BULIMBA - APOLLO BARGE ASSEMBLY
BULIMBA, BRISBANE, QLD
|visits since 17 September 2004|
Dennis Burchill describes the establishment of the Apollo Barge Assembly Depot as follows in his April 2004 "Wartime Memories of Bulimba":-
"Big changes were happening on Bulimba also. The yanks were in the process of establishing a barge-making facility alongside Apollo Road. The area that they picked had a large tea tree swamp in the middle of the land. They solved this problem by sending all their heavy earth moving equipment to the area we knew as “first gully” (now occupied by the Exclusive Brethren’s church) and taking enough of soil from the hill to fill the swamp in. Another problem they had was the fact that there were about twenty houses along the waterfront that were in the way. They loaded all the houses onto low loaders and put them wherever they could find a vacant block of land close by. In a two week period in 1942 Cowper Street received six of them. As soon as the land was cleared they set about putting in place their barge facility. The workforce comprised about 800 Chinese labourers who were housed in barracks built along Baldwin Street and terraced down the hill. The barges that they were building were about sixty feet long by about 25feet wide. They had a chisel bow at each end. The barges had one refrigeration cold room at each end with a self-contained plant room in the middle. One cold room was for frozen goods while the other was for perishables. The barges were designed to be taken as deck cargo to New Guinea and then towed by tugs to where they were needed. As soon as an island was secured by the yanks around the corner would come the barge loaded with coca-cola and ice cream. As the barges were steel, the Chinese were taught to weld and they worked three eight hour shifts. At six o'clock every morning, (which was the change of shift) the whole district would be awakened by loud Chinese music blasting over the speakers."
"The Chinese workers caused quite a lot of friction with the local workers. The yanks paid them well and they always had plenty of money. As beer in those days was rationed and was only served in sessions, the Chinese who had worked all night would have a sleep and then stroll down to the Balmoral Pub when the session started. When the meatworkers and the stockmen arrived after work they found that the Chinese had downed most of the beer on tap. This led to several nasty brawls with the stockmen chasing them down Oxford Street on their horses and hitting them with palings that they had ripped off fences."
Engineer Boat Yard, Bulimba at peak production
Bob Jarvis was a member of Company "B", 1st Battalion, 534th Engineer Amphibian Regiment, 4th Engineer Amphibian Brigade. They arrived in Sydney on board the USS West Point on 12 May 1944. They disembarked and moved by train to Camp Warwick in Sydney. Three days later they moved up to Brisbane arriving at Camp Bulimba on 15 May 1942. By the time they arrived, the Engineer Boat Yard was building large refrigerator barges. Bob Jarvis worked with the Chinese from May to October 1944. They started work in the boat yard on 21 May 1942.
Bob Jarvis said their camp was at Stop 38 on the Balmoral tram line. They had to climb a hill, past a Catholic Church to get to the camp area. Bob Jarvis told me "After too much XXXX it was a tough climb". The shipyard and the Chinese barracks were on the river beyond the camp.
Chinese Paint crew at work
A quiet day at the Engineer Boat Yard, Bulimba
(Photo via Russell Miller)
The Apollo Barge Assembly Depot
was located in the vacant land at the centre bottom of the
photograph which was taken on 4 August 1942. It was located opposite
the Hamilton Wharves on the other side of the Brisbane River.
Standing up the rake frames
Barges in the making
Heaters at work
A deck going on
Laying deck plates
Top side view
Tossing a hot rivet
Barges put in dry storage at
of the workshops in 1948 (Photos: via Bill Durrant)
Photo: via Bill Durrant
Photo of barge possibly built at the Apollo Barge Assembly Depot
Bob Jarvis was sent with a detail of eight others to sail a 97 ft schooner "Morewa" up the coast as far as Cairns, and then across the Coral Sea to Milne Bay, and then up to Hollandia, where they turned the vessel over to the Hollandia Base. It had come to Brisbane from Auckland. They left Brisbane with one of the Chinese aboard as a cook. They only got as far as Moreton Island when the Chinese Cook became very seasick, and they had to take him back. They then got a fellow who had been in the Australian Army. His name was Steve Burroughs and he was from Brisbane. He was an excellent cook and a lot of fun. Bob Jarvis told me that he learned some very colourful language from their Aussie Cook.
They then flew back to Brisbane and went to a Rest Camp at Coolangatta. After that they moved to Luzon, in the Philippines where they trained with the 25th Division at Lingayan to make the landing at Kyushu where the Japs surrendered. They were sent with the 25th Division to Nagoya. Bob Jarvis was sent home to the States in December 1945.
Bob Jarvis has a book which was printed in Japan by their sister company, Company "C" that has a good section on the shipyard and the Chinese Camp (Camp "A") and Camp Bulimba Camp "B". There were only enough copies of the book printed for the men in the company.
Ships brought in the steel components to the Barge Assembly Depot. They moored directly across the river, and the material was brought over by barge. All work stopped mid-morning and afternoon for tea. The Chinese made the tea in a large vat and then poured into 150 or 200 tin cans. Everybody then took a can. After tea, they strung the cans on a wire and put them in the river to wash them. Bob Jarvis said that he must have had a good immune system in those days.
Photo: via Bill Durrant
Fairmile Launch of No 32 Small Ships would berth at Bulimba between 1947 and 1950
I'd like to thank Bill Durrant for his assistance with this home page.
I'd also like to thank Bob Jarvis from Detroit, USA for his assistance with this home page.
I'd also like to thank Dennis Burchill for his assistance with this web page.
© Peter Dunn 2004
This page first produced 17 September 2004
This page last updated 26 December 2005