Camp Ascot: Eagle Farm Racecourse At the Time of WWII

Established in 1863, the Eagle Farm Racecourse has been part of many historical events in Ascot, proving that this racecourse is not just a reminder of Queenslanders’ fondness for horse racing.

It also served as the first military camp established by US Army troops in Australia. It was once named “Camp Ascot” during the second World War.

1941: The Building of the Camp

On the 22nd of December in 1941, the ‘Pensacola’ Convoy reached Brisbane’s Brett’s Wharf at Hamilton. The first US Army troops marched up Racecourse Road and there they found the Ascot Park Racecourse, where they established a tented camp.

As an important sporting and recreation facility in Brisbane, Queenslanders did not allow the American to alter the buildings or damage the three concentric racetracks. In spite of that, the Americans still received personal items, such as writing paper, library books and magazines from the Australian Comforts Fund.

1942: Arrival of the 648th US Engineer Regiment

The US Engineer Regiment described the camp as a “big fancy racetrack” inspite of the meagre facilities. The troops had to chop wood every day to supply the kitchen’s fireplace. The kitchen itself only had a makeshift tin shack with coal stoves, an open hearth with primitive utensils. The men slept on the wooden floors of their tents and bathed in the open-air showers.

1943-1944: Camp Turns Into Tent City

In 1944, Colonel Harold Doud’s Special Intelligence Service relocated into the Camp Ascot Park. It was packed with US Army Bell Tents and they placed temporary movie theatre in the main grandstand. They added two warehouses including a Mess Hall with a reading room in the member’s car park. They placed prefabricated, de-mountable huts around the camp but outside the fenced racing circle.

1945: SIS Left Camp Ascot

As the war ends in 1945, the SIS had left Camp Ascot and the unit was concentrated at San Miguel in the Philippines. In May 1946, the Victory Cup Meeting marked the return of racing to the Eagle Farm Racecourse.

Camp Ascot in the Present

The camp, or the Eagle Farm Racecourse was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register in 2004 as a combined entry with the Ascot Railway Station. The Brisbane Racing Club, who currently manages the racecourse, upgraded the racetracks and associated facilities, introduce non-racing developments, and continued operation for the racing facilities. A new access road and a residential tower were completed in 2018.