- The Hungry Thirties Turn Violent
- Outbreak of World War II
- Calendar of the War
- Chermside Army Camp - Sketch Map.
- Chermside Camp Sparkes' Paddock
- The Occupants of the Camp
- Camp Routine - Sapper Metcalf
- The Australian Womens' Army Service
- The United States Forces
- The Infantry
- 15th Battalion Band AMF
- The Civil Construction Corps Jack McAuley
- The CCC Organisation
- The CCC One man's movements
- Bulimba CCC and Cairncross Dry Dock
- Chermside and District at War - Beverley Isdale
- The Children Did Their Bit for the War Effort
- The Rifle Clubs and the Voluntary Defence Corps
- The Grey Days of War - Val Ross (nee Fullwood)
- Wartime School
- The End of the War
- After the War
- Social Changes
The Hungry Thirties Turn Violent
The decade preceeding the outbreak of war was one marked by widespread unemployment. In Australia it reached over 30% of the workforce and many young men enlisting in the armed forces when war broke out were getting their first full time jobs.
In Europe the Germans were unable to pay reparations to the Allies, they had six million unemployed and in 1933 Hitler came to power. He began to build up the armed forces and rearm.
Britain and France were horrified of another war on the scale of the previous one and they opted for a policy of apeasement. This meant they tried to placate Hitler by giving him what he wanted in the hope that he would keep the peace. It didn't work.
In March 1936 Hitler marched into the Rhineland, in March 1938 he took over Austria and in March 1939 he invaded Czechoslovakia. Then came a master stroke; in order to avoid war on two fronts he signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact in August 1939 and flushed with success he was ready for war.
Australia watched the European drama in horror, remembering the Somme, Flanders, Passchendale, Gallipoli and 60,000 dead. Added to our fears was the behaviour of a militaristic Japan which was moving southward.
Outbreak of World War II
On 1st September 1939 Hitler invaded Poland, on 3rd September 1939, Britain declared war on Germany and, as in 1914, the Australian government followed suit, but this time there were no patriotic demonstrations in the streets, too many people remembered the Great War which had ended only 20 years before.
Australia was now in a most awkward situation as she was bound to send troops to help the war in Europe while at the same time watching Japan which was looming as a possible opponent in our Near North. Japan, an ally in World War I, was now allied with our enemy Germany, her army was moving south through China and then, there was her huge battle fleet.
In the overall international situation, Australia was very small and expendable by the British who were soon fully engaged fighting for their own lives. It was 'every man for himself and no quarter would be given'. Who would help us if push came to shove?
This time there was no question, Australia had to fight for its freedom; conscription for overseas service was introduced without any referendum. Australia raised its armed forces to a million men and women, more than twice that of World War I.
Calendar of the War
This sector is a summary or calendar more information can be found in Dr Ford's "Marching to the Trains".
3/9/1939 war declared.
August 1940 Chermside Camp underway and expecting 6,000 men by October.
March 1941, 9 months before Pearl Harbour American warships paid a friendly visit to Brisbane and Brisbane gave them a friendly welcome. This was a signal from the U S to the Japanese that Australia was a friend of the United States.
8/12/1941 Japan enters the war and shortages begin to appear.
15/2/1942 Singapore surrenders - Australia adopts a scorched earth policy in the event of a Japanese invasion.
1942 bombing of Darwin, Broome and Townsville, Midget Submarines in Sydney Harbour, Shelling of Newcastle.
14/5/1945 Sinking of the Australian Hospital Ship Centaur off Brisbane.
7/5/1945 Victory in Europe Day - Germany surrendered unconditionally.
15/8/1945 Victory in the Pacific Day - Japan surrendered.
30/4/1946 Chermside Camp closed and this reduced consumer demand at the local businesses.
Chermside Army Camp - Sketch Map.
The camp in Sparkes' Paddock was divided into Blocks from A to J. Each one was more or less complete in itself with facilities of Sleeping Quarters, Mess Huts, Kitchens, Latrines, Ablution Blocks, Guard Houses, Workshops, Administration, Q M Stores, Laundries, Clothes Lines, Recreation Huts, etc.
The exception was Block J in Marchant Park which was a Petrol Dump.
Blocks A to F housed the Infantry which was training, and then moving on to the front in the north.
Block H housed the 67th Australian Women's Army Service Unit (AWAS) which could also be sent wherever they were needed.
Block G was the location of the 20th Works Company.
