Canberra Camps, Settlements & Early Housing

Alphabetical List of Camps

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The Builders of Canberra-Alphabetical List of Camps by Ann Gugler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Copyright Ann Gugler © 2012


Alphabetical List of Camps

Draft for Revised Edition 'The Builders of Canberra 1909-1929' Gugler, Ann

May 1927 Servicemen's Camps Opening Parliament

Camps For Servicemen May 1927

Three tent camps were established for navy, army and airforce men taking part in the ceremonies held in May 1927 when the Duke of York opened the Federal Parliament in Canberra. The airforce camp was on the north side of the Molonglo River roughly in the vicinity of Fairbairn - Canberra airport; the Navy Camp was in the Westlake horse paddock - ie on the western side of Stirling Ridge, Yarralumla and another not far from the parade ground where the Duke reviewed the servicemen. This area was in or near York Park and it may have been the camp in the area of the Chinese Embassy and Flynn Drive Yarralumla.  This camp is near Stirling Park Yarralumla and is shown in an aerial photograph taken in May 1927 and another that shows the members of the Police Force attending the ceremonies lined up in front of their tents.  This camp may be a fourth camp for men in the police and other services attending the ceremonies.

Charlie Law, who lived at Westlake in 1927 remembered the camp in the Westlake Horse Camp and said that it held the men of HMAS Sydney.  To entertain themselves they built a race track marked with stones painted white.  Local lads raced the horses for them on the newly made track.  Before they left they piled the stones into a cairn and added the following sign: Here lies the remains of HMAS Sydney who founded on these shores in May 1927 and died of thirst.  Canberra from 1910 until towards the end of 1928 was DRY.  The sale of alcohol in the territory was forbidden.

The following article is about the special sports events held to keep the many men occupied with something of interest during their Canberra stay. 

The Canberra Times 3 March 1927


The military forces detailed to attend the celebrations at the opening of the new Houses of Parliament will be encamped at Canberra from May 2 to May 10. 

Royal sanction has been given to the emblazoning of battle honors on the regimental colors. These colors will be similar in design to those sanctioned for dragoon regiments of the British army and treated with customary honors.  The new colors will be carried at the review of troops by the Duke of York in Canberra.

During the period of encampment a committee representing the navy, army and air force will be appointed to conduct a series of sports competitions.

The programme will include contests in boxing, football, rifle shooting and other branches of sport. Further details are as follow:-

·         Boxing:- Fly, feather, bantam, light welter and light heavy weight under service rules.

·         Football:- Under Australian rules and under Rugby rules.

·         Rifle Shooting:- For gold medal and the champion shot of all services under Citizen Force Rifle Association rules.

·         Open to all troops in Canberra Camp, permanent personnel and senior cadets included:

o    Application 3 rounds, 2 sighters 22in, small tin hat target 300 yards.

o    Snapshooting, 10 rounds, no sighters 22in tin hat disc, 330 yards. Each service supplies its own ammunition.

·         Sport:- Special cavalry events: 100 yards champion: 120 yards hurdles: 220 yards championship; 440 yards championship; inter-service relay race 440 yards


Civic Centre & Arsenal Camps

Arsenal Camp

It was intended during World War One to build an arsenal factory in the local area.  The choice of the local area was to ensure that it was away from the coastal area where it could have been attacked from the sea.  The discussion about the project took so long that by the time the final decisions were made to put  the factory at Tuggeranong (one of four sites) the war had ended and the project abandoned.  Following are a number of articles about the proposed Arsenal factory and township.


The Advertiser (Adelaide SA) 1 October 1909


Sydney, September 30

A return laid upon the table of the Legislative Assembly to-night by the Premier sets out the tenure of lands within the area of 100 square miles which has been submitted to the Commonwealth Government for consideration as an addition to the territory (800 square miles) which the State is prepared to surrender.  The lands are comprised in the parishes of Yarralumla, Narrabundah, Tuggeranong and Gegertane in the County of Murray, the parishes of Colguarra, Tharwa, Cuppacumbalong and Yawara county of Cowley and the parishes of Kewong and Burra county of Murray.  They measure in all 61,440 acres 32,215 acres of which are alienated. Conditional purchases account for 17,172 acres and conditional leases for 9,000 acres.


The Mercury (Hobart Tas) 29 July 1912


Melbourne, July 28(?)

The Commonwealth Government has acquired under the Lands Acquition Act portions of the parishes of Congwarra, Urayarra, Weetangera, Jerrabomberra, Canberra, Pialligo, Queanbeyan, Tuggeranong and Narrabundah in the Federal Territory.


The Argus (Melbourne) 15v February 1916


It was recently announced in ‘The Argus’ that the arsenal committee upon  its return from India reported to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) that the site recommended by the Public Works committee for the arsenal to be erected in the Federal capital territory was unsuitable. Prior to the selection of this site another site had been adopted by the Fisher Administration, upon which work had actually been commenced. N the present Ministry coming into office, with Mr O’Malley as Minister for Home Affairs, in succession to Mr Archibald, the original site was abandoned and the second site was substituted.


