Community Lodges Petition to Add Nyrambla House to QLD Heritage List

The Ascot community has lodged a petition to include the Nyrambla House on Henry Street into the Queensland Heritage Listing. Used as a spy house for Australian, U.S., and allied soldiers during World War II, the home was sold at auction to a private owner.

Australian artist Lawrence Daws and his wife Andree, both deceased, used to own the property but their family decided to sell the mansion to an undisclosed new owner during an auction held in May 2021.  

The famous Ascot house has been cited as a heritage place with the Brisbane City Council since 2008 but the locals believe the house should also be acknowledged in the state register. In 2022, the Allies will be celebrating the 80th Anniversary of their collaborative work during World War II to defeat the Japanese forces. 

“It would be an appropriate acknowledgment of the strong bonds that bind Australia and the United States of America,” the petitioners stated. 

The petition will remain active until 30 Nov 2021. 

The Queensland Heritage List may consider adding a place to the list if it has brought  significant value to the “state’s wider pattern and evolution of history and heritage.”  

The Nyrambla House, originally built in the mid-1980s as a residence for Henry P. Abbott, was subdivided and then converted into rows of flats in the 1920s after G.W. Whatmore of the Centennial Hall Ltd acquired the property from Abbott. 

By the Second World War, the Central Bureau occupied the house for Allied codebreakers to intercept Japanese communications. In 1988, American veterans dedicated the plaque installed at the Nyrambla House, which reads:

“Central Bureau, an organisation comprising service personnel of Australia, USA, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, both men and women, functioned in this house from 1942 till 1945. From intercepted enemy radio messages, the organisation provided intelligence which made a decisive contribution to the Allied victory in the Pacific.”

Photo Credit: Paz Avalos/Google Maps

The deed to the Nyrambla House remained with the Whatmore family until the auction last May 2021.

Nyrambla: Learn the History of the Ascot House Used as a WWII Intelligence Base

Along the tree-lined Henry Street in Ascot stands Nyrambla, the hillside house which was formerly used as a United States-Australian intelligence base for codebreakers during the Second World War. The house is drawing much interest today because it just hit the market following the death of its owner, Brisbane socialite Andree Daws, in August 2020.

But the gorgeous structure hidden amongst tall trees next to some of the most expensive houses in Brisbane has such a rich history. Here’s the story of the historic house called Nyrambla. 

Photo Credit: Paz Avalos/Google Maps

The Owners and Dwellers

Built in 1885 for Henry P Abbot, the manager of the Australian Joint Stock Bank, the original property was over 15 acres, which stretched across Henry and Yabba Streets and had separate stables and servants quarters.

When Mr Abbot retired to Sydney, he rented out his imposing two-storey home to Patrick Perkins, the Queensland brewer. By 1925, Mr George Willoughby Whatmore, the manager of the Austin cars automotive group, bought the Nyrambla. 

Mr Whatmore, a member of the Council and a champion cyclist, was the grandfather of Ms Daws. But his death in 1929 saw Nyrambla’s transformation as a large house, which was converted into six flats. 

Its front side used to be alongside Yabba Street but as the house split off, the Henry Street side became the main entrance even today.

Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland
Photo Credit: State Library of Queensland

There were more additions to Nyrambla over the years. In place of stables and servants quarters were the swimming pool and tennis court. 

Other famous inhabitants of the Nyrambla flats included ABC presenter Blair Edmonds, farmers market operator Jan Power and Queensland actor, director and writer Bille Brown until Ms Daws acquired the property.

Today, Nyrambla is a nine-bedroom, six-car garage site with seven bathrooms, two sunrooms and a guest wing with a spacious living room area on the second floor.

Photo Credit: Lost Brisbane/Ray White Real Estate/Facebook

In 2013, Ms Daws converted part of the house into an art studio for her husband, Lawrence, whose paintings are displayed at art galleries across the country as well as in London, Scotland and China. He still continues to paint today at 93 years old. 

Ms Daws’ son Rick Roberts has lived in this house since the 1980s and has decided to put Nyrambla in the market. 

The Allies’ Intelligence Base

In 1942, the Allies requisitioned the Nyrambla as a top-secret facility after U.S. General Douglas MacArthur made Brisbane their headquarters. MacArthur, along with Australian General Thomas Blamey, made frequent visits to this house at the height of the war in the Pacific.

Photo Credit:

For the next three years, the 18 enlisted servicemen and six officers of U.S. 837th Signal Service Detachment and members of the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) and cryptanalyst from the Australian Cypher Section worked in the back garage to decipher intercepted Japanese codes using a Typex machine and IBM tabulators. The decoded messages were transmitted to Allied bases from all over the world.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Historical accounts stated that one of these intercepted messages was Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s itinerary to Rabaul in 1943. The Allies were able to intercept his aircraft, killing the commander of the Japanese fleet.

Following this feat, Colonel Harold Doud renamed the 837th Signal Service Detachment to the Special Intelligence Service.

In 1988, former U.S. servicemen returned to Nyrambla for the unveiling of the plaque by the front entrance.

Photo Credit: Paz Avalos/Google Maps