Image Interior GMH Allison Overhaul Assembly Plant hangar, Brisbane, 1943

TLF ID R8612

This black-and-white overhead photograph shows the interior of the large General Motors Holden (GMH) Allison Overhaul Assembly Plant hangar, or 'igloo', as it was nicknamed. The hangar, located at Albion in Brisbane, Queensland, was used for the US Army 81st Air Depot Group during the Second World War. It is partitioned into open cubicles with men and women working at benches on various tasks along its considerable length. Exposed internal nailed wooden roof trusses arc across under the corrugated iron roof.

Educational details

Educational value
  • The hangar pictured here was used to overhaul Allison aeroplane engines damaged during the Pacific War. GMH repaired 375 engines in a year for the US forces at the Overhaul Assembly Plant. In seven weeks in late 1942, GMH contractors had built the plant, provided 1,500 special tools and 300 assembly stands and trained 180 men and women in overhauling the internal combustion engines.
  • The number of employees working at this plant had risen to 350 within six months of opening, which enabled the processing of ten engines per day. The work was carried out for the 81st Air Depot Group, US Army Air Corps, which relied on many civilian companies in order to meet its objectives. There was an Allison Testing Area at Eagle Farm, Brisbane, where the overhauled engines were checked prior to being replaced in aircraft.
  • As men were called up for service and women took new roles in essential industries that had previously been male-dominated, a high proportion of women - as evident in the photograph - worked at the hangar. From 1942 onwards, all men and women had to register with the Manpower Directorate when they turned 18 and were compelled to work where directed. The Australian Government had taken control of the labour force, fixing wages and conditions.
  • Plants such as this one were provided to the USA by Australia's prime minister, John Curtin, who hoped that in return the USA would help Australian troops fight the Japanese in the Pacific and defend Australia's mainland. Curtin had been in office only eight weeks when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He rejected the British strategy that Australian troops stay in the Middle East and insisted on focusing Australia’s war effort in the Pacific.
  • The Allison engines, once repaired, were replaced in aircraft such as the Kittyhawk, used by the USA over battlefields in the South-West Pacific and in the defence of Darwin. US General Douglas MacArthur, who had set up his headquarters in Brisbane by July 1942, was the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the South-West Pacific, responsible for the Pacific campaign.
  • The timber-trussed roof support of the Allison Overhaul Assembly Plant hangar, or 'igloo', was an innovative design resulting from severe shortages in resources, specifically steel and labour. The design was inspired by the need for lightweight, prefabricated, easily movable and long-span structures. The timber lattice arch trusses, using green timbers if there was a shortage of seasoned ones, could be easily hand-nailed on site.
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Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

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  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
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  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
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  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements