Leightonfield’s World War II and immigration history

Brenden Wood
3 min readJan 22, 2024

In the midst of rail chaos that gripped Sydney’s railway network on Saturday, I found myself sitting on a train for an hour stuck in the southwestern Sydney suburb of Leightonfield and it led me to research the fascinating history of the little-known industrial suburb located between Chester Hill and Villawood.

Leightonfield’s origins trace back to the Department of Munitions, which constructed a sprawling factory spanning 816 acres to manufacture and fill explosive bullets and shells during World War II. The factory, initially known as Villawood Munitions Factory, reached its peak in September 1943 with a workforce of 3,444 individuals.

Due to the size of the workforce, Leightonfield railway station was built and opened on 21st August 1942 — However, the railway line, called the ‘Main South Line’, opened on the 8th October 1924. Leightonfield was placed between Chester Hill and Villawood and still stands as a testament to the urgent need for passenger facilities serving the nearby Commonwealth munitions factory.

“The simple and utilitarian design of the station and its 1940s platform buildings demonstrate the urgency with which the station was established in 1942 to cater to passenger traffic to the factory,” a Department of Environment and Heritage listing reported.

However, as the war concluded in August 1945, the munitions operation wound down.

Post-war, a transformative chapter unfolded for the site.

In 1949, a portion of the former munitions factory was repurposed to become the Villawood Migrant Hostel and Immigration Centre. This initiative aimed to provide accommodation for assisted migrants from war-torn Britain and Europe. The grounds, once occupied by the Leightonfield Munitions Factory, gave rise to prefabricated Nissen huts, swiftly erected to house the influx of migrants arriving in Australia from 1949 onwards.

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