BENEDICT STONE BUILDING
ROSETTA ST., FORTITUDE VALLEY, BRISBANE, QLD
BRISBANE TORPEDO DEPOT
AKA TORPEDO OVERHAUL SHOP, US NAVY
LATER USED BY THE BRITISH ROYAL NAVY
DURING WWII

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Benedict Stone Building at the end of Light Street, Fortitude Valley.
The now non-existent Bowen Hills Railway Station can be seen in the foreground.

 

Close-up of the Benedict Stone Building

 

The US Navy's Torpedo Overhaul Shop also known as the Brisbane Torpedo Depot was located at the Benedict Stone Building in Rosetta Street, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, Queensland. The site was selected shortly after the arrival of USS Griffin in April 1942. There was a stone quarry at the site. It was located at the end of Light Street. The site was eventually acquired through Australian Army Hirings Service under Hirings Serial No. 2504 and was occupied by the U.S. Navy from 22 September 1942 until 6 April 1945. The owner of the site was listed as "His Grace, Rev. Archbishop James Duhig, Brunswick St., New Farm".

By December 1942, the Depot was issuing overhauled torpedoes to submarines at the nearby Submarine Base at New Farm. The Brisbane Torpedo Unit started out with a force of eight Seabees but eventually grew to a force of one hundred men, many of whom were skilled torpedomen.

There were racks for approximately 200 torpedoes at the depot and an overhaul shop and stowage space of 45 ft x 100 feet and a brick cottage with 6 rooms. It not only stored and overhauled submarine torpedoes but it handled all the torpedoes used by naval air and surface forces operating from the east coast of Australia. About 30% of the torpedoes on hand at the depot for a long time were allocated to PT Boats, aircraft, or destroyers. At one time they had on hand 300 Mark 8 torpedoes and 24 Mark 9 torpedoes for PT Boats, 300 Mar 8 torpedoes for aircraft and PT Boats, plus others for destroyers in addition to the submarine torpedo allowance.

Between 1,000 and 1,500 torpedoes were handled for aircraft and PT Boats during the time the unit was in commission. Because of the perceived threat of bombing attack, many of the torpedoes were dispersed in various garages, stables and warehouse scattered around Brisbane.

When the Mark 18 (electric) torpedoes arrived in Australia, a Mark 18 shop was built on New Farm Wharf which handled that type of torpedo exclusively. After Commander Submarines Pacific improved the Mark 18 Torpedo and tested its performance satisfactorily, alterations were installed at the New Farm Wharf shop and torpedoes were issued from there. Mark 27 torpedoes arrive din Brisbane in late 1944 and were sent directly to Western Australia.

Most of the torpedoes received in Australia were shipped from the west coast of the USA direct to Brisbane and in amounts dependent upon dispatch requests from Commander Submarines Southwest Pacific. The allocation of these torpedoes was made by that command and those destined for Fremantle were usually shipped across Australia by rail. However the ship "Gold Star" (AK-12), a coastal cargo carrier, was used on some occasions. Shipments by rail was complicated by the four different rail gauges between Brisbane and Fremantle. The journey would typically take 28 days.

One of the sailors who worked in the Brisbane Torpedo Unit at the Brisbane Torpedo Depot was James Robert Penny who joined the US Navy in May 1941. He served on the USS Fulton on its shakedown cruise. They were two days out from Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on 7 December 1941. Jim transferred to the Brisbane Torpedo Depot in Brisbane where they overhauled and supplied torpedoes to the submarines at the large Submarine Base at New Farm. 

In February 2004, 81 year old Jim Penny told me that the Officers stayed in a house at the top of the hill. The Benedict Stone building had an overhead 2.5 ton electric crane and crane ramp that ran outside the building. They used a flat bed truck to deliver torpedoes to and from the nearby Submarine Base at New Farm. Jim was paid a subsistence of $5.10 per day for his accommodation and dinner meal. Jim rented an apartment at Teneriffe Drive on a hill overlooking the Brisbane River at New Farm. He mostly ate Chinese Meals in Fortitude Valley. Jim bought a 1931 Chevy touring car to travel to work and generally get around Brisbane.

James Penny used to go to a boxing gymnasium owned by a Fight Promoter, named Jim Jamieson, who lived about a block away from the Brisbane Torpedo Depot. It was known as Jamieson's Gym and was located at the corner of Light St and Hynes Street. Jim Penny would work out there, and spar with some of the fighters being trained by Jim Jamieson.

Jim Penny met and fell in love with a Brisbane girl called Betty Mitchell, who lived on the other side of the Brisbane River. They used to go to the Trocadero and they line danced with Ray Bolger. When he left Brisbane, Jim signed his Chevy car, his motor cycle and his pet Pekinese dog over to his girlfriend Betty.

Jim's group stayed at the Brisbane Torpedo Depot for about 13 months before they eventually they closed it down and eventually moved on to Subic Bay in the Philippines in August 1945. At the time of closing down of the Brisbane Base Torpedo Unit in March 1945 there were about 200 Mark 23 Torpedoes and 64 Mark 14 Torpedoes at the Depot.

The US Navy made quite a number of improvements to the site including the following:-

The site was transferred through Australian Army Hirings Service to the Royal Navy Fleet Air Wing after it was vacated by the US Navy.

The Benedict Stone building was knocked down in about 1999. There are modern apartments now located on the site.

 

REFERENCES

United States Naval Administration in World War II, Submarine Commands (FOLD3)

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Ray Thurlow, Russell Miller and Dave Spethman for their assistance with this home page.

 

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 11 April 2004

This page last updated 26 January 2023