One of the principal reasons why the arsenal committee reported against this second site was that it was not in close vicinity to the river; this was, after the experience gained in India, looked upon as essential. Whilst the same objection did not apply to the original site, the water supply there was also considered insufficient.


After careful examination of the Federal territory the arsenal committee selected a site at Tuggeranong on the Murrumbidgee River and submitted a report to this effect to Senator Pearce.


At a recent meeting of the Federal Cabinet Senator Pearce submitted the report to his colleagues and it was decided to refer the matter to the Public Works committee.


The Argus (Melbourne) 20 October 1917


A promise having been made during session of the Federal Parliament that question of the site of the proposed arsenal would be dealt with before the end of the year, a meeting of the sub-committee of the Federal Cabinet appointed to deal with the matter was held yesterday. It was stated subsequently that the sub-committee had appointed the following members of an investigating committee to assist the Cabinet in the selection of a site:- Major-General Legge (chairman), Mr Brodribb (Manager of cordite factory), Mr King Salter (general manager Cockatoo Naval Establishment), Colonel PT Owen (director-general of Works), Mr McKay (acting manager Small Arms Factory), Mr Deiprat (general manager Broken Hill Ppy Ltd) and Mr Woodroffe.


The Argus (Melbourne) 15 June 1918


In pressing for a statement from the Ministry as to its decision with regard to the proposed arsenal at Tuggeranong near Canberra, Mr Chapman (New South Wales) \stated in the House of Representatives yesterday that a report recommended that work be begun at once.  The cost was estimated at 1,440,000 pounds and it was considered that employment would be immediately found for 1,200 men.  The cost of the preliminary works was estimated as follows:- Railway from Canberra (10 miles), 90,000 pounds; water supply 25,000 pounds; work and town buildings 650,000 pounds; excavation and leveling site 20,000 pounds; power main 3,000 pounds [may be 8,000 – hard to read].


Mr Bamford (Q) – You can multiply those figures by three.


Mr Chapman admitted that a great deal more work would be needed than that set out in these figures. An immense amount of work would be provided for returned soldiers, who were now spoilt because they were kept hanging  about the capital cities.  The ‘curse of centralization’ had got into repatriation. There was an immense deposit of iron ore near the arsenal.


The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr Groom) stated that the Ministry had decided that the best site for the arsenal was at Tuggeranong.  It was intended to proceed with the work. The matter had been brought under the notice of the Imperial authorities, and the necessity for the work was thoroughly recognized.


The Argus (Melbourne) 8 November 1918


Approval has been given by the Federal Parliamentary Committee on Public Works to the proposal at the Ministry to construct a railway from Goulburn to Nimmitybelle line at a point five miles south of Queanbeyan to link up the New South Wales railway system with the site of the proposed Federal arsenal at Tuggeranong. The suggestion of the Commonwealth Railway department wre favoured because with the exception of a mile and a half the line could be used for connecting to Canberra and afterwards to Yass, if it was thought desirable.  The departmental estimate of the cost was 82,813 pounds 12/6 or about 7,500 pounds per mile and the cost of maintenance at 800 pounds per annum.  The committee recommended that the Federal and New South Wales Railway Departments be asked to submit prices for the construction of the line and that the lower quotation be accepted.  The work will occupy eight months. New South Wales rolling stock will be used. Lands valued at between 5,000 pounds and 6,000 pounds may require to be acquired for the purpose of the line. Incidental to its inquiries the committee learned that the road haulage of 20,000,000 bricks required for the arsenal and arsenal town purposes and to be manufactured within the Canberra city area, would cost 670 [or 870 – hard to read] pounds per annum and render unnecessary the construction of a line of three miles of light railway estimated to cost 12,000 pounds.



The Argus (Melbourne) 28 June 1919


There is a strong probability that the Commonwealth will not after all have to bear the expense of erecting and maintaining a huge arsenal at Tuggeranong (New South Wales).  Mr AH Leighton director of the Commonwealth Arsenal department has submitted a report to the Federal Ministry in which he recommends that the project should be abandoned.  The report will probably be considered by the Cabinet next week, and an announcement of the intentions of the Government made in Parliament.


When the work at Tuggeranong was suspended last year, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Watt)stated that the Ministry had decided before going any further, to satisfy itself that it was proceeding along the right lines. He mentioned that it was proposed to seek expert advice on the question.  Following on that decision, Mr Leighton, on his return from Great Britain some months ago was asked to advise the Ministry basing his opinion on the experience gained in other countries as the result of the war.


It is understood that Mr Leighton has recommended as an alternative to the Tuggeranong proposal, that the existing facilities at Government and private factories should be extended so as to cover the manufacture of all essential munitions. The was has shown that if a nation does not sacrifice its industrial resources and has available the expert knowledge necessary to direct the production of war material, it can be transformed into a tremendously strong fighting nation within a comparatively short period. In Great Britain it was found that private factories which in time of peace had been engaged in the manufacture of needles for gramophones or other simple articles contained all the machinery required for making fuses. The object of the Commonwealth Arsenal department, Mr Leighton has pointed out, should be to keep abreast of the times, so that manufacturers might in time of war be properly directed.