Helton Hall


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The 5th Air Service Command depot known as Depot #2 was located at the base of Mount Louisa. It was responsible for assembling, modifying, overhauling and carrying out major repairs on aircraft. Living quarters near the depot comprised over 120 large barrack type buildings plus 3 or 4 tent cities. There was also an extensive sports ground in the vicinity.

Entertainment in the camp was held at Helton Hall, which was an open aired building. Helton Hall was officially opened on 26 November 1943. It was named in honour of 2nd Lt. James G. Helton, (Serial No. 0-888616), who was killed on 23 September 1943 during a test flight over Rattlesnake Island just north of Townsville. Helton was award the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. James Helton had earlier also been a crew member on General George Kenney's private B-17, "Sally".


Jim Helton while he was a crew member of "Sally"


James Helton standing in front of a Japanese aircraft at Eagle Farm airfield


Some famous Hollywood stars appeared at Helton Hall including John Wayne and Joe E. Brown. On 12 December 1943, movie stars Gary Cooper, Una Merkel and Phyllis Brooks put on a show for the 'boys' living at the base of Mount Louisa.

Carl C. Jordan of the 15th Air Depot Group remembers Woody Herman's orchestra' s performing at Helton Hall. They played their famous No. 1 hit,   "Woodchopper's Ball" which nearly brought down the roof! Carl was responsible for decorating Helton Hall while he was based at Depot #2. He remembers cutting and hauling the bamboo, doing the paintings of the semi-clad beauties, etc.

James P. Roberts from the 12th Air Depot Group has a faint memory of where Helton Hall was and he can remember Joe E. Brown and Jack Benny being there.


E-mails from Carl C. Jordan
of the 15th Air Depot Group

E-mails from James P. Roberts
of the 12th Air Depot Group


Helton Hall was manned by the Red Cross and provided facilities for dancing, games, reading, movies and sports. It was located in the middle of the residential complex at the base of Mount Louisa.


Click here for a view of the Accommodation area
at the base of Mount Louisa


My rough estimation, would put Helton Hall in the vicinity of today's Etheridge Street at Mount Louisa, somewhere near the bend in the road. Does anyone have a more accurate estimation?


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Subject:    Joe E Brown
Date:             Tue, 16 Nov 1999 20:53:51 -0500 (EST)
From:            FPHohmann@webtv.net (Frank Hohmann)

Gidday Peter;

Its me again checking out your site. Don't know about M/Sgt Helton, but I can tell you about Mr Joe E. Brown. My crew picked him and his entourage up at Cairns and flew him to Mareeba on or about 5/4/43. He put on a show for the 403rd Squadron and a show for an Australian outfit that night and the next. In my flight log on 5/8/43 my crew in a B-24-D s/n 124127 flew Brown and his group to Port Moresby where he put on his show for the troops twice (don't know the outfits) the next day we flew them all to Darwin area, trying to find out which airdrome (maybe Fenton) I am talking to a man in Darwin now about that information.

On the flight in a B-17-E s/n ? from Mareeba to Cairns to pick this group up # 3 engine started to give us trouble so we shut it down ad landed on three. I looked at it until the Brown group arrived and we took off on all four engines to climb up to Mareeba and the engine started to give us trouble so we again shut it down. Brown wanted to come on the flight deck, when he got there he saw the engine stopped and in a straight face said to me " what are we doing, saving gas"?

We are enjoying good health, hope this finds you in good health. Will talk to you again.

Best Regards Frank


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Subject:    Joe E Brown
Date:             Fri, 19 Nov 1999 09:04:33 -0500 (EST)
From:           FPHohmann@webtv.net (Frank Hohmann)

Gidday Peter;

I met and played cards with some Australian Army men who were at a training camp near Mareeba when I was there the first time. (Aug.1942-Nov. 1942) We may have met or seen each other, I really liked those men, "tough but O so gentle"

I forgot to put in the first E-Mail that Mr Brown had just lost his Son in a training accident at Hamilton Field CA. when I first met him. His son was learning to fly P-38s and while landing, another plane landed on top of his plane,

Good health Frank


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Subject:   Joe E Brown
Date:           Sat, 20 Nov 1999 10:22:51 -0500 (EST)
From:           FPHohmann@webtv.net (Frank Hohmann)

Gidday Peter;

Mr Brown was a famous comedian who started out as a stand up comic on the stage in what was called Vaudeville. Browns main attraction was what was perceived as a large mouth, but actually, he had normal features, He just knew how to contort his face to seem like his mouth was unusual when he smiled or laughed, and he poked fun at himself all the time. I would say Brown was pretty smart, kind, and his show was clean, not like today's so called comedians. I think the loss of his son brought him to realize that war was not a subject to poke fun at as a comedian. We talked about his son's accident, Brown wanted to talk about it to try to understand. He may have made a movie or two I don't know.

After the war there was no more Vaudeville and I think he finished out his life doing one nighters in night clubs. Mr Brown was the only public person to come into the war zone while I was there, Mr Bob Hope put on a show for the troops while I was in Pyote, Texas were I had returned to the 19th Bomb Group only in the 93rd Squadron. In the SWPA. I was in the 28th.

This is not much information sorry.

Stay in good health Frank


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This page first produced 9 September 1999

This page last updated 21 February 2020