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St. Mary's Marist Brothers' College at Ashgrove in Brisbane, Queensland was commandeered by the Australian Army in 1942. The school had only been open for 2 years. The Director, Brother Ignatius O'Connor had to chose whether to close the college permanently or to evacuate the students. He chose to evacuate the students to Eagle Heights on Mount Tamborine. Eagle Heights had been recommended to him by the military authorities as a relatively safe location in the event of a Japanese invasion. 

Northern Command Headquarters of the Australian Army moved from Victoria Barracks to the school between 17 and 19 March 1942. Northern Command Headquarters also used seven cottages and Frazer's Paddock to accommodate the group. Northern Commanded Headquarters officially closed at Victoria Barracks at 1700 hours on Wednesday 18 March 1942 and reopened at the same time at the Marist Brothers College at Ashgrove. Northern Command Signals occupied Frazers Paddock Camp and ran their own Mess.

Northern Command Headquarters was then split into Headquarters Northern Command and Headquarters 5th Australian Division on 15 April 1942. Headquarters 5th Australian Division closed at Ashgrove and opened at Townsville on 30 April 1942. First Australian Army Junior Staff School then operated from the school through to 1944.


Photo:- AWM

First Australian Army Junior Staff School War Course No. I in abt. July 1942


No. 2 War Course was held at the school at Ashgrove from 14 October 1944 to 23 December 1944.


Photo:- AWM

1st Australian Army Junior Staff School War Course No. VII 1943/44


St. Mary's Marist Brother's College moved into three buildings at Eagle Heights which were adapted for school usage. Their living quarters called "Bungunyah" was about 100 yards from the classrooms. They had a 1.5 kms walk to eat their meals at Davidson's cottage. This walk became quite uncomfortable due to the regular rain while they were on the mountain. A new arrangement was organised which involved Brother Ignatius delivering the food to "Bungunyah" by car.

Another guest house called "Semloh" was used by the boys for accommodation when guests moved out. The school eventually purchased "Semloh"  to provide more space for the school's requirements.

The Australian Army returned St. Mary's to the Marist Brothers in about October 1944 when the Army Staff School moved to Cabalah near Toowoomba. The senior boys returned to the school at the beginning of 1945. Primary students remained at Eagle Heights until the end of the war.

The Military occupation had caused some substantial damage to the main building at Ashgrove. Considerable effort was required to rectify this damage.


Photo:- Peter Casey

Plaque located in the white tower building as you enter the College commemorating
the presence of Headquarters 5th Australian Division at the school during WWII



"And all this shall be added"
Catholic Education in Queensland - Volume VI
by Susan Mary Tobin

Northern Command War Diary March 1942 page 115 (AWM).



I'd like to thank Graham McKenzie-Smith, Stan Mellick and Peter Casey for their assistance with this web page.


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 Peter Dunn 2015


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This page first produced 23 June 2002

This page last updated 23 December 2015