No 1 Labourers' Camp (c1922-1928) FCT
(also known as Daniel's No 1 after Herbert Daniel, Mess Caterer)
The Ex-Servicemen Brought to Canberra to Work as Labourers 1922 - Men of No 1 Labourers Camp

Labourers worked in the FCT from the time construction work began from around 1910/11.  However, the name No 1 Labourers Camp  and Daniel's No 1 came into being in the post World War era and it is probable that the ex-servicemen brought to the territory were the first men in this camp.  Later other labourers joined No 1.

Following the end of World War 1 in 1918 and into the 1920s there was a period of high unemployment in Australia. Finding work presented a major problem for many of the unskilled.  Some ex-servicemen experienced problems in returning to old jobs because the women who replaced them during the war were kept on - women were paid less than men. Other men during the years when they normally would have taken up an apprenticeship were fighting in the trenches and thus missed valuable years of training - they were amongst the unskilled.  Others could not settle after the war and took to wandering in search of work.

The war that began in August 1914  also affected the construction of Canberra.  By September 1916 work on the Sewer had ceased and towards the end of the year the Brickworks closed their doors.   Caretakers were employed to mind empty buildings and work sites.    For a time after the war there was strong doubt of whether work on Canberra should recommence.  Money in particular was short supply and the relative few skilled tradesmen were employed in the post war building booms in Sydney and Melbourne. Many Australians also doubted the wisdom of continuing with Canberra - it was spoken of in terms of being a white elephant. Even after the decision was made to continue with the construction buildings and other facilities were limited to the basics necessary to move the Federal Parliament from Melbourne to Canberra.  Plans for grand buildings were scrapped and in their stead a number of temporary buildings erected.  This included a Provisional Parliament House.  Following its opening on 9th May, 1927 the sackings began in Canberra that included not only the working classes but also architects.  From 1929 when the Great Depression hit Australia the construction of Canberra was blamed for the downturn in the economy. [This tendency to blame Canberra for the ills of the country continues today. The media and others tend to say Canberra did this and Canberra did that when they really mean the National Government did this or that.]

Thus in 1920 construction work in Canberra faced several major problems - whether or not to continue building - if the answer was yes then where to get the money to complete the city and thirdly - finding the workforce of skilled men and labourers to build it.

Unemployed who perhaps were thinking of trying to find work in the territory faced a major problem - how to get there and once there - where to live.

The lack of good housing for construction workers was recognised by the The Federal Capital Advisory Committee (FCAC) put in charge of construction work from 1920/21.  One obvious solution was to convert the empty internment camp built at Molonglo (now Fyshwick) in 1918.  By 1921 over half the buildings had been sold, however the remaining barracks constructed from timber and galvanized iron were soon converted into three to six room cottages (120) and single accommodation for 150 tradesmen.

The conversion of this camp did little to alleviate the overall housing problems of the territory.   Single men (that is without families) continued to be housed in tents in camps segregated from married quarters and in the post war era these too were organised into camps for labourers, horse & dray men (pug camps), tradesmen, engineers, surveyors etc.  Camps were usually established close to work sites to save paying zone allowances to the men.  Molonglo was followed by Westlake (Stirling Park), Causeway, Russell Hill and so on.  A number of Molonglo buildings were moved to sites around the FCT including Civic Centre, Westridge and Eastlake.

Below: Detail of a plan of the Molonglo Internment Camp found in Australian Archives A3032/1 DC339.  The site is north of the railway line in modern Fyshwick.  The line of buildings noted as "Military Buildings" are now covered by the Molonglo Mall Fyshwick.  This is on a small hill overlooking the sites of the tenements.  At the time this plan was made c1920 half the buildings had already been sold.  Note the barracks are on either side of a central block in which the ablutions and wash houses were placed.  Each barrack was divided into a number of cottages made up of between 3 to 6 rooms.  In 1925 the cottages were separated to form individual houses.

Below: Detail of a panoramic view of Molonglo Interment Camp taken in 1919 and loaned by Lorna Marriott (nee Francis).  Her father was Controller of Stores.  This mid section shows the Military Section looking towards the Barracks.  The building on the left in the foreground would be the ablution's block for the military.

Below: Photograph taken from the other side to the above photograph showing in the background the Military Section.  This photograph was taken circa 1924/25.  The Molonglo Gaol was in the Military Section.  It was the first in the FCT and the Police Officer, Sergeant Cook (2nd in Territory) also lived at Molonglo before the Police transferred to the Administrative Section at Acton.

Molonglo buildings were moved to a number of sites including The Brickworks, Eastlake (below Rottenbury Hill), Civic etc.  Photograph of Frank McKay outside an ex-Molonglo barracks at the Brickyards 1921.  Note the unpainted walls.  The timber as it dried left gaps for the wind to whistle through.  Photograph loaned by Reg Newcombe.


The labour problem and how to solve it was discussed with the RS&SILA (Returned Soldiers & Sailors Imperial League of Australia) with a view to asking unemployed ex-servicemen to come to the Territory.  The decision was made to find 200 ex-servicemen to work in Canberra.  They were to be recruited from Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. Their train fares were to be paid by the Commonwealth and repaid over the period of a few pays.  The men were to be housed in two tent camps - the first No 1 Labourers' Camps in the post war period.  It was also intended that four men should share each tent that in fact was overcrowded with two.  Details of the arrangements etc are found in Australian Archives in Canberra in File A199/1 FC1923/689.  A series of documents in this file inform us that on 7th April 1922 a letter was sent to the Department of Defense in Melbourne requesting floored tentage for 50 men to be delivered at Canberra on or about Monday 17th April, 1922.  The Department was also to supply Mess Buildings, Mess Tables, benches, kitchen, and firewood and caterers were to be appointed. Details of the ex-servicemen's arrivals and camps is discussed later in this document.

Below: 1927 map showing the settlement of Causeway constructed in 1925, the site of Causeway and Eastlake Camps.  They are near the Canberra Railway Station.  The Eastlake Camp is probably the site of No 1 Labourers Camp on the south side of the river.

The ex-servicemen labourers brought to the Territory in 1922 were established in two  camps - one on the north side on the slopes of Mt Pleasant just above the drain and the other at Eastlake.  Herbert Daniel was employed at Mess Caterer first in the Civic area (at NO 1?) and later at Eastlake.

The Eastlake No 1 Labourers Mess was vacated on 13th May, 1924 (Australian Archives CP464/3/1 Bundle 1/B968) and moved to Westlake.  Herbert Daniel moved  with No 1 Labourers Camp to Westlake.  The men were employed on work on and near the Provisional Parliament House and administrative offices of East Block and West Block.

Westlake, named by Walter Burley Griffin in the early 1920s was developed as a major housing centre for men working on the construction of Hotel Canberra (Contractor Howie), the Sewer and Provisional Parliament House, Administrative Buildings and surrounds.  In 1925 the population of Westlake (now Stirling Park Yarralumla) was 500.  It consisted of three government camps including No 1 Labourers, Contractor John Howie's cottages and single men's Hostel Camp and 52 timber cottages in The Gap at Westlake.

Following the opening of the Provisional Parliament House 9th May 1927 No 1 Labourers Camp moved to a site at Red Hill.  The 27th July, 1927 Sanitation Report notes the following about No 1 Labourers Camp at Westlake -
    To be demolished in a month - occupants then to wooden cubicles at Red Hill site.  About 100 12 foot x 10 foot tents of hessian and canvas.  No surface collection of water with exception of water tap drainage to earth channels extending to creek, (nearly dry).  Sanitary blocks sewered; garbage bins covered...

Bill Mitchell was the Mess Caterer at the time of the move and he went with the men to the Red Hill site.  The exact date when this camp was disbanded is not certain but it would be around 1928.  Bill Mitchell moved to White City Mess.

Construction of Westlake cottages 1924.  They were first called "The Gap Cottages".  The bottom right would be 27 or 28 Westlake - now in Stirling Park, Yarralumla near the corner of Empire Circuit and Forster Crescent.

