Prior to the outbreak of World War Two, the swampy land on Youngs Road, Hemmant was property of local farmer Henry Thomas Carlill. However, with the United States of America entering the war following the bombing of Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941 and the relocation of General MacArthur’s headquarters to Brisbane in July 1942, the swampy land was requisitioned by the US Army. A small amount of compensation money was given to the Carlill family; approximately £10 for each calendar month as well as an extra £7 every six months.
As the headquarters for the important South West Pacific Campaign, Brisbane experienced an intensive level of construction throughout the city with camps, airfields, communications facilities, industrial buildings, docks and recreational facilities being built specifically for the US military. MacArthur’s headquarters were located in the former AMP Building on the corner of Edward and Queen Streets and the US Army established their communications centre in the basement.
An effective communications system was imperative for the Allied campaign to not only transmit and receive messages from areas of conflict in the Pacific, but also to transmit and receive important messages to the US military heads in Washington DC.
The Hemmant site was chosen for its proximity to the mouth of the Brisbane River where a great deal of military activity was occurring, while being only five miles from the headquarters in the city. Additionally, the swampy land was covered in scrub that would provide a good level of camouflage from any possible Japanese reconnaissance planes.
In early 1943 the United States Army Services of Supply, South West Pacific Area’s Corps of Engineers drew up plans for a new transmitting station. The US Army Forces in Australia (USAFIA) constructed several buildings on the site. The largest of these buildings was the brick transmitter hall that remains on the site. The other of extant buildings on the site is the generator building. Several smaller auxiliary buildings were also constructed at this time but no longer remain on the site. In November 1943 the transmitter hall was extended to include another wing and thus making the building a ‘T’ shape.
The Hemmant Transmitter Station worked in conjunction with another smaller communications station established at the same time at a site approximately eight kilometres away at Capalaba. This station received messages from both the areas of conflict within the Pacific and from Washington DC and then sent them on to MacArthur’s headquarters. This station still exists.
The 832nd Signal Service Company, US Signal Corps, ran both the Hemmant and Capalaba stations and both were in use twenty-four hours of the day. The Americans employed Australian civilian women as teletype operators at the station.
The latest in communications technology was installed at the Hemmant site. The equipment on the site consisted of radio wirelesses, teleprinters, amplifiers and an antennae system on 100 foot steel towers. A cable ran from the transmitter hall into MacArthur’s headquarters. All equipment has been removed from the site. When the equipment was removed from the former generator building three names of US Army engineers who assisted in the construction were discovered written into the a slab of concrete, Sergeants BE Norris, HV Fowler and RJ Krotky. This is important as evidence of the presence of the United States Army personnel on the Hemmant site.
In December 1946 the US Army handed the site to the Commonwealth Government. Its control was given to the Post Master General’s Department and arrangements were made for the entire property to be bought from the Carlill family. With this accomplished, the site continued to run as a radio station until the late 1980s when the land was sold to private investors. Recently, the transmission hall has been converted into a house and the generator building is currently a storage shed.