No. 1221 - Brighton - Brighton Military Camp - YMCA Hut and Chapel (1940)

Brighton Military Camp was located at the northern end of of the town of Brighton near Pontville. The camp was established on the 13th August 1914 but lack of water impeded its development. After the first contingent of troops 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 material and religious needs of servicemen at Brighton Camp were met by a number of religious denominations and organisations including Anglican; Methodist; Catholic; Salvation Army; and the YMCA . With support from the public “huts”, or prefabricated buildings, were to provide recreational facilities and places of worship.

Founded in 1844, the Young Men's Christian Association aimed to put Christian values into practice by developing a healthy "body, mind, and spirit”. It became a worldwide movement founded on the principles of muscular Christianity focused on youth development through a wide variety of youth activities, including providing athletic facilities, holding classes for a wide variety of skills, promoting Christianity, and humanitarian work. The YMCA reached Launceston in 1880 and Hobart in 1882.

The following report from the Mercury describes the opening of the YMCA Hut and chapel on Monday 12 August 1940 by Governor Sir Ernest Clark, who was accompanied by Padre W. T. Reeve (representing the Bishop of Tasmania the Rt. Rev. Dr R. Snowdon Hay) and Reverend H. J. Ralph (vice president of the Council of Churches):

“…Comfort for the soldier in his hours of leisure is provided by the large building, which consists of a recreation and concert room, lounge, chapel and kitchen. Fireplaces have been built in the two main rooms and in the lounge are writing tables library and card tables.

Mr. F. L. Langford chairman of the Tasmanian YMCA Military Service Committee explained that before the war began the defence authorities in Australia asked the YMCA to organise the activities which characterised the YMCA’ s work in the last war. As a result the YMCA was operating in every centre where troops had been mobilised and its representatives had gone overseas with members of the fighting forces.

One of the objects of the service provided by the YMCA said the Governor was to employ a soldier’s leisure well keeping him in fit mental condition and so helping to improve discipline. …The spirit of self sacrifice and devotion taught by YMCA ideals was praised by the Governor…”.

Equipment for the chapel was provided in the following month as described in the following report by the Mercury:

“A service was held on Monday In the chapel of the YMCA Hut at Brighton Camp to dedicate a communion set presented by the Congregational Union of Tasmania and a pulpit presented by the Christian Endeavour Society of the Margaret St. Methodist Church, Launceston. The Rev. L. C. Parkin, acting president of the YMCA, Hobart, presided…. An address was delivered by Mr. L. G. Darling, YMCA representative at Brighton, and the dedicatory prayer was offered by Mr. Parkin….The chapel was provided by the YMCA as a centre of religious fellowship for men in camp and as a centre where churches not represented In camp by chaplains could meet members and adherents. The YMCA committee, in conjunction with the Comforts Fund, has accepted a tender for additions to the YMCA Hut, which has proved too small for the demands made upon it. Attendances at the hut by the men average 1,000 a day, 3,000 sheets of paper are used for letter writing each week, and a free supper service sponsored by groups of women, who go to the nut every evening, serves an average of 3500 suppers each week….”.

Further information about Brighton Military Camp’s 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”.


Brighton Camp YMCA Hut - Photograph courtesy of Chris Jager (Tasmanian History Facebook Group)


Sources:

Examiner, Tuesday 13 August 1940, page 4
Mercury, Tuesday 13 August 1940, page 5
Mercury, Wednesday 30 October 1940, page 4


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