Above: photograph of Ken Dinnerville and unknown girl 1927 at Howie's cottages.  The Westlake cottages were based on Howie's cottages.  The last house was pulled down before the end of 1931.  Photograph loaned by Ken Dinnerville's daughter.  One of the dumps used by Contractor Howie was at Attunga Point in the old quarry.  Below is a broken rubber doll found in that dump (used between 1922 and 1925).  I nick-named her Alice because she reminded me of Alice in Wonderland.
Above right: Frank Clowry in 1925.  The cartoon was placed in the 1925 Christmas Issue of the "Canberra Illustrated".  He was Foreman Carpenter at Parliament House and lived for a time in the Trades Men's Camp at Westlake.  Below: The Cook's Tent NO 1 Labourers Camp at Westlake in 1924.  The site of this camps was on the hillside now opposite Lotus Bay on the southern side of Lake Burley Griffin. Note the Kandos cement sign on the left hand side.  The roofing on the next tent is probably tin.  This photograph comes from the Australian Archives collection Series No CRS A 3560, Item No 870.

The above photograph is of the Cooks' tents No 1 Labourers' Camp at Westlake circa 1925.  Herbert Daniel was the Mess Caterer.   Below: Photograph taken in 1924 showing some of the men at No 1 Labourers Camp at Westlake.

Below: The Police Camp set up on the flat land opposite Lotus Bay, Yarralumla.  In the background are the tents of the Old Tradesmen's Camp.  The tents of No 1 Labourers were to the left of the tents in this photograph.

Conditions in Camps:
Life for all construction workers was difficult and made even more so because the nearest shopping centre and hotels were at Queanbeyan.   From 1913 until the end of 1928 Canberra was officially dry.  There was also a shortage of eligible young ladies for the single men in camps to meet. And life could not be normal whilst the policy of segregation was in place.  Married and Single Men's camps were separated and single men's camps were organised according to occupations - the lowest on the scale was labourers - next pug (horse & dray), tradesmen, engineers and officials and never the twain should meet.  Two-up, drinking, and sports were favourite occupations in the single men's camps.

Living under canvas was cold in winter and hot in summer.  Some added fireplaces constructed from tin.  Candles were used by many for lighting and one falling over in the night or a spark from the fire caused one tent in No 1 Labourers Camp at Westlake to catch fire resulting in the death of the man whose home it was. a drunken brawl led to the death of another man in the same camp.

A few showers and baths were supplied for the men, but with cold water only.  In the case of the Tradesmen's Camp at Westlake six baths were supplied for 150 men and two coppers to heat the water. Below is a plan for additional Sanitary Accommodation for the Tradesmen's Mess.  The top diagrams show urinal and pan accommodation in the lavatories.

Until mid 1925 the men worked a five and half day week leaving little time for men who wanted to visit families.  Following the vote for a five day working week with the same number of worked hours men - particularly married men - had a chance to catch the train home at the weekends to visit families.  There are many stories about travelling and one often quoted by old timers tells the tale of  one well known character who lived in the Tradesmen's Camp at Westlake - Frank (Francis) Clowry.  He was a tall gentleman and Foreman Carpenter on the Parliament House job.  Following the introduction of the five day working week every second Friday evening he road his push bike back to a small township near Braidwood to visit his family.  He returned on the Sunday.  By car this trip now takes around one and half hours.  Frank Clowry was lucky to be allocated a house at Westlake and along with his wife and children moved into number 16 on the 3rd March, 1924.

The arrival of the ex-servicemen

The shortage of labourers in the territory was seen by many as a godsend.  All that was required was to move the unemployed exservicemen to the territory and the problem of what to do with unemployed ex service men and the labour problem of Canberra were  solved.

Files in Australian Archives in Canberra (A199/2/95) note some of the arrangements made in 1922 to send 200 ex-servicemen to Canberra. The men chosen by the RSS&ILA from NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.  These men were to become the occupants of No 1 Labourers Camp.  The first appears to have been established on the north side of the river on the slopes of Mt Pleasant and the second at Eastlake.

On 7th April, 1922 arrangements were made for fifty men to be delivered to Canberra on or about Monday 17th April, 1922. The selection of the first fifty men by the RSS&ILA was made by 11th April, 1922.  The Department of Supply was to make arrangements for Mess Buildings, Mess tables and benches, kitchen and firewood. Caterers were to be appointed. The rail fares were paid for the men, however they were expected to repay the money from their first two weeks' wages.

A document dated 11th April, 1922 stated that 50 men were due to arrive in Canberra the following week and were to work with pick and shovel on road construction. 50 were to arrive in about ten days time and work in the Weetangera area; 50 to work on excavations for the Hostel [Hotel Canberra] and another 50 to be absorbed on work on the sewer - a total of 200 ex-service men.

PT Owen was in charge of the work in Canberra and arrangements were made for four men to be assigned to each 12 foot x 14 foot tent. As there were not sufficient tents for the expected men Sydney was telegraphed to supply an additional 14. Rental of 9 pence per man was charged each week.  When the men arrived they found no blankets supplied and each tent was big enough for three men not four.

The arrival of the ex-servicemen also heralded the first strike in the Territory.  A document in Australian Archives (A1/1 22/7034) and dated 20th April 1922 mentions the proposal of the authorities intention to increase working hours and reduce wages.  The Argus  dated 21st April, 1922 reported the incident.  The article in part reads:

             A message from Queanbeyan tonight states that the sewer and roads workmen are on strike, although the brickyards and power houses are working there is a likelihood of cessation at any moment, it is reported that 50 men who have just arrived will not work.  A meeting of the builders' labourers union who are employed at Canberra will be held at Sydney tomorrow, to decide what action shall be taken on the proposal to reduce wages and lengthen working hours...about 250 men affected.

The list for the first 25 men selected by RSS&ILA 12.4.1922 follows:

Name Address S/M Remarks Work
JJ Shepherd 144 Ballair St Kensington S remounts lab
J Lee 32 Charles St Prahan M 7th Btn lab
ET Kinninmont 189 A'Beckett St, City M 60th pick & shovel
ET Wallace Vict St Altona M 5th Btn pick & shovel
A Moles 4185 Canterbury Rd Middle Ph M 6th pick & shovel
H Quinn Booths Home, Londsdale St City S miner
S McMillan 14 Edward St Elsternwick M 59th labourer
JP Kelt  19 Nimmo St Middle Park S 58th miner
LJ Coverdale 40 Caroline St Clifton Hill S 5th hand & drill
LJ Cleverdale (crossed out)    
E Powers 36 David St East Brunswick S 1st tunneling Co miner
JH Flood 126 Napier St, S Melbourne 14th Btn labourer
A Waters 255 Victoria Parade EM M 1st Pioneers labourer
WH Haviell  Gordon House, Little Bourke St City Widower, reinforcements labourer
AJ Wylie Arondale Rd, Chelsie M 7th Btn labourer
J Drayton 35 Milton St W Melb M 8th Btn labourer
J Drayton (crossed out)    
C Bishop Gordon House, Little Bourke St City M 2nd Tunnel Co miner
W West 125 Queensberry Street N Melbourne  M 5th Pioneer labourer
J O'Rourke 33 Stead St S Melbourne S 3rd Pioneer labourer
AJ Bannister  Royal Standard House, Little Bourke St Melbourne M 60th labourer
HN Podger  147 Johnstone St Fitzroy  M Navy pick & shovel
GL Podger 217 Young St Nth Fitzroy S 24th Btn labourer
J Armstrong 27 Creswick St Hawthorn M 21st Btn labourer
John Morley 71 Palmerston St Carlton M 24th Btn labourer

A further batch of 25 were to arrive on the 21st inst. This group due to leave on 18th April, 1922. The first lot were due to arrive in Queanbeyan at 4.15 am on Wednesday the 19th April, 1922.

Sir Austin Chapman MP in the House of Representatives, Canberra wrote a letter on 1st May, 1922 stating that the men had not been supplied with blankets and that the tents supplied were too small for four men and suggested that only three be accommodated and the rent be reduced to 6 pence per week. The RSS&ILA wanted to know where the men were to camp. PT Owen asked about Hope's gang at Russell Reservoir and Ainslie Channel (storm water).

6th May, 1922 a further 50 tents were to be supplied. 16th May, 1922 the tents for the ex-servicemen had arrived and the supplies on the 29th. This camp was on the north side - Mt Ainslie and or Mt Pleasant area.