All blocks, except J, the petrol dump, which is now No. 9 Cricket Oval in Marchant Park, are presently occupied by housing.
Block I, located on the north side of Ellison Road, was the site of the Civil Construction Corps made up of civilian tradesmen who were engaged in military construction. They were occupied locally but could be sent anywhere in Australia to work on military sites.
The internal roads were of a temporary nature and have mostly disappeared. The numbered roads are: 1 Wallace & Kuran Streets, 2 Hamilton Road, 3 Gympie Road, 4 Banfield Street, 5 Murphy Road, 6 Ellison Road, 7 Piccadilly Street, 8 Buhot Street, 9 Main Avenue, 10 Newman (Gee-bung) Road, 11 Pfingst Road, 12 Corrie Street with Hodgkinson Street on the T piece.
Downfall Creek, flowing from west to east, divides the Paddock into two parts while Somerset Creek flows in from the south coming in under Gympie Road near Wallace/Kuran Streets.
LO marks the Army Look Out which was in a large gum tree, since felled, in the present Geebung State School grounds.
(Source: Chermside Camp Area Site Plan 2/3/1945)
Chermside Camp Sparkes' Paddock
Australia's armed forces were put on alert, a recruiting campaign begun and preparations were made for training large numbers of young men. All these measures affected Chermside and one which was the most visible was the setting up of a very large army camp in Sparkes' Paddock.
The Commonwealth government resumed the 401 acres and by October 1940 it was expected that 6,000 troops would be in training there, according to a letter from Constable W R Perry of Chermside station in which he was asking for an extra constable to help control the huge influx. Constable Perry had the problem of keeping the peace between the soldiers and civilians at the local dances; he got the extra constable.
This Paddock was owned by the firm of A. Sparkes Ltd and bounded by Ellison, Newman, Hamilton, Gympie and Murphy Roads for which the Commonwealth Government paid 9,973 pounds ($580,000 in 2004 value) on the 12th June 1941. The land was used by Sparkes' firm as a slaughter yard but was closed in 1931 when the State Government centralised all slaughtering in the State Abattoirs at Cannon Hill.
Young men and women from the area enlisted in the armed services and the progress of the war was closely monitored by the locals while the presence of the military camp highlighted the serious aspects of the war, and its proximity.
After the bombing of Singapore, the Japanese midget submarines in Sydney harbour and then the bombing of Darwin, many of the local people were terrified that the Japanese army was not far away. The military camp was something of a reasurance for the local people.
Today this is a sacred place to enjoy and, maybe, remember the young men who passed this way in the early 1940s.
The Occupants of the Camp
The Australian soldiers, camped in Sparkes' Paddock, were 6 to a tent and they were each issued with a groundsheet, 2 blankets and a mosquito net. It was hardly luxurious camping if you include the timber floor they slept on, with their personal items and their shoes for pillows.
There were some accidents. It seems almost worse for soldiers to die in accidents before they even reached the front line. A plane crashed one Saturday afternoon in 1943 and was seen by the tennis players and it was one of the paper boys who told the Fire Brigade how to get into the paddock. Another accident in the same year took the lives of two South Australian soldiers who drowned in the flooded Downfall Creek.
Visiting day at the camp was once a week but visitors needed a pass and soldiers had to know the visitors were coming and meet them; it was such a large place that visitors would never have found their relative/friend in the camp.
Chermside served as a staging and training post during the Second War but today there is little 'hard' evidence that the Camp ever existed. There is the name, 7th Brigade Park, the Avenue of Honour, a large concrete floor with a basketball hoop, a small concrete lined pit and the electricity supply. The latter is the remains of a 75mm X 75mm piece of hardwood about 900mm long bolted to a tree. Long ago it carried electric wires into the camp. The latter is difficult to find as the tree has grown out around the cross piece and the one end that could be seen in 2006 has disappeared leaving an unnatural square hole. However, the general shape of the crosspiece can be seen in the shape of the living wood.
Where once young men were trained to fight and kill, the birds forage for pickings, the children play in the large 'Kid Space', families picnic at the BBQs and people walk and cycle along the concrete tracks that wind around the flourishing reforestation areas.
- Plane Crash 1943 - The page sums up the ongoing research that has been done on the plane crash
Camp Routine - Sapper Metcalf
Source: Sapper Alan Metcalf QX42086 - Called up as a Private in the Militia, hence the Q in the number; he was promoted to Sapper later.
Unit: 15th Btn 21 Platoon EMG (Machine Gun) (Vickers water cooled .303)
Enlisted: Jan 1942 Age: 18 years Discharged: 1944 - Dermatitis
Pay 6 shillings per day - or $4.40 per week when the Average Weekly Earnings were $13 per week.
Transferred to 2/1st Survey - Mapping. Promoted to specialist rank of Sapper
Pay 8 shillings per day or $5.60 per week.
Units Present in Jan 1942: 15th, 61st and 9th Battalions were all Militia. This represented about 3000 men in the confined space of 7th Brigade Park. The place was so congested that the 15th Btn was dispersed to Marchant Park over the western side of Murphy Road, Aspley.
Camp Purpose: A basic training camp (for the 15th Btn) which lasted about six weeks, and aimed to turn about a thousand 18 - 20 year old young men into an operating army battalion. For the 'boys' it was a complete change of lifestyle; in fact it was a return to school, the Australian Army School. There was a war raging at the front door of Australia and they had to learn quickly.
The training consisted of everything, including learning to salute and who to salute, cleaning your tent, clothes and gear, wearing the correct uniform, knowing how the camp operated, getting all your immunisation shots, etc, etc.
Immunisation consisted of a long line of men being jabbed by a MO using the same needle over and over again. The ones up front got the sharp jab the others got a blunt instrument. Sometimes even strong men fainted. Sometimes the needle stick injury became infected and could lead to complications that necessitated further medical attention.
They were accommodated in six-man tents lit by hurricane lamps. All their gear had to be stored in there along with their beds. They were issued with two blankets and a palliasse, which was a hessian bag shaped like a mattress. The 'boys' had to stuff it with straw and that was the first lesson in 'making their bed'. A ground sheet could go on the ground to keep the palliasse dry. Now they had to learn to sleep on it without a pillow. Sleeping on a straw mattress can be very uncomfortable until it is shaped to accommodate the contours of the human body, after that exhaustion takes over. But they were young and tough; if they weren't then they had to learn, fast.
Drill:As well as all of this there was full army drill which included learning: to march in step; to use a bayonet; to throw (dummy) hand grenades; to carry and sort the army pack; to shoot using the Lee Enfield .303 Mark 7 rifle; to read maps and follow compass traverses; absorb all the minutiae that goes with army tradition.
Route Marching:They did not just march around the camp but went on night manoeuvres, called 'stunts' marching, to Aspley or Albany Creek and camping overnight. The round trip distance as the crow flies was about 8km and 20km but these crows had to walk and carry the Army pack as well. When they camped they dug small holes for temporary latrines, ate cold army rations unless hot meals were sent out in 'hotboxes' and slept in the open on the ground without any blankets. Being exhausted after the march helped sleeping.
The next day they marched back to camp again. The mosquitoes and all were supplied free in the bush; there were only isolated farm houses in these areas. If it rained they had their ground sheets and slouch hats; they just kept on marching.
The machine gunners worked in a crew of three, to five. Number 1 carried the gun itself; Number 2 carried the tripod on which the gun was mounted for firing, while the others carried the water for cooling the barrel and the cans of ammunition belts. They all carried their pack and small arms, revolvers for Numbers 1 & 2, rifles for the others.
Leave: The usual leave was for one night, which ended at 23.59 hours. The soldier was checked out at the main gate by the Brigade Military Police and then usually headed for Geebung railway station along Geebung Road (now Newman Road). From there the train took him to his destination which was often the City, or home if he came from Brisbane. They would have to wear full dress uniform but later they were able to wear shorts, long socks, shirts and hat as a summer or tropical uniform.
On arriving back he was checked in at the main gate and had to find the way to his tent. There were no signs, just rows of tents. The camp had some electric lights on the roads but blackout restrictions would have made them useless at times.
AWLThere was always some that just took leave by going across the paddocks and evading the guards. They came back the same way and that would have been difficult in the pitch darkness.
Guard Room: There seemed to be only one small hut for this purpose. This was for those who were doing their stint of guard duty. All enlisted men had to do their turn at Guard Duty when a Non-Commissioned Officer would supervise them. They would work in shifts of 2 hours on and 4 hours off duty for 4/5 days at a time. They would mount guard at the main gates of the camp, the Headquarters, the Kitchens and any other important places within the camp. When a visiting dignitary came to the camp the men on duty would form a Guard of Honour and be inspected by the visitor; they wore full uniform.
