If there is one structure that epitomises the extent of military activities in the Territory during World War II it is the Sidney Williams hut – or 'Comet' brand hut – that was home to thousands of Australian and Allied servicemen from the late 1930s when the defence build-up in the north became more urgent.
The firm of Sidney Williams and Company was formed in 1879 in Rockhampton, Queensland. From around 1910 the company was producing the famous Comet brand windmill, which dotted the Australian landscape for decades.
The company relocated to Sydney and during the mid-1920s moved into the production of prefabricated steel buildings, including large aircraft hangars. The Daly Waters hangar, manufactured by Sidney Williams in 1929 remains a reminder of the Territory’s long involvement in Australia’s aviation history. In Tennant Creek the Australian Inland Mission hall and a number of other Sidney Williams buildings were erected in the mid-1930s.
Sidney Williams huts began to appear at military sites in Darwin in the late 1930s when they were erected at East Point and Emery Point. They were the forerunners of the thousands of huts that were shipped to the Territory over the next few years. They featured steel frames, and were corrugated-iron clad with ripple-iron doors at each end. Push-out shutters along their length were set alternately high and low to allow airflow. The flexibility of the Sidney Williams design allowed the 20-foot (6.11 metre) sections to be joined. Some huts, used as warehouses and accommodation, were up to 60 or 80-feet in length (18.34 metres and 24.45 metres).