vintage

Old foundations beside Incitec Pivot building. Not sure if they are WWII vintage

Old foundations beside Incitec Pivot building. Not sure if they are WWII vintage

"Modern" cabling beside old foundation

Wharf area Trinity Inlet

End of Incitec Pivot building

End of Incitec Pivot building

End of Incitec Pivot building

End of Incitec Pivot building

End of Incitec Pivot building

Old pylons in Trinity Inlet

Old pylons in Trinity Inlet

Old pylons in Trinity Inlet

Old concrete possibly from the old Barge Depot

Old concrete possibly from the old Barge Depot

Old concrete possibly from the old Barge Depot

   

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Brian K. Ryan and Joe Garr for their assistance with this home page.

I'd like to thank Robert Beasecker for his assistance with this web page. Robert is the son of Lt. Frank W.  Beasecker, of Co. B.

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"I Didn't Know That - Cairns and Districts Tully to Cape York 1939 - 1946 Service Personnel and Civilians"
by Vera Bradley

"The Odyssey of the 411 Engineer Base Shop Battalion, 1943-1944"
"A Pictorial Narrative of the 411th Engineer Base Shop Battalion in Australia and New Guinea"
By Edwin J.H. Zufelt

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2003

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This page first produced 4 July 2001

This page last updated 15 March 2009