Punishment: If someone was charged with an offence such as overstaying leave or some other minor matter they were dealt with in the camp. There was a barbed wire compound where they could be confined to barracks for a day or two. Another punishment was to have pay docked. For serious offences they would be taken by Military Police to the detention centres at Grovelly or to Churchill at Ipswich. These were more severe and supervision was much closer. They were drilled in full uniform and pack at the double.
Later in Townsville there was Picket Duty as well. This consisted of those detailed for guard duty to patrol the town and control those on leave. They would carry a bayonet in their webbing belt as a type of side arm.
Latrines: In early 1942 these were cans or pans lined up without partitions in long huts. A nightsoil truck emptied the pans. This was the common method of disposal at the time. However there seems to have been a sewerage system added later as indicated by the mains and effluent disposal areas shown on the map of the camp.
For a returning digger the call of nature could pose problems, as the latrines were some distance from the tent areas so the thoughtful Army provided 'dunny cans' at strategic locations around the camp. The Hygiene Section of the camp was responsible for them as well as keeping the camp generally clean.
Rifle Practice: Generally there was no firing of guns even though the surrounding area was largely bush, but there were farms and people nearby. As a consequence rifle firing was confined to the clay pits at the Virginia Brickworks on the other side of Downfall Creek from the Virginia Railway Station and State School. The clay pits were about four metres deep and bullets could be fired into targets set up against the walls. To reduce the risks of using high-powered rifles the guns were usually .303s fitted with .22 barrels.
Gas Chamber: Part of the training consisted of the diggers running through a hut about 7metres long in which tear gas was released. Just what this was supposed to do is not clear, but they ran through without gas masks.
Paper War: Anything issued by the Quartermaster had to be accounted for by the diggers. Everything had to be signed for and if he could not produce it or account for it, as with expended rounds of ammunition, then his pay could be docked.
Inspections and Roll Calls: Every morning the roll would be called and everyone accounted for and those present would be inspected.
Ammunition Dumps: These were scattered through the camp and consisted of secure sheds built of heavy timber. After they had been built there was a great quantity of wood chips left lying around. Since the Army likes a tidy camp these had to be cleaned up. This was an ideal job for newly enlisted young men so they 'volunteered' to do an Emu Parade cleaning up until every last chip had been collected and accounted for. No idle hands in this man's army.
Uniforms: The men were issued with two uniforms. The Khaki dress was a dust coloured, dull yellowish fabric of twilled wool which was worn on parade and out of the camp, a sort of dress uniform. The Slouch wide brimmed felt hat was worn with it; the Giggle suit and hat were made of cotton and worn around the camp when on normal duties or training; the tin hat shaped like a soup bowl was for use when out marching or on active service.
Canteen: The canteen was like a corner store for the Camp. Alcohol was not sold but all sorts of small goods were stocked, including some things that were not available for the civilians. The diggers could take home some comforts for the relatives.
Red Shield, CUSA & C of E Huts: These 'huts' were provided by the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church and the Church of England as places where the diggers could come and relax over a cup of tea or coffee. They could talk to a clergyman or a civilian if they wanted help in some way such as contacting relatives, giving advice, just to talk, writing letters or help with personal problems, etc.
Barber's Shop: All the diggers had to be well shorn at all times with short back and sides as the standard hair cut. So the Army expected the men to make a regular visit to the Barber's and pay for it himself. Long hair attracted unwanted attention from the Sergeant on parade and could result in punishment. Often the diggers would get a haircut while on leave or from one of the unofficial barbers who happened to be in the same camp.
Kitchen: A Sergeant who was usually a trained cook was in charge. The routine tasks such as peeling potatoes, washing up the utensils, disposing of the rubbish, etc was done by Privates on Kitchen Fatigue.
Daily Routine in Camp:This is probably much the same in army camps all over the western world. These times are approximate but follow the general routine.
6.00am Reveille by bugle or some such sound. Ablutions consisting of shower and shave
7.00am Company parade, inspection and roll call. Then to the mess hall for a hot breakfast.
8.00am Disperse to the day's activities such as training and work details.
12.00 noon Lunch in mess hall; if they were out on a 'stunt' then food would be taken out to them in Hotboxes which were about 3 x 3 x 3feet and made of steel.
1.00pm back to the daily tasks
5.00pm Finish works for the day, get ready for Tea or Dinner.