29th May, 1922 25 ex-soldiers arrived from NSW. At that time the camp for the men was nearly complete. The men were expected to provide their own cook. They did not.

A telegram to the Director at Melbourne said that 50 men could be used at Ainslie. Following is the list of the first men to arrive and commence work in FCT on 30th May, 1922. (The actual number was 47 - and some were the 25 mentioned as coming from NSW?).
J Lee E J Waller A Moles J Wilson LJ Coverdale
JH Flood A Waters WH Haviell J Drayton HN Podgers
G L Podgers J Armstrong H Emerson M Marks WH Loveland
BA Henessy H Hines JF Carroll T Farrell E Smith
W Flanagan WE Hill R Chisholm J Grove GA Bull
A Harris JS Gibbons LG Laurie McGrath H Rigby
L Crook J Goddard H Thornton NA Beattie J Rooney
D Kelly J Clancy C Andre RJ Andre R Reynolds
JP Kelt P Paull E Pike W West J Copeland
JJ Ryan C Roberts      

On 9th May, 1922 HM Rolland, Works Director and architect had a list of men who arrived - ten did not report for duty.

Another note mentions that men who arrived on the 29th May, 1922 were anxious to obtain the services of Daniels, the Caterer for the Eastlake Soldiers' Camp. Herbert Daniels did work for a time for No 1 Labourers Camp at Civic (Ainslie) and then in 1922 moved to No 1 Labourers' Camp at Eastlake. When No 1 Labourers Camp moved to Westlake in 1924 Herbert Daniel moved with them and obtained accommodation in one of the newly erected temporary portable timber cottages at Westlake. The men of No 1 worked on the erection of the Provisional Parliament House and surrounds. They probably dug the foundations for Hostel No 1 (Hotel Canberra). This work was completed by Contractor John Howie who built a timber settlement for his men - 25 cottages and 18 huts for married and single men. The latter was known as The Hostel Camp.

The project of moving ex-servicemen to Canberra to work was not a complete success. On 4th July, 1922 one of the ex-servicemen from NSW was found to be suffering from a contagious disease which was a menace to the general health of the district. Another report dated 14th July, 1922 stated that the men were not up to the standard expected and so on. Following is a list of the men who left by 12th August, 1922
Name From Date/reason
C Andre Melbourne 10.8.22 voluntary
RJ Andre Melbourne 5.8.22 voluntary
G Bull Melbourne Cleared out
J Armstrong Melbourne 7.8.1922 voluntary
RF Brown Queensland 7.7.1922 discharged
J Copeland Melbourne Cleared out
J Carroll Melbourne 28.6.1922 voluntary
L Crook Melbourne 30.5.1922 voluntary
J Clancy Melbourne 5.6.1922 voluntary
W Flanagan Melbourne 11.7.1922 L7S
FJ Daveron Sydney 29.6.1922 voluntary
F Farrell Melbourne 22.5.1922 voluntary
Ferguson Sydney 8.6.1922 voluntary
J Groves Melbourne 24.7.1922 voluntary
WH Haviell Melbourne 22.5.1922 cleared out
EH Hennessy Melbourne 10.8.1922 voluntary
H Hines Melbourne 5.7.1922 incurable illness
H Jones Sydney 5.7.1922 voluntary
F Johnson Sydney 29.6.1922 voluntary
D Kelly Melbourne 25.7.1922 voluntary
J Lee Melbourne 5.8.1922 discharged
L McGrath Melbourne 25.7.1922 discharged
JC McGrogan Queanbeyan 7.11.1922 voluntary
R McCauley Queanbeyan 11.7.1922 voluntary
F North Bungendore 8.7.1922 voluntary
JP Paull Melbourne 5.8.1922 discharged
M O'Rourke Queanbeyan 29.6.1922 voluntary
FN Pickering Sydney 29.6.1922 voluntary
C Roberts Melbourne 5.8.1922 discharged
J Rooney Melbourne 11.5.1922 voluntary
RB Stowe Queanbeyan 25.7.1922 voluntary
EJ Wallis Melbourne 6.6.1922 voluntary
A Waters Melbourne 7.6.1922 voluntary
W West Melbourne 1.6.1922 voluntary
F Wilson Queanbeyan 10.7.1922 voluntary
F White Sydney 8.7.1922 discharged
JP Woods Bungendore 29.6.1922 voluntary
W Woods Bungendore 21.9.1922 voluntary
R Chisholm Melbourne 7.8.1922 voluntary

The total number who departed were: 40

29 left voluntarily, 3 cleared out, 6 discharged and 1 had an incurable disease.

On 12th August 1922 R Chisholm was given a rail ticket to enable him to return to Canberra.

14th August, 1922 L McGrath (from Melbourne) was granted leave and he along with others were told to draw their time following returning under the influence of liquor.

Other notes in the file state that blankets were sold to the ex-servicemen for 5/3d each and one of the sellers kept the money. He was sentenced to time in Goulburn Gaol.

Some reminders of the men of No 1 are found on the hillside opposite Lotus Bay Yarralumla.  Three urinal trenches and trenches dug around tents remain along with tracks and rubbish thrown into small fires and pits.  A "silver' teaspoon with Commonwealth of Australia imprinted on it, fragments of beer bottles and pottery, the odd coin, buttons etc are still to be found.  Amongst the broken pottery are remains of delicate tea-cups that show that some reminders of home came with the men.  Near the tent sites are rock lined garden beds some of which still have growing strongly briar roses and other shrubs - and white iris flowers still bloom.

The following men's names are on the 1928 Electoral Roll - No 1 Labourers Camp at Red Hill.  Some men still added "Westlake".  In 1927 there were between 100 and 200 men in No 1 Labourers Camp.

ALLAN, Francis labourer

BARNES, Joseph labourer

BISSET, Ronald labourer

BLAKSTON, James lorry driver

BLAY, Thomas labourer

BRENNAN, John labourer

BROWN, William labourer

BULL, John labourer (Westlake)

BURGE, George electrician

BYRNE, Dennis labourer (Westlake)

BYRNE, Harold labourer

CHRISTIE, John labourer

CRAN, Peter labourer

DALEY, John labourer (Westlake)

FEBEY, John ---

FITZPATRICK, John labourer

GALLIE, James pipe inspector (Westlake)

HASTINGS, William labourer

HENRY, George labourer (Westlake)

IRVING, Harold labourer (Westlake)

JAMES, Wilton labourer (Westridge PO)

JOHNSTONE, John labourer (Westlake)

LANE, Leslie labourer (Westlake)

LAVELL, William labourer

LOWE, Alan labourer

McINNES, Ronald labourer

MARSHALL, Thomas cook (Westlake)

MATHIESON, George labourer

MEARNS, John labourer

MUIR, Harry labourer

MURFET, Reginald labourer

NOWLAND, Reginald gardener

O'CONNOR, John labourer (Westlake)

O'SHEA, John labourer

PARKER, Robert labourer

POLA, John labourer (Eastlake)

PRESTON, Joseph labourer

ROBERTSON, William labourer (Westlake)

ROBINSON, George labourer

ROSS, Charles labourer

SMITH, George labourer

SMITH, John labourer

THORNTON, John labourer

THOROGOOD, Joseph camp caretaker

WATSON, George gardener

A Legacy of the unemployed ex-servicemen

Following the slow down of  work became short in Canberra following the opening of Parliament in May 1927 the sackings began and competition for jobs became strong.  A selection criteria eligibility for employed was brought into force in the FCT.  It remained well into post World War 2 period.  It ensured that locals were top of the list and in that category married ex-servicemen were the first to be employed.  Following is an example copied from a contract dated 6th April 1938.  This same statement continued into the 1940s and later :
In the engagement of workmen under this contract the contractor shall give preference,
firstly to Returned Soldier and Sailors who are domiciled and registered in Canberra and
who are capable of effectively performing the duties required and secondly to other
competent workmen domiciled and registered in Canberra. Provided that all workmen
required in connection with the contract shall be selected from the Registrar of Persons
available for employment kept at the office of the Works & Services Branch of the
Department of the Interior. If the contractor considers any of the workmen available for
selection to be unsuitable for his requirements, he shall state his objections at the time.