COLMSLIE FAIRMILE BASE
COLMSLIE, BRISBANE, QLD
DURING WW2

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visits since 1 January 2006

 

The remains of the Colmslie Fairmile Base in 2003. The A. Raptis Fish Wharf
and Fish Market now occupies the site with the Mobil Wharf located to the
right of it in front of the WW2 Igloo type building. (UBD Map 161 Ref. F2)

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) established a Fairmile base on the Brisbane River at Colmslie in Brisbane, Queensland during WW2. The base had a tee-shaped wharf at the front of the Fairmile Base. The wharf had a shed on it near the tee, and fuel lines that came from the nearby Colmslie RAN Naval Fuel Tanks. The wharf was later burnt down after the war. 

There was a timber slipway and winch room at the upstream side of the base beside the large workshop that fronted onto the Brisbane River. There was another large two story wooden accommodation type building behind the hard standing area beside the large workshop building and another partly 3 storey and partly one floor building behind it. Behind this was a brick building which was the boiler house. There were many other smaller buildings. Some of the original buildings are still in existence. The site is now used as the Raptis Fish Markets at 90 Colmslie Road, Colmslie operated by A. Raptis & Sons Pty Ltd.

The Fairmiles from Brisbane were mainly involved in escorting allied convoys of ships heading northbound. They would escort them to Lady Elliott Island which is at the southern end of the Great Barrie Reef.  It was assumed that the convoys were then safe as they headed northwards from Lady Elliott Island as they were inside the Great Barrier Reef and thus free from attack from Japanese submarines.

After the war, the Fairmile Base became part of HMAS Moreton and was known as HMAS Moreton Colmslie. The main workshop building nearest the river and the slipway were retained by the Australian Army. The remainder of the complex then became the Colmslie Migrant Hostel.

A former young migrant boy who lived in the Colmslie Hostel in 1965 remembers that it had:- 

            ".... a dry dock, some  large buildings, some brick and some also two storey." 

"The dry dock was all made of wood. It also had many warehouse type buildings and a large three storey accommodation rooms and offices. There were many huts and also a very tall Chimney."

"The huts and the chimney are still there. Its the Fish board now. Also there was an ESSO depot as well as a Mobil one on Chemical Works Road."

"I, my brother and parents were in Hut 22. In two 10 x 10 rooms on the end (left in your drawing). Another family (Rose) were in the rest of the rooms in block 22, 3 off 10 x 10's I think."

"It was a great place for a ten year old."

"The floors above the kitchens in block 3 were blocked off, but you know a bunch of wily kids can get in anywhere. The place still had paperwork in it."

"It was re-opened in 1965 when 14 families from the UK were sent there. It was under Commonwealth Law and the Commonwealth police used to have guns (normal police didn't have them then). We were classified as NON COMS whatever that meant. I arrived about the 26th March 1965, by train from Sydney. We did not know where in Australia we were destined for. The ship 'Fairstar' landed in Fremantle and my dad had to see immigration and they told us to stay on the ship. We then arrived in Melbourne (near St Kilda) and we were told not to disembark here. The ship terminated in Sydney Dock 13, my dad was told we would be told soon where we were going and then they put us all on a train to Brisbane. Not a sleeper either it was overnight and we just shared a coach with others. The train stopped in Grafton and everyone got off to have breakfast, then it was back on the train and off to Brisbane. The train stopped at Merivale Street Station and the Migrants were met by the then Premier and welcomed to Queensland and then a bus to Colmslie. What an adventure, all for twenty quid."

"We had Germans, Spaniards, Dutch. English, Irish, Welsh and Scots. All types from all types of backgrounds. My parents were worried about us kids all the time. Great it was."

"There used to be a jetty too which was rotten and was cordoned off, it was good to fish off until someone burnt it down."

"The RAN Workshops were still there. A lot of the asbestos roofing had come off. The kids used to build a big fire, put a couple of sheets on and watch it explode."

"The dry dock was at the left of the RAN workshops. All Wood with big rusted steel wheels."

"I was there for 18 months. To us kids it was just a big adventure. However, to our parents they must of wondered what they had walked into. My Mum worked in the Hostel kitchen and my Dad worked all over. My brother met his wife there."

"The end result was my parents did a great thing for my brother and I coming here and we are all happy that we did and thanks to the Australian migrant assistance plan."

 


 

The following files are held in the National Archives:-

 

Title
Canteen - ordinary service system - Fairmile Base, Brisbane
Series number
MP151/1
Control symbol
427/201/943
Contents date range
1945 - 1945
Access status
Not yet examined
Location
Melbourne
Barcode no
6003435

 

Title
Colmslie - fairmile slipway and jetty
Series number
J1018
Control symbol
LS1154
Contents date range
circa 1944 - circa 1944
Access status
Open
Location
Brisbane
Barcode no
1694500

 

Title
Fairmile Royal Navy General Service Depot - Existing Building Converted to Kitchen and Mess
Series number
J2774
Control symbol
W17095
Contents date range
1945 - 1945
Access status
Open
Location
Brisbane
Barcode no
1972269
View digital copy View digital copy

 

Title
Plan of Fairmile Base in Brisbane
Series number
MP150/1
Control symbol
569/201/1483
Contents date range
1942 - 1942
Access status
Not yet examined
Location
Melbourne
Barcode no
5805366

 

Title
colmslie - second slipway fairmile base
Series number
J1018
Control symbol
LS1249
Contents date range
1945 - 1945
Access status
Open
Location
Brisbane
Barcode no
1694628

 

Title
Machinery Spares Project, Brisbane - proposed issuing store - Fairmile Base, Brisbane
Series number
MP150/1
Control symbol
569/227/72
Contents date range
1944 - 1945
Access status
Not yet examined
Location
Melbourne
Barcode no
5937925

 

Title
Fairmile Base, Colmslie - fencing
Series number
MP150/1
Control symbol
569/227/29
Contents date range
1943 - 1944
Access status
Not yet examined
Location
Melbourne
Barcode no
5937902

 

Title
Colmslie, Fairmile Base - supply of steel
Series number
MP150/1
Control symbol
569/227/109
Contents date range
1944 - 1946
Access status
Not yet examined
Location
Melbourne
Barcode no
5937949

 

Title
Ledger of HMAS Moreton Tenders - Fairmile Base - Quarter ended 31/12/45, Part 2 [2 cm]
Series number
A4624
Control symbol
MORETON 31/12/45 PART 2
Contents date range
1945 - 1945
Access status
Open
Location
Canberra
Barcode no
3542009

 

Title
Fairmile Base, Colinslie - Repairs to wharf
Series number
MP138/1
Control symbol
603/238/261
Contents date range
1944 - 1944
 
Access status
Open
Location
Melbourne
Barcode no
1193832

 

Title
Small Craft [Fairmile, ML] Base, Brisbane: Reports of Proceedings [includes duplicates]
Series number
AWM78
Control symbol
381/1
Contents date range
1944 - 1946
 
Access status
Open
Location
Australian War Memorial
Barcode no
657019

 

Title
Colmslie, Fairmile Base - general maintenance
Series number
MP150/1
Control symbol
569/227/103
Contents date range
1944 - 1945
 
Access status
Not yet examined
Location
Melbourne
Barcode no
5937945

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Russell Miller and David Spethman for their assistance with this web page.

 

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Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2006

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This page first produced 1 January 2006

This page last updated 02 January 2006