TORRENS CREEK ORDNANCE
TORRENS CREEK, NORTH QLD
The Ordnance Ammunition Depot at Torrens Creek (180 miles west of Townsville) was established to support both New Guinea and Darwin areas in case the Townsville-Cairns arrangements (Kangaroo Ordnance Depot) were cut off or destroyed by the enemy. Torrens Creek never became fully operational and was only used for a few air missions and some trans-shipments.
In about July 1943, Lt. Mickels and a detachment of 30 men of the 577th Ordnance Ammunition Company were sent to Torrens Creek to replace a similar detachment of the 636th Ordnance Ammunition Company who had worked at the Torrens Creek Ordnance Ammunition Depot.
The township of Torrens Creek is located on the Flinders Highway between Charters Towers and Hughenden, about 88 kms east of Hughenden.
Bombs were apparently placed in piles around the town common area near Torrens Creek. Each pile comprised about 20 tons of ordnance. The Americans used to have fire breaks around the Ammunition Depot to prevent bush fires getting out of control and causing a catastrophe. However at about 1:30pm on 17 October 1942, a bush fire did manage to enter the Ammo Depot area and 12 major explosions occurred shaking the town's inhabitants into such a frightened state, that they feared that the Japanese had bombed the town and were about to invade. Apparently some of the craters were up to 8 metres deep.
There is a file in the National Archives Australia which contain Records of Deeds of Bravery by Civilians at the Bomb Dump, Torrens Creek, Qld. They extinguished a blaze at the Torrens Creek Military camp that burned for two days and caused bombs to explode. Military men and several civilians risked their lives to successfully bring the fire under control. The file contains reports by each person and correspondence including letters from Prime Minister John Curtin's office.
Amongst those who received recognition for their bravery were the following members of the Civil Constructional Corps:-
Charles Bartley CN. 23933
John Ferrett CN. 57705
Walter Ernest Lowe CQ. 11153
Patrick McGoldrick CQ. 15659
James Haddon McSherry CQ. 15609
Corporal Stirling (Militia Forces)
The Inspector of Police at the South Townsville Station, Townsville District provided the following statement on 19 June 1943. This statement was based on his interview with Walter Ernest Lowe, who at that time had relocated to the Bohle River where he was camped with other men who were carting sand from Ross River to Perkins Street, South Townsville:-
I interviewed Mr. Walter Ernest Lowe, he informed me that he is a married man, 29 years of age. On the above date he was at Torrens Creek and was a member of the C.C.C.. At about 1:30pm on the 17/10/42 a fire occurred in a bomb dump, and he accompanied Constable Seawright with a number of other men to the scene of the fire, on their arrival a number of bombs exploded and it was necessary for the party to take cover.
The bomb dump covered a large area, and the fire had a strong hold and was blazing fiercely. They started fighting the fire, and after a while Constable Seawright called for volunteers to go further into the danger area for the purpose of fighting the fire and save a large number of bombs. Mr. Lowe and six other men went with Seawright but before going any distance more bombs exploded and they again had to take cover and large pieces of bomb fell around them. After fighting the fire for some hours it was eventually got under control. Mr. Lowe stated that he had previously been interviewed concerning this matter, and constable Seawright had informed him that he had made a report on the occurrence. He also supllied the names of the other men who went into the danger area which are as follows:-
Patrick McGoldrick, CQ 15659 camped at Woodstock near Townsville
Corporal Sterling (Militia Police)
The Courier Mail, 3 March 2007
Page 46 Weekend magazine
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© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 30 December 2003
This page last updated 03 September 2018