No. 1145 - Brighton Military Camp - Tasmanian Catholic Soldiers Hut (1940)

Brighton Military Camp was located at the northern end of Brighton on the boundary with Pontville. The camp was established on the 13th August 1914 but lack of water impeded its development. After the first contingent left in October 1914 the main training camp moved to Claremont. During the Second World War a training camp was reestablished at Brighton, where huts housed up to 2400 trainees. As the need for training declined, Brighton Camp was used to detain Italian prisoners of war. After the war the camp was used to house migrants from Europe as well as national servicemen. In 1967 it housed victims of the bushfires and in 1999 it was temporarily used by 400 Kosovar refugees. The facility was closed in 2006 and sold to a developer in somewhat controversial circumstances.

During World War Two, the religious and spiritual needs of servicemen at Brighton Camp were met by a number of denominations including Anglican, Methodist, Catholic and the Salvation Army. With support from the public “huts” were built which served the dual purpose of recreational facilities and places of worship.

In 1940 the Catholic community undertook a campaign to raise funds for a ‘hut’ for Catholic men at the Brighton Camp. In August 1940 the Launceston Examiner reported:

“From funds raised by public subscription, a Roman Catholic hut has been constructed at the Brighton camp.… It is proposed to provide free nightly suppers and many comforts for all the troops in camp. The hut is commodious and contains provision for the celebration of Mass by the Roman Catholic chaplain, Rev. Father F. Kennedy. It also contains recreational facilities. The hut will be in the charge of a pensioner caretaker who will prepare the nightly supper with the assistance of volunteer troops. On one day each week women will visit the hut from Hobart to mend clothes for the troops. Each night of such visits a special supper will be provided for the men…..”.

Later that month the facility was officially opened. The Hobart Mercury’s report on the event provides further detail about the building:

“A Roman Catholic hut for the spiritual and recreational use of soldiers was blessed and opened at Brighton Camp yesterday. More than 1,000 persons were unable to gain admission to the building for the ceremony, which was performed by the Archbishop of Hobart (the Most Rev. Dr. J. D. Simonds).

The new building, which has been erected near the main recreation hall, cost £750, and apart from many donations £150 was spent on furnishings and fittings. The hut has a floor space as large as many country halls, and at one end there is an altar, which can be shielded with doors when the hut is required for recreational purposes. A convenient kitchenette will be used by women who will serve supper each day for the men, and collapsible tables in the body of the hall will provide facilities for reading and writing. The ceremony and speeches were relayed through amplifiers to the crowd outside the hut.

Included in the official party were the Premier (Mr. Cosgrove), the District Commandant (Brigadier G. E. Manchester), …the Lord Mayor of Hobart (Mr. Soundy),…and the Camp Commandant (Col. L. H. Payne). The Rev. H. Kennedy, camp padre and parish priest of Brighton, said the provision of the hut followed the formation of the Catholic Soldiers' Welfare Association about six weeks ago. Apart from providing religious necessaries for Catholic men at the camp, the hut would be open to all men as a recreation centre. Support for the provision of the hut had been forthcoming from all parts of Tasmania,… Col. Payne said he welcomed the hut as an important unit to the camp.

Dr. Simonds said the men in camp might be called on to take part in a war on their own shores, and the young men of peace, who had been uprooted from their civil callings, would need all their spiritual faith to carry them forward. In the provision of the hut as a place of spiritual help people were not only honouring God, but were making a valuable contribution to the country's cause….”.

The history of the building after the war is unclear and further research is needed. The ‘hut’ may have been moved to Bridgewater for use as a temporary church before the construction of St Paul’s in 1984. At a later date another Catholic church, St Joan of Arc Chapel, was erected in the camp for use by refugees and migrants residing in the camp.

Further information about the Brighton Camp churches is most welcome as all articles are regularly updated. I can be contacted through the comments section on this page or my Facebook page "Churches of Tasmania" which is linked here: Churches of Tasmania.


The Tasmanian Catholic Soldiers Hut at Brighton Camp. Photograph courtesy of Chris Jager

The Altar in the T.C.S. Hut that was closed off by doors when the building was used for recreational purposes. Photo courtesy of Chris Jager.


Sources:

Advocate, Friday 2 August 1940, page 2
Examiner, Friday 2 August 1940, page 4
Advocate, Monday 5 August 1940, page 7
Mercury, Monday 5 August 1940, page 4
Advocate, Tuesday 22 October 1940, page 2

https://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/M/Military%20camps.htm








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