US NAVY BRISBANE SUBMARINE BASE
CAPRICORN WHARF, MACQUARIE ST.,
NEW FARM, BRISBANE DURING WW2

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visits since 13 May 2000

 

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Six submarines docked at Capricorn Wharf at
New Farm in Brisbane beside their supply ship

During World War 2 approximately 800 US service personnel were based at Capricorn Wharf at New Farm (Teneriffe) in Brisbane. Bill Bentson, a staff sergeant on General Douglas MacArthur's staff remembers those days when up to 8 submarines could be seen at the wharf. The submarine bases at Fremantle and Brisbane played an important part in the war effort. Admiral James Fife was the commander of the American submarines operating out of Brisbane.

Bill said "It was a busy place back then, the tram from New Farm to the city was always loaded with sailors."

"There were hundreds stationed on the site - the barber shop around the corner did a roaring trade."

"Next to the barber shop there was a restaurant and they used to go down and get some steak and eggs when they got tired of eating government issue food."

The US Navy Officers Barracks were located on the corner of Ann Street and Commercial Road. After the war the wooden building became a barracks for the nurses working at the Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital. The nurses were transported by cars from the Government Motor Pool in McLachlan Street, Fortitude Valley.

Brian O'Brien told me that there were US Navy Barracks in Sydney Street near the Lamington Street end and another set of US Navy Barracks in Dixon Street. Both these buildings have now disappeared. Brian thinks that both these Barracks may have been built by the Civil Constructional Corps. Brian told me that Austral Motors was located in Sydney Street opposite the US Navy Barracks. It was located in the block between Sydney and Welsby Streets. Many American jeeps, trucks, and other equipment were assembled at Austral Motors for the Americans during WW2. 

Capricorn wharf was built between 1907 - 1909. After WW2 it changed names a number of times as it changed owners. It was called Capricorn-New Wharf in 1965 when Capricorn Stevedores leased the wharves. It was purchased by Dalgety Wharves in 1968. The Royal Australian Navy purchased the wharves in 1982 and it became known as HMAS Moreton North. The area was purchased by the Brisbane City Council in 1988 and was then renamed as Capricorn Wharf to avoid confusion with the nearby HMAS Moreton.

In early 2000 the wharf and surrounding areas were dismantled to make way for 23 new waterfront detached houses and 8 townhouses which are likely to go on the market at $1.1 - 1.6 million. Nearby, two large former wool stores have been converted into apartments. The redevelopment will include the retention of some significant heritage items such as some stone gate posts and walls, a bomb shelter, fire hydrants and a small heritage building. One of these is the Elder Smith & Co. Limited Wool Store.

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USS Fulton AS11 and some submarines
at the Capricorn Wharf at New Farm in late 1942

 

Submarine Tender USS Griffin AS 13 was assigned to the Pacific Fleet after Pearl Harbor and left Newport, R.I. on 14 February 1942 headed for Australia. USS Griffin arrived in Brisbane, in southern Queensland on 15 April 1942 to look after Submarine Squadron 5 (SubRon5). The Brisbane Submarine Base and the Rest Camp at New Farm in Brisbane was established by U.S.S. Griffin.

USS Griffin left Brisbane on 11 November 1942 and headed for the Fiji Islands and eventually the USA. USS Griffin left Pearl Harbor for Fremantle Submarine Base on 8 April 1944. She arrived at Brisbane Submarine Base on 22 April 1944 and left for Fremantle on 27 April 1944. She arrived in Fremantle on 7 May 1944. USS Griffin left Fremantle on 20 November 1944 and arrived in Brisbane on 29 November 1944 and left Brisbane on 1 December 1944 to proceed to Mios Woendi, New Guinea to tend submarines and various surface craft.

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Similar view of Capricorn Wharf area in Dec 2000
Brisbane city skyscrapers at left of picture

 

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Historic building being preserved at the old Capricorn Wharf.
I believe this shed can be seen in the first photo on this page, just right of centre.

 

The historic brick WW2 building is now surrounded by
modern apartment blocks and a beautiful river walkway.

 

This historic brick building was right in the middle of the US Navy Submarine base

 

The two former Wool Store buildings can be seen in the background

Submarine Tender USS Fulton AS 11, relocated from Midway on 17 October 1942 and arrived in Brisbane on 9 November 1942. USS Fulton established the Brisbane Submarine Base and rest camp at New Farm in Brisbane. USS Fulton was involved in refitting submarines between their war patrols and acted as a tender to other types of ships. She also played an important role as support tender for submarines engaged in experiments and tests of sonar mine detection devices which enabled American submarines to successfully penetrate the minefields guarding the Inland Sea of Japan. USS Fulton had moved to Milne Bay, in New Guinea, arriving on  29 October 1943.

USS Sperry was another Submarine Tender that was based at the Brisbane Submarine Base.

Model of USS Bowfin at the Queensland Maritime Museum

 

At the Submarine Base at New Farm, The main hull of USS Growler 
is pointed towards the CSR Sugar Refinery across the Brisbane River but
her battered  bow is pointing towards Hawthorne

 

A new bow (18 feet long) for USS Growler which had been manufactured by
Evans Deakins & Co. at Rocklea being lifted into place
at the South Brisbane Dry Dock.

Between April 1942 and December 1944, 51 US Navy submarines made 85 dockings at the South Brisbane Dry Dock. Many of these were to allow routine maintenance but some were required to carry out urgent repairs after damage in action against the Japanese. The dry dock now houses the Queensland Maritime Museum.

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USS Bowfin (SS-287)

 

USS Guardfish (SS-217)

Members of the 978th Signal Service Company who had been trained in jungle survival and jungle warfare skills at Camp Tabragalba near Beaudesert would sometimes used the US Navy Submarine base in Brisbane as their departure point for insertion into the Philippines via submarine. Members of the 978th Signal Service Company provided 13 landing parties from 12 November 1943 until 22 October 1944 for insertion into the Philippines via submarines out of Brisbane, Darwin, and New Hollandia. Twelve of the 13 parties were successfully inserted. Party Eleven was lost on 3 October 1944 when the USS Seawolf (SS-197) was sunk with all hands off Morotai Island, Indonesia. Unfortunately the cause was friendly fire from USS Rowell (DE-403) and aircraft.

LIST OF SUBMARINES THAT EITHER OPERATED
OUT OF BRISBANE OR WERE REPAIRED IN BRISBANE DURING WW2
Under construction - I need your help to add to this list.

Please contact me if you served on one of these submarines

USS S-31 (SS-136) *  USS S-37 (SS142) *  USS S-38 (SS-143) *
USS S-39 (SS-144) * USS S-40 (SS-145) * USS S-41 (SS-146) *
USS S-42 (SS-153) * USS S-43 (SS-154) * USS S-44 (SS-155) *
USS S-45 (SS-156) * USS S-46 (SS-157) * USS S-47 (SS-158) *
USS Albacore (SS-218) * USS Amberjack (SS-219) * USS Argonaut (SS-166)
 USS Balao (SS-285) * USS Bashaw (SS-241) * USS Blackfish (USS-221) *
USS Bluefish (SS-222) USS Blue Gill (SS-242) * USS Bonefish (SS-223)
USS Bowfin (SS-287) USS Bream (SS-243) USS Capelin (SS-289)
USS Cero (SS-225) * USS Cod (SS-224) USS Crevalle (SS-291)
USS Dace (SS-247) * USS Darter (SS-227) * USS Drum (SS-228) *
USS Flounder (SS-251) * USS Flying Fish (SS-229) * USS Gabilan (SS-252) *
USS Gar (SS-206) * USS Gato (USS-212) * USS Grampus (SS-207) *
USS Grayback (SS-208) * USS Greenling (SS-213) * USS Grenadier (SS-210)
USS Grouper (SS-214) * USS Growler (SS-215) * USS Guardfish (SS-217) *
USS Guavina (SS-362) * USS Gudgeon (SS-211) USS Mingo (SS-261) *
USS Narwhal (SS-167) USS Nautilus (SS-168) USS Permit (SS-178) *
USS Peto (SS-265) * USS Pickerel (SS-177) USS Pintado (SS-387) *
USS Plunger (USS-179) * USS Pollack (SS-180) * USS Pompon (SS-267)
USS Puffer (SS-268) * USS Ray (SS-271) USS Raton (SS-270)
USS Sailfish (SS-192) ex Squalus * USS Sargo (SS-188) USS Saury (SS-189)
USS Scamp (SS-277) * USS Sculpin (SS-191) * USS Seadragon (SS-194)
USS Seahorse (SS-304) * USS Seawolf (SS-197) * USS Silversides (SS-236) *
USS Snapper (USS-185) * USS Spearfish (SS-190) USS Stingray (SS-186) *
USS Sturgeon (SS-187) USS Swordfish (SS-193) USS Thresher (SS-200)
USS Triton (SS-201) USS Trout (SS-202) USS Tuna (SS-203) *
USS Tunny (SS-282) * USS Wahoo (SS-238)  

NOTE:- The asterisk in the above table denotes submarines that
were docked at the South Brisbane Dry Dock during WW2

 

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Plaque in Newstead Park to the memory of Allied submarines
and their crew that operated from Brisbane 1942-1945

 

LIST OF ROYAL NAVY SUBMARINES THAT OPERATED
OUT OF BRISBANE DURING WW2

Please contact me if you served on one of these submarines

HMS/M XE1  HMS/M XE3  HMS/M XE4
HMS/M XE5      

 

Fremantle Submarine Base

 

USS Bowfin Museum

 

If you were on a submarine that operated
out of Brisbane during WW2, I would love to hear from you

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Bill Bentson and Brian O'Brien for their assistance with this home page.

I'd also like to thank Henry G. Spenceley Y2c, Crew Member of USS Griffin (1942/1945).

 

In Association with Amazon.com

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books available at
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                         "Australia @ War"
                         

Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2003

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This page first produced 13 May 2000

This page last updated 11 January 2009