Canberra Camps, Settlements & Early Housing


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The Builders of Canberra-Duntroon by Ann Gugler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

 Copyright Ann Gugler ©2012

Duntroon builders

Home & Territories Camp Duntroon 1917-1930s

 Below is a clearer version of the camp sites at Duntroon than the one that follows.



Duntroon Home & Territories' Camps

Home & Territories' Camps showing the camp sites between 1917 & 1930+.  This map is in the book 'Builders of Canberra 1909-1929' Ann Gugler.


Death of Frank Fitch 1915

The Queanbeyan Age 20 July 1915


The information given in Friday’s issue of the AGE under the heading of ‘A Strange Fatality at Duntroon’ was incorrect in certain particulars, as evidenced by the inquest proceedings at the Queanbeyan Hospital on the afternoon of that day.  In the first place the name of the deceased was Frank Fitch and not Fritz; and secondly the case was treated at the Medical Service Hospital on the Federal Capital Territory at Canberra and not at Duntroon, and at the former place death took place.  The deceased was a native of Dalesford, Victoria, 47 years of age, unmarried and resided in New South Wales for the last 13 years. He followed mining pursuits for some years, but at the time of his death was employed by the Department of Home Affairs at Duntroon in the construction of the sewer.  The following summary of the evidence was taken before Mr Coroner Gale will give a true and reliable version of the affair.

Edward Henry Clark, caretaker at the Home & Affairs Camp at Duntroon, was the first witness examined and he stated that on the 4th July instant he saw the deceased who was suffering from a bad eye, the result, deceased had said, of a piece of stone which struck him a day or two previously while he was at work in a sewer in course of construction at Duntroon. The injury was on the ball of the eye and witness bathed and otherwise treated the injury. On his advice deceased went and consulted Dr Thompson of Canberra and afterwards ascertained that he (deceased) became an inmate of the hospital at Canberra.  Witness had known the deceased for about four years, during which time he was a man of strictly sober habits.  Deceased had never complained of anything wrong with his eyes, or of any other indisposition except that he had what is known as miner’s cough.  In answer to Mr Hansen deceased’s brother-in-law, who had come from Gundagai to watch the case on behalf of deceased’s friends, witness said the only illness deceased had suffered whilst at Duntroon was from boils on the hands which incapacitated him from work for four or five weeks.

Mr Hansen himself then gave evidence. He said his name was Frank Hansen and he was a constable of police stationed at Gundagai.  His wife was sister to the deceased. He recognized the body then lying in the morgue as that of Frank Fitch his brother-in-law.  He had known him for about 15 years. In consequence of telegrams received by his (witness’s) wife from Dr Thompson of Canberra stating that her brother was lying dangerously ill in Canberra Hospital he proceeded to Canberra, and arrived there on Wednesday morning last. He saw the deceased in the hospital ward. He was unconscious. Witness remained with him until his death which took place on the afternoon of the following day. He never regained consciousness. When he saw him about five years ago, deceased was following the occupation of a miner and was in robust health.  Deceased was a single man, of strictly sober habits. He had no real estate that witness was aware of. His bank pass book at the Commonwealth Bank Canberra showed a credit balance of £6 and he understood there was £5 coming to him for services as a returning officer for the Railway Workers and General Labourers Association. The sum of 13/1 was handed to him by the matron  of the hospital, found on deceased on his entrance into the hospital; and about 30/- was due to him for wages by the Home and Affairs Department.  In company with last witness and others witness searched the deceased’s tent at Duntroon, and in a portmanteau there found the sum of £9/6/6 of which sum £5 was held by deceased handed to him by George Moore of Yarralumla as having been collected in aid of one John Hardy to recoup him for the loss of a horse. Deceased was 47 years of age, and to the best of witness’s belief died intestate.

The next witness called was John Rae Menzies Thompson who stated that he was the medical officer of the Federal Territory Medical Service Hospital at Canberra.  He said the deceased came to him on the 3rd instant for medical treatment for an inflamed eye, which he said had been caused by a blow from a stone or piece of earth a few days before, he was thereupon admitted to the hospital where he remained under treatment, and the inflammation subsided so that he was able to leave his bed on the 9th instant. But early on the morning of the 10th he was attacked with severe pains in the head accompanied by fever.  In spite of very anxious and careful treatment his symptoms became more severer, so that he lost consciousness on the 13th and died on 15th instant. Witness did not consider the blow on the eye had any direct connection with the inflammation of the brain from which death ensued; but on account of the deceased having received an injury a short time before his death witness reported the matter to the Coroner and refused to issue a certificate as to death being the direct result of the recent injury, and having some doubt with respect thereto.  Witness had since been present at the post-mortem examination of the body, and was now quite satisfied that the brain inflammation was not caused by the injury to the eye.

Dr SL Richardson, Government Medical Officer of the Queanbeyan District gave the result of his autopsy as follows:- By order of the Coroner I have to-day made a post-mortem examination of the body of a man in the Queanbeyan hospital.  I first examined him outwardly and found no marks o violence about the body at all; even the eyes appeared to be well. I opened the skull and found a huge abscess on the merringes of the brain on the right side. I did not trace this to the eyes or anywhere else about the brain.  The absolute cause of death was abscess on the brain causing unconsciousness, coma and death. I opened the other portions of him – chest and abdomen – and found the organs healthy for a man of his age about 50 years.  There was a little congestion about the bowels and stomach like old standing indigestion.

The Coroner, on this evidence found that death resulted from inflammation of the brain the result of natural causes.  The deceased was buried on Saturday afternoon in the Queanbeyan General Cemetery, the Rev Gordon Hirst officiating, Mr O’Rourke having charge of the funeral arrangements. A number of deceased’s fellow workmen followed the coffin to its resting place.


D'Arcy McInnes' home at 'Toorak'

Photograph published in 'Builders of Canberra 1909-1929' loaned by D'Arcy McInnes. 

Max Hill's Memories RMC

Incidents from Canberra’s past that may or may not be recorded                                                               history.

or a layman’s view on recorded history



1.     RMC

RMC became the first self contained entity in the emerging city. After the 1914-18 war, the army was well equipped. From 1927 onwards large numbers of people were arbitrary transferred to Canberra, given a house and a place to work. There was a huge deficit of facilities and equipment for extracurricular activities such as, sporting events, school and church fetes, picnics, meeting halls and gathering places.  Duntroon was very well stocked with equipment that was widely needed such as, marquee’s of all sizes, tents of all sizes, full range of cooking and catering  goods, such as coppers, boilers, tables & seating, cutlery, crockery, tools of all sorts, the list seemed  endless. And RMC loaned all this gear to the public without stint.


I do not know if they ever made an official decision on this matter or whether the practice just grew from small beginnings. 


I was involved to an extent because of connections with multiple groups and the use of my father’s truck.   I did have friends at Duntroon and was known to the Duntroon stores staff.  Turning  up with a list after just a phone call to the stores superintendent.  The army stores were very orderly and neat and there always appeared to be an adequate number of willing privates, who’s only question was  Who for this time?   You see I had a truck (and that was not so common!) and I was attached to a number of organizations.


 The army would also deliver all the requirements for public events and set up and erect marquees and return and pick them up again .  Probably the most common items that were borrowed were trestle tables and seating, seating was usually wooden forms that would seat five people and easily able to stack on the truck. Coppers for boiling water were also needed.   Electrical urns were almost  unheard of, so it was not uncommon for an indoor function to have water boiling merrily outside. 


My first personal experience of the army lending equipment was for an Easter PFA Camp in 1937. I was only seventeen years old and became quartermaster for this camp of one hundred and twenty five young people between the ages of fifteen and thirty, of both sexes. The camp was based around the Acton Hall, which was used for kitchen, dining and meetings, Sleeping quarters were Army Marquees erected on the Acton Flats adjacent to the Hall, on an area now under the lake. All equipment was from the army except a large range that we brought on site and bricked- in,  A lean-to behind the Hall, was converted to a makeshift kitchen. At seventeen I was expected to organize all this? WE learnt fast in those days.  (I am sure that I had powerful friends behind me ). Duntroon delivered all goods on to the sight, erected the Marquees and stacked the stretchers and left the cutlery, crockery, tables and seating , and boilers etc. at the Hall.  My part was making out the lists of requirements including planning menus and ordering food supplies and making it all work. I still have a file with details of food (whole sheep at three pence per pound!)


Much has been written about early Canberra and it’s daily needs and methods of making do, and I have many of these publications, but almost nothing has been written about this service that the army rendered in the daily lives of  citizens and how it filled a vital need . My  experience of all the above extended from 1936. The War made changes to all this , but I do not remember when it was all terminated...