NO. 1 L OF C,
AUSTRALIAN ARMY HIRINGS SERVICE,
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII
When the war started, the Federal Government introduced National Security Regulations which granted the Australian Army the right to acquire any property deemed necessary for the successful prosecution of the War on behalf of all Services and Government Departments and on behalf of all Allied Forces. The United States military forces paid for their occupation of any property in Australia through Lend Lease.
Commonwealth Departments including the Civil Construction Corps acquired their property needs through the Australian Army Hirings Service.
Capt. Pat Fleming was is charge of Hirings Section, No. 1 Lines of Communication (No. 1 L of C) of the Australian Army at Victoria Barracks in Brisbane. Hirings Section was responsible for the acquisition of property for military use. The Australian Headquarters of the Australian Amy Hirings Service was located in Melbourne. Colonel Davey was the Chief Hirings Officer in Melbourne.
No. 1 L of C covered all of Queensland. In early 1942, north Queensland became No. 1 L of C Sub-Area. Colonel Frank Sharpe was the Officer-in-Charge of Administration in Hirings. The north Queensland sub-area covered the area north of Rockhampton and had its headquarters in Townsville with offices in Cairns and Atherton.
Robert Sydney Melloy (Q140965) was contacted by Colonel Sharpe in early 1942. Melloy reported for an interview with Sharpe at Victoria Barracks in Brisbane. Hirings was urgently after men with Real Estate experience. After making arrangements for his business to continue during his absence, Robert Melloy enlisted in the Army and was commissioned as a Lieutenant on 25 March 1942.
Other direct reports to Colonel Sharpe were Colonel Gerry Green, the Quartermaster-General and Major Pat Fleming who worked with Sgt John Dimmock to run the official business of the Hirings Section from a small office in Victoria Barracks, Brisbane.
Lieutenant Melloy then engaged an number of his real estate colleagues to assist him:-
He also enlisted the assistance of Brisbane solicitor Kevin Cronin, Harry Pluckrose, a solicitor who had offices in Cairns and Brisbane, Jack Bell a solicitor in Gatton and Ralph Cormack, a barrister. Joe Griffin and Archie Hooper later joined the team in Townsville and Cairns.
Initially requisitions for properties all over Queensland was handled from Victoria Barracks in Brisbane. North Queensland was then declared a sub-area in about February 1942 with the Townsville Hirings Office being supervised by Arthur Dean. There was a total of 40 staff in north Queensland.
With the sudden influx of American and Australian service personnel into Queensland, Hirings Section had the role of locating parks, racecourses and other accommodation to house the growing numbers of soldiers. Office accommodation was also in urgent demand for military administrative sections. Little has been written about the history and role of these acquisitions during WW2. Censorship at the time ensured that nothing was reported on the acquisitions.
Lieutenant Melloy and his section were responsible for ensuring the transition of property from private ownership to military occupation and rental was swift and smooth. Melloy also ensured that compensation payments were adequate and that owners were returned to their properties at the end of their military use.
Lieutenant Melloy negotiated the use of the new buildings at the University of Queensland at St. Lucia for General Blamey's Advanced Land Headquarters. He inspected the buildings with General Blamey. Lieutenant Melloy located a modern recently-built house in Macquarie Street, St Lucia near the University as an initial residence for General Blamey.
Lieutenant Melloy also negotiated the rental of the Pacific Hotel at Southport as an Officer's Recreation Club for the Australian Army.
When General Douglas MacArthur arrived in Brisbane, Lt. Melloy was required on duty at 6 a.m. to meet MacArthur's administrative people to provide suitable office accommodation for MacArthur's General Headquarters. Melloy met with Colonel Johnson to discuss possible locations for MacArthur's Headquarters. Lt. Melloy initially recommended the Marist Brothers College at Ashgrove. It was in a secluded area 4 miles from the city and surrounded by forests. General MacArthur had other ideas. He chose the AMP building for his Headquarters.
Lt. Melloy then assisted the American Army Intelligence Corps to obtain the use of the building occupied by MacNish, Macrossan and Dowling a group of Brisbane Solicitors. They immediately established themselves in the switchboard room while the solicitors vacated the building. It is believed that this is referring to the time that MacNish, Macrossan and Dowling were located in the AMP building. A search of Trove shows that the solicitors were still located in the AMP building on 20 June 1942, but had relocated to the adjacent Commercial Bank Building at 239 Queen Street by 25 July 1942. By 17 October 1942 they had relocated to the Penneys Building at 210 Queen Street.
Lieutenant Robert Melloy negotiated the hire of the building used by Thomas Brown & Co. Pty. Ltd. in Eagle Street, Brisbane for the US Army.
The next major acquisition was the T & G Building on the corner of Queens Street and Albert Street. All the tenants under the leadership of Doctor Streeter resisted the takeover of the building. They formed a representative committee to submit a protest to the Federal Government. Unfortunately for Dr. Streeter and the other tenants, the Australian Army advised Lt. Melloy to occupy the building. The T & Building was used as Headquarters' for the US Army Forces in the Far East.
One day in his office at Victoria Barracks in Brisbane, Colonel Frank Sharpe asked Lt. Melloy would he relocate to Townsville to take over the Hirings Section in north Queensland. Melloy had no choice in the matter and the move was rather quick. Melloy and his staff caught a DC-3 from Archerfield airfield to Townsville that very afternoon.
Lt. Melloy arrived at Garbutt airfield and was taken to his new quarters in the Officers Club at the Seaview Hotel on The Strand. He slept on a stretcher with other personnel in a large room on the first floor of the old hotel. The next morning, Lt. Melloy reported to Headquarters. Melloy was to take over from Major Dow, the Deputy Assistant Director (DAD) Hirings. Major Dow had applied for sick leave. Melloy spent 2 days with Major Dow. There was a massive backlog of 700 claims for compensation from some very unhappy local property owners. There was a groundswell of discontent amongst affected property owners in north Queensland with the failure of the Australian Army Hirings Service to promptly and adequately compensate them.
Major Dow left Townsville, leaving Lieutenant Melloy and his recently arrived team from Brisbane to attack the massive backlog of compensation claims. Melloy employed some local real estate agents in Townsville and Cairns to assist them. Doug Bingham was sent further north to lead the team in Cairns. After 6 weeks of very long days they had only 6 outstanding claims left to be finalised. Three of these were quickly sorted out by Melloy himself and the remaining three went to Court for a decision.
The US 12th Station Hospital arrived in Townsville by train from Brisbane on 18 March 1942. The US Army had requisitioned a street full of about 30 houses in Chapman Street at Mysterton Estate in Townsville for their hospital. Captain Melloy attended a protest meeting held by the residents at McKinnons Store in Flinders Street. Mr. McKinnon himself in fact owned one of the affected houses in Chapman Street. Another vocal resident at the meeting was Mr. Reuben Redhead. Captain Melloy told the meeting that Australia was at war and that if the Australian people impeded the Allied Forces in defending our shores and did not cooperate, they would soon be accommodating the enemy.
The residents were concerned that their new homes would be wrecked. Captain Melloy assured them that he would see to it that they suffered no monetary loss and their houses would be restored to their original condition once vacated by the US forces. The group of residents accepted what he had to say and moved a vote of confidence. The residents had all moved out of their houses within a couple of days. The first four patients moved into the new premises of the US 12th Station Hospital on 29 March 1942.
Major Dow advised the he was due to return from his sick leave. Melloy's staff invited him to dinner and presented him with a Swagger Stick engraved with the words "Grateful Thanks to Mister Fixit - R.S. Melloy". It was not long before Lieutenant Melloy returned to Brisbane aboard a Sunderland flying boat.
Major Dow was soon sick again and eventually requested a discharge which was subsequently approved by Brigadier F.R. North. Lieutenant Melloy was then advised by Colonel Sharpe that he had been permanently appointed as Deputy Assistant Director (DAD) Hirings in charge of North Queensland, No. 1 L of C Sub-Area and that he had been promoted to the rank of Captain. This all happened just prior to the arrival of General Douglas MacArthur and his entourage in Brisbane in July 1942 to establish his General Headquarters, South West Pacific Area.
With the arrival of the Americans in Brisbane Captain Melloy was to spend much time liaising with the American Hirings Officer, Major James R. Wright. They would travel many thousands of miles across North Queensland looking at properties and buildings. They would also jointly attend conferences at Land Headquarters (LHQ) in Melbourne to decide policy on the dispersal of troops and their accommodation needs. Major Wright married a girl named Phyllis from Mount Morgan. Their wedding was in Brisbane in April 1945 with the reception being at Lennons Hotel. Jim and Phyllis visited Australia a number of times after the war. Phyllis was a member of the Women's National Emergency Legion (WNEL) during the war. Phyllis trained women to drive and look after staff cars.
Major Wright's office was on the ground floor of a retail shop in Flinders Street in Townsville. (can anyone confirm which building this was?).
Captain Melloy was involved in the acquisition of the Church of England Boy's School in Toowoomba where the staff and students were moved eastwards to St. Hilda's School at Southport in April 1942. The school was used as Headquarters for the 1st Australian Army under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir John Lavarack.
Some other schools acquired were as follows:-
- St. Anne's Church of England Girl's School, Townsville
- St. Patrick's (Catholic) College, The Strand, Townsville
- Townsville High School
- Townsville Grammar School
The Army Hirings Section would take a full inventory of the schools that they were taking over and carry out an assessment of the school's condition immediately prior to occupation. The School Principal would countersign these documents.
In January 1943 two University teachers, Professor R.D. Wright and Dr. Ian Hogbin were sent by the Federal Government to north Queensland to investigate the level of morale amongst the civilian population. They spent several days in Cairns and nearly 10 days in Townsville. Here they discovered that the Allied military forces had occupied 177 dwellings in Townsville. Most of them had been occupied by the US Military forces. There were approximately 90,000 military personnel in the Townsville area where the civilian population at that time was about 28,000 people.
Schools @ War
"Time will Tell - Memoirs of a Kangaroo
Point Kid - R.S. Melloy"
As told to Diane Melloy
I'd like to thank Debbie and Malcolm Brown for their assistance with this web page.
Can anyone help me with more information?
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 10 June 2002
This page last updated 24 January 2020