he US Army had chosen Yeronga Park for a military camp in 1942. Camp Yeronga Park housed a variety of units among them the military police and the 99th Signal Battalion, US Service Army of Supplies ( USASOS) and the US Women’s Army Corps (WAC). The Australian Army placed an oil depot in an undesirable and low-lying section of the park.
Dutch and Netherlands East Indies (NEI) members of the Women’s KNIL Corps joined the American WACs at Camp Yeronga Park. The American women hosted a welcome lunch for the Women’s KNIL Corps members in their WACs Mess on 26 September 1944. They were known as the Dutch WAC.
The Women’s KNIL Corps was established in Melbourne on 5 March 1944. It provided drivers, typists, and nurses or military administrative positions to relieve Dutch or Indonesian males for combat duty.
They trained at Yeronga but most worked at Camp Columbia, Wacol. As pictured below.
The women also volunteered to sew uniforms and arranged and assisted in Red Cross fundraising.
The Indonesian Night in Brisbane Town Hall in 1945 was organised to raise funds for the NEI and Australian Red Cross. The evening was supported by the Australian ladies from Camp Columbia both Dutch WAC and administrative staff.
The following is a recollection from Jean van Schilfgaarde, secretary at Camp Columbia.
“At the city hall in Brisbane on Wednesday the 18th of July 1945 the concert took place before an audience of 2000 and 300 pounds raised for the Red Cross. The Australian girls performed the lighted candle dance with great distinction with a native of Sumatra as the sole dancer. It was a cultural event the like of which had not been seen before in Australia“.
The two foto’s below are from photo the collection Ms Joan McConaghy, secretary at Camp Columbia. The library and mess pictures above are also from her collection.
Paul Budde, January 2023