6.00pm Mess Hall for hot meal followed by free time till Lights out
9 - 9.30pm Last Post on bugle, Lights Out except for those on Guard Duty etc
Transfer: When basic training at Geebung was finished the 15th Battalion was transferred to Townsville. The journey by train took 10 days and was a 'nightmare'. The train was made up of ordinary suburban carriages with every seat occupied by men and gear. The train was constantly stopping to allow for refreshment and pit stops. Sometimes it just stopped anyway for hours at a time. It was summer time and the weather was hot.
Some stayed in camp for a long time, the 113 transport Company carried petrol to the petrol dump; 148 Company later in the war, worked on the wharves and transported bombs and ammunition.
Large 500 pound (200kg) aerial bombs were transported in specially built trucks to where the the Prince Charles and Holy Spirit Hospitals now stand. The bombs were placed in the thick bush that covered much of the area and covered with fallen branches so they could not be seen from the air.
The Australian Womens' Army Service
The AWAS (Australian Womens' Army Service) had their camp at Chermside near Kingsmill and Hall Streets. Most of their work was secret and done at Ascot; the famous poetess and civil rights activist, Kath Walker was one of the women working there.
Kath Ballard refers to 21 Henry Street as "Central Bureau Intelligence" where personnel listened to and recorded radio messages picked up by the aerials attached to the chimneys on the house.
The United States Forces
There were American soldiers in the district and they built a wooden observation tower at West Chermside where they could see out to the Bay but this was abandoned after the Battle of Midway and young boys made use of its rickety structure. The fuel dump at Basnett's dairy was guarded by soldiers and Alsatian dogs while the future Prince Charles Hospital site was the location of a bomb and ammunition dump which disappeared quickly during the Battle of the Coral Sea.
The U S Armed forces were segregated in World War I but it was gradually disappearing in World War II and finally in 1948 President Harry Truman signed the Executive Order ending segregation in the U S Armed Forces.
The men in the photo were employed in guard duties at petrol dumps, ammunition storage areas and such like duties. Other Afro-Americans were in the fighting U S Armed forces and were gradually being included with the white soldiers.
The oldest section of the armies, the foot soldier, the warrior with his spear or sword. The artillery can blast away, the planes can bomb, the tanks can roll in and out but finally the infantry has to go in, root out the enemy and occupy the area. The 'foot slogger' might be carried to the battle in a truck but he still has to fight on foot.
There was the militia, waiting to be sent to the front line; some soldiers returning from New Guinea and others in training. They marched along Gympie Road, which had a single strip of bitumen; at least the war did speed up the surfacing of the whole road to accommodate the large convoys travelling north.
15th Battalion Band AMF
It is thought that Napoleon once said 'an army marches on its stomach' but the Australian Army likes to march with a band as well.
Apart from playing for marches they also played and marched every Sunday which was visitors day at the camp. Then, in the late afternoon, they marched to each gate of the camp and played for the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at each one.
The band sometimes supplied a three piece orchestra to play for the dances held in the Geebung Memorial Hall on each Friday night. The hall was on the site of the present Geebung Zillmere RSL and the dances were to raise funds to help with the war effort.
The band was later moved to make more room for the Infantry and, as the war intensified, some of the members were sent to other units to fight in the front line.
The Civil Construction Corps Jack McAuley
Recently, in Feb. 2011, I interviewed Jack McAuley, who lives in Newcastle, NSW, on his experiences as a member of the CCC during World War II. Jack was a carpenter, born in 1920, and would have been about 20 years old when war broke out and qualified for the CCC; he was conscripted for the duration.
Jack was stationed in the Chermside Camp on the northern side of Ellison Road beside the future Geebung School site and like a lot of the young men there he was lonely and home sick. Many families in the district used to invite these men and the soldiers in the Army camp to come into their homes and socialise with the local people. In return the local people were invited to come to the Army camp when the 'pictures' (movies) were being screened.
During his time in Chermside, Jack met and socialised with the Hamilton family in Kuran Street; he visited their home regularly and they came to know each other very well. When Jack was moved on the contact was maintained and continues to the present day. Joan Hamilton set up the interview as she and Jack regularly talk over the phone. There are others, but not as many as there used to be as age takes its toll.
At the end of the war Jack was discharged and returned to building in Newcastle where he married and settled down like thousands of other young men whose lives had been completely disrupted by the war. In recognition of his wartime work he was awarded a Certificate and the Civilian Service Medal 1939-45.
He worked for some years in the building trade, which in those days, was notorious for discontinuous employment; when a job was finished the tradesmen had to find another job. Married with a family, he sought more constant employment by joining the NSW Railways and later again the BHP which was then the major employer in Newcastle. Now, in 2011, and almost 90 he is long retired but retains a sharp mind and a long memory. Thanks Jack.
The CCC Organisation
The Civil Construction Corps was formed with tradesmen whom the armed services considered would be more useful plying their trade than fighting as soldiers. All the tradesmen of the building industry were being conscripted; carpenters, plumbers, bricklayers, concreters, plasterers, electricians, painters, labourers, blacksmiths, drainers, fitters and turners, riggers, etc. Some of the men were 'aliens', recent migrants or their descendants who came from a country with whom Australia was at war. The Italians from North Queensland were in this category and most of them considered themselves Australians owing no allegiance to Italy.
Age was not a consideration, any able bodied tradesman from 18 to 70 would be taken and sent to where they were needed and when that job was finished they were moved to the next job. Jack commented that they were moved as individuals rather than in gangs so they would often get used to working with one gang when it would be broken up and the members would have to get used to a different lot of work mates.
Conditions in the camps were more primitive than the Army camps; no medical facilities, they had to pay for their meals, provide their own work clothes, blankets, and tools but they may have been better paid than the Army?
The work site would be supervised by a military officer, Lieutenant or Captain, who might be an architect or engineer and who gave the orders to the job foreman. He, in turn would have his leading hands, each one in charge of a small group of tradesmen who would then do the job of 'hands on' building.
Once conscripted, the individual had to stay in the CCC for the duration of the war; the only way out was through illness, accident, serious family matters or the end of the war. In the meantime they would see a lot of Australia and live rough at the same time.
Jack commented "We were known as the Army behind the Army by the defence chiefs, but the men of the CCC always reckoned we were the Army ahead of the Army, as we had to go ahead and build the camps, hospitals, warehouses, igloos and roads ready for the defence forces to occupy."
The CCC One man's movements
Jack arrived in Chermside at the beginning of 1943 and remained there for almost a year when he was transferred to Banyo for another about 8 months. During that time he worked for the Australian and the United States Armies building the US headquarters for the South West Pacific at Victoria Park alongside of Brisbane Hospital; it was transferred from Melbourne. While General McArthur had his office in the AMP Chambers in the city it seems that the bulk of the HQ staff was at this location where they took over the golf course for the duration. The HQ was transferred from Melbourne to Brisbane.
They were transported to and from work in army lorries with canvas covers over the back. One day the lorry in which Jack was travelling tipped over and several men in the back, including Jack, ended up in hospital for some days. Then it was back to work.
David Teague in his History of Chermside comments the nightly two-up game at the CCC camp "was highly popular with the soldiers from the neighbouring camps. The game often ran all night with much money won and lost".
When that job was finished he was sent to Aitkenvale in or near Townsville where the US Army was building huge warehouses to store military supplies which were being accumulated for the coming offensive to drive the Japanese back in the north. There they worked with some Chinese civilians who had been captured by the Japanese and released when the US forces liberated them.
While in the north they were able to attend concerts at the US camp when entertainers came from the USA to entertain the troops. On one occasion the performers were led by Garry Cooper and on another by John Wayne.
Jack was allowed to go home to Newcastle for a visit his mother who was dying of cancer. He worked for the CCC in Newcastle building ship's scows which were flat bottomed boats something like barges and were used for hauling heavy cargo from land to ships standing offshore. He also helped build accommodation for the RAN at Nelson Bay near Newcastle.
He also worked in Sydney where he worked at projects at Merrylands, Dapto, Regents Park, Rydalmere, Lilyfield and Rozelle.
Bulimba CCC and Cairncross Dry Dock
Another CCC camp was at Bulimba where the workforce for the Cairncross Dry Dock was housed. There was about one thousand men involved so their accommodation was large and after the war it became the Bulimba Hostel for low income earners. This was demolished in the 1970s and in 1980 the Clem Jones Home for Aged and Disabled persons was built; it still occupies the site.
We have at least one active member of the Chermside & Districts Historical Society who met her husband at the old Bulimba Hostel in 1946. She still lives in the house they built and in which they raised their family in Chermside. (March 2011)
Chermside and District at War - Beverley Isdale
ARP (Air Raid Precaution) wardens practised every Wednesday night with all their equipment - helmet, whistle and baton - pretty much like Dad's Army, without the humour. There was a searchlight battery near Mermaid Street, opposite the Chermside School.
Hutton's Factory at Zillmere blew the whistle at 5am and at knockoff time - any other time it was for an emergency.
Chermside during the war was a small place with a population of about 3,000 judging from the maps and photos of the time which show that there were not too many people about among the working farms and the large areas of bush. The town had houses, school, churches, theatre, lots of vacant paddocks, no public hospital and the closest doctor was at Lutwyche.
Public transport was limited. The tram terminus was at Lutwyche Cemetery and Mitchell's Bus service and Boyce and Little's took passengers to Bald Hills and Redcliffe; you had to book a ticket if you wanted to travel to Redcliffe.
There was rationing of necessities such as meat, sugar, eggs, tea, butter, petrol, clothes, and footwear while non-essential goods such as tobacco, sweets and alcohol were either in short supply or simply not available. Petrol was rationed from October 1941 and full rationing from mid 1942, it was a time of patch up, make do or go without, mostly the latter. And more children went to school bare-foot, either because there was not enough coupons for school shoes or just not enough school shoes.
Windows were blacked out with heavy paper, lights were turned off and there were no street lights or car headlights, except for the policeman's car - it had a special attachment that directed the light beam on to the road in front of the car.
There were not many cars at that time in Australia; one estimate was about 1 car for 10 families. Many owners could not get petrol at all so they simply put the car on blocks in the garage and left them there for the duration of the war. Others ran the car on gas and had a large gas bag on the roof while others used a charcoal burning contraption on the back which produced the gas.
This encouraged the return of horse and carts and sulkies to such an extent that the Brisbane City Council employed men to pick up manure in the inner city streets while the local children did it in Chermside and sold the manure for garden fertiliser.
With so many young men away in the armed forces women had to do their jobs to keep 'the home front' operating. In addition to the traditional female jobs such as nursing, office work, house work and child care the women moved into factories, farms, delivery of goods, driving trucks and other heavy vehicles.
Butt's fruit cannery at Zillmere, just past the military camp, employed some of the young girls of the district. They often did the very heavy lifts of pineapples from the trucks coming from Zillmere station because there were no young men and no machines to do the lifting.
Then, as now, Chermside seemed to have a reputation as a shopping centre and their customers included soldiers and American personnel as well as the locals. There were large grocery/produce stores - Early and Hackers who carried large stockpiles of goods for emergencies as well as the smaller grocers such as Jackson's, Fishers and Reid's. Reid's had a mixed business, with a newsagency and the Post Office. They supplied the newspapers to the military camp and a paper boy could carry about 250 papers on his bike. It seems a lot, but the Courier Mail was much smaller, about 4-6 pages and no advertisements or sales as there was nothing to advertise. And it cost 2d as prices and wages were controlled for the 'duration' of the war, only the government could alter them.
There was no hotel in Chermside so their early closing did not affect the area. The nearest ones were at Aspley and Kedron. Mr Lemke was the butcher, and there was the baker, ice works, Hamilton's motor body builders, Plunknett's and Vellnagel's blacksmiths.
The Children Did Their Bit for the War Effort
The Junior Red Cross were sometimes organised on a school basis and supervised by one of the teachers or by one of the adult members of the Red Cross; the group in the photo have an adult in the middle.
The group was, and is, partly educational and partly active. The members were taught about the need to help one another and all people in many different ways, during the war soldiers provided an obvious outlet for this avenue.
Once that is done the next thing is to put the ideals into practice. The members raised money to provide parcels for the troops which included food, cigarettes and tobacco, shaving and washing soap, sweets etc. They also learned to knit such things as socks, jumpers and other items.
The boys joined the Cadets which operated largely through schools where they learned the rudiments of drill, marksmanship, cooperation, obedience and other skills needed in the army.
The aim was to provide a reserve of partly trained young men who could be quickly utilised in time of war, the citizen soldiers.
There were also groups of Sea Cadets and Air Training Cadets for the other armed services which teen-agers could join.
For more information see the section on Cadets in World War-I the Great War
The Rifle Clubs and the Voluntary Defence Corps
The Volunteer Defence Corps was formed in July 1940 by the RSL and the Australian Government. It was made up of returned diggers from World War I, members of rifle clubs and just about any able bodied male between the ages of 18 to 60 who was not in the armed forces. They were issued with army uniforms and weapons such as rifles, bayonets and other small arms.
The members attended regular training and performed did guard duties at essential service installations such as airfields, wharves, munitions factories, transport instillations and as coast watchers, all of which released army men for front line fighting.
They also manned coastal batteries, searchlights and anti-aircraft guns within their own local area. They were similar to the British Home Guard and the members were expected to act as guerrillas if the country was invaded.
At its peak the AVD had a membership of some 75,000 men and contributed greatly to the war effort. The organisation was officially disbanded on 24th August 1945 which was just after the war in the Pacific ended.
In the local area the rifle clubs formed the nucleus of the early volunteers. These men were already good marksmen using the army issue of .303 Lee Enfield rifles which were standard army issue in both World Wars.
The Grey Days of War - Val Ross (nee Fullwood)
The children of Chermside had noted the rumblings of war. One day sitting in class looking through the window, we saw soldiers on horseback gathered at the corner of Gympie Road and Rode Road. At morning recess, which we used to call 'Elevener', several of the students went to speak with the soldiers and to attempt to charm some of them into giving us the feathers from their army hats. It did not happen.
Few people realize Australia had a real Light Horse Battalion at the beginning of the Second World War.
More and more soldiers were transported to, and were camped at, Chermside. There was no need for a clock in the home, as the sounds of the bugle calls could be clearly heard from Marchant Park to the Dawn theatre. Every morning and night, meal times and bedtimes the various bugle calls became part of our lives. The children knew what each tune meant and had appropriate words to accompany every call.
The School of Arts hall became a very popular place for dancing each Friday night, and no lady was left to sit alone unless by choice. There was always somebody's Mum at the dance, unobtrusively observing and protecting us.
The policeman was always available, he would stand in the foyer of the Dawn Theatre every night the theatre was open. If there was trouble at the School of Arts, he only had to cross the road and enter the foyer and help was on hand in seconds. The Chermside I knew was trouble free.
During the war some commodities were hard to buy. Chocolate, potato crisps, hairpins and elastic were among such items. Some necessities were rationed. Our manpower was not squandered but utilized towards wartime successes. The lamp posts of many streets had signs upon them, informing the reader that the people of the street were subscribing cash to the Red Cross for the benefit of Prisoners of War. The women formed a group called the Australian Comforts Fund (ACF) and they knitted and did charitable works for our soldiers.
A radio station had regular concert benefits, which were named Smokes for Sick Soldiers. Funds were raised to distribute cigarettes and other small comforts to give to the soldiers in hospitals. The Dawn Theatre was a host to one such party, which I attended. I was selected with a few other ladies to sew a patch on the trousers of selected male victims. The ladies were seated on stage and the boys had to lean across our laps as we sewed the patch upon the seat of their trousers. After a few needle pricks in the victim's bottom, the audience were in fits of laughter. Those occasions were never to be forgotten days.
Steady growth continued at Chermside State School, reaching 244 pupils in 1940, but as the war situation worsened, with the threat of air raids and possible invasion, many children were evacuated and enrolment reached a low of 177 in 1942. As the Japanese were pushed back the local situation improved and the enrolments rose to 211 by the end of the war in 1945.
In June 1940 the Inspection report noted that there had been an absence of staff on military duties. At first there was a teacher for every class but the young male teachers were enlisting and the number of teachers dwindled causing some classes to have only part time tuition. The younger males would have been conscripted, or volunteered, for the armed services. They may have been replaced by retired teachers coming back into the service or, possibly, by teachers continuing beyond their retirement age. Also heavy reliance was probably placed on female teachers as was done in World War I.
Only pupils in Grades 6 and 7 were required to attend for a full school day. School hours were staggered to allow children in the lower grades to receive at least three hours instruction.
School uniforms did not have to be worn. Many children transferred to country schools, causing overcrowding in those schools.
In 1942, the school was closed for most of February on the orders of the Premier till the threat of invasion had passed.
The school had its own air raid trench - 4ft deep (1.2m), 2ft wide (0.6m) and 6-8ft long (1.8 to 2.4m), in a zigzag pattern to prevent a blast from going right along the trench One parent thought the ditch was too shallow and instructed his children to run home if there was an air raid. Air raid drills were carried out but fortunately there were no raids.
Class photos were not taken from 1942 onwards, they were not one of the necessities of life but the classrooms had extra posters for plane identification and the area underneath was sandbagged to serve as an emergency casualty station; during air raid practices, the children acted as "injured patients".
The End of the War
The last word on the war is left to Peg Powell (nee Radcliffe) who joined the WAAAF in February 1942