MOBILE EXPLOSIVES INVESTIGATION UNIT NO. 1, US NAVY
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

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The Mobile Explosives Investigation Unit. No.1, US Navy, was located on the southern side of
the Brisbane River in Brisbane, Queensland (marked with a cross at bottom right of the above map)

 

The above map would seem to indicate that it was in the vicinity of today's Goodwin Park or Leyshon Park at Yeronga in Brisbane (UBD Map No. 179, Ref. 8J.).

The Mobile Explosives Investigation Unit. No.1, US Navy, supplied mine and bomb disposal teams for the Southwest Pacific Area. They were required to break down and analyse Japanese explosive ordnance and to furnish general intelligence information on Japanese ordnance to disposal personnel in forward areas.

The Unit had a 9ft by 9ft prefabricated plywood stack building which they used for disassembling bomb fuses. There as a much larger 408 ft by 122 ft wood frame prefabricated building with plasterboard siding which was used for offices, a school room and a museum.

The unit had the following equipment at their camp at Yeronga:-

Between 23 February 1943 and 31 March 1943 No. 1 MEIU transferred four Thompson .45 caliber sub-machine guns and two Colt .45 caliber automatic pistols to the US Naval Magazine and Mine Assembly Depot at Mount Coot-tha.

On 15 September 1944 there were 20 officers and 27 enlisted men based at the camp. On 7 November 1944 there were 25 officers and 36 enlisted men at the camp.

On 21 November 2018, I was contacted by Denis Peel who told me that the Mobile Explosives Investigation Unit. No.1 used an old house called "Ashby House" at 135 Brougham Street, Fairfield as their Mess. "Ashby House" was a large house with 11 rooms. The US Navy lease on the house expired on 28 March 1945. In November 2018, the house was being used by UniMed Brisbane, which offers Universal Medicine Therapies and a variety of other therapies. "Ashby House" was owned by Mr. John Richards in 1942, where he lived with his wife Ellen, and children Jack, Basil, William, Eric, Arthur, David and Lance. 77 year old John Richards passed away at "Ashby House" on 4 June 1942.

Kenyon Brye Kinman, who lived around the corner from "Ashby House" at 6 Inchcape Street, Fairfield kept a scrapbook containing notes and photos describing the US Navy's occupation of "Ashby House". Some of the notes in Kenyon's scrapbook read as follows:-

"The Americans arrived at Fairfield in 1942. They were our neighbours and my friends. The unit was called M.E.I.U. Mobile Explosives Investigation Unit. They stayed for three years. I was what they called the Bat Boy. I used to look after the horses they bought, worked the film projector on Sunday nights, and peeled the prawns for party nights Saturday night. On Sunday morning I would clean up all the mess from the night before. They would pay me 5.00 and that was a lot of money in those days. I used to take their shirts and pants to mum to iron. She would charge two shillings. I would take them back and charge them two and six pence 2/6. Sixpence for me. No other kids were allowed in on the base but me. But I used to look after my mates. I would get chewing gum and candy, something you could not buy in those days. The horses they had were mine to look after, feed and get them shod (shoes). I loved those days and these photos are some of my friends or should I say our family friends. I used to drive all the trucks and cars around the base and sometimes a big truck to the dump on Sundays."

 


Photo:- Ken Kinman

Ian Kinman sitting on one of the US Navy trucks his
brother Kenyon used to drive around the MEIU base

 

Kenyon Kinman would drive the above US Navy truck to the dump on Sundays and it was also used to take their sailing boat to Southport for the day.

 


Photo:- Ken Kinman

 

 


Photo:- Ken Kinman

"Hedley", Shirley, Mrs. and Mr. Kinman

 


Photo:- Ken Kinman

 

 


Photo:- Ken Kinman

 

 


Photo:- Ken Kinman

 

 


Photo:- Ken Kinman

Paul Hartsell, Jackie (a WAC) and Lenord ("Whitey")

 


Photo:- Ken Kinman

Outside a Hotel - which one?

 


Photo:- Ken Kinman

Sweede and Ken Kinman

 


Photo:- Ken Kinman

Whitey and Shortey Slack

 


Photo:- BCC 1946

"Ashby House" at 135 Brougham Street, Fairfield used as their Mess

 

During February 1945, orders were received transferring MEIU 1 to the forward area. Three officers and fifteen enlisted men proceeded north in about February 1945. Sixty five tons of cargo comprising the entire equipment of the unit was also shipped north. On 10 March 1945 there were still six officers and two enlisted men remaining in Brisbane. One of the officers was awaiting transportation back to the United States, four officers were awaiting transportation north and one officer was to be detached for duty at Commander Service Force, Seventh Fleet. The two enlisted men were awaiting transportation north.

When the troops left their camp, they drove past Joy Balfour's house in Archibald Street, Fairfield and threw a Mae West vest to Joy and her brother. Joy had just turned four and screamed because she thought it was a big black frog coming towards her. Joy's brother thought it hilarious. After her initial shock Joy could also see the funny side of what had just happened. Joy told me that she remembers seeing the US Navy camp from the high back verandah of their house in Archibald Street.

On 8 August 1945, Blocksidge & Ferguson Ltd., Auctioneers at 140-146 Adelaide Street, advertised for sale by Auction a Building for Removal as follows:-  "No. 1. situated Ashby House grounds Brougham St., Fairfield. Building 90ft x 20 ft, prefabricated type sheathed & roofed fibro. divided into five rooms, sheathed & partitioned canite, hardwood floors."

At this stage it is still unclear exactly where all of their equipment and operations took place although Goodwin Park and/or Leyshon Park at Yeronga seem to be the most likely. Joy Balfour remembers a lot of tents being in the general area of these two parks.

There is also some activity running up diagonally to the left just east of "Ashby House" in the above 1946 aerial photo and a number of white dots along a creek alignment slightly further east again. Both of these areas are now parks.

 


Photo:- BCC 2012

The same area in 2012. Note the two park areas.

 

Can anyone tell me the exact location of this camp?

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

Base Facilities Report, U.S. Naval Activities, Southwest Pacific Area
Complied by Commander Seventh Fleet

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Denis Peel, Joy Balfour and Russell Miller for their assistance with this home page.

I'd also like to thank Sharon Buchan-Hepburn, daughter of Kenyon "Ken" Brye Kinman who lived around the corner from "Ashby House" at 6 Inchcape Street, Fairfield.

 

Can anyone help me with more information?

 

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 Peter Dunn 2015

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This page first produced 17 January 2004

This page last updated 18 January 2019