Present day Amberley is more well known as the home of one of Australia’s largest RAAF bases, but its beginnings were more humble.
The area was first used for farming, in particular dairying as well as sheep and cattle. Originally called Three Mile Creek, it was more commonly known as the Sandridge due to the difficulty of the terrain for horse drawn vehicles and bullock drays. The area was officially named Amberley in 1903, with the name derived from the property of early settlers, James and Martha Collett. They had named their property Amberley in honour of their Sussex, England home. Another early settler was Darby McGrath, who operated a sheep and cattle station known as Willowbank. The first school in the area, opened at the Willowbank property, was called Warrill Creek School, taking its name from the nearby creek.
The area grew steadily from these early beginnings, with sheep and cattle continuing to be produced, as well as cotton and other crops. The area’s growth was also reflected in the opening of the first church, a Congregational chapel, built in 1878.
In 1938, the Commonwealth acquired land in the area for use as an airbase with operations commencing in June 1940, with No 24 Squadron based here. As the Second World War progressed the base continued to grow in size and importance, including being a base for US air force facilities and personnel.
Amberley today is a thriving and busy suburb, though hints of its rural past still survive.
Brian Randall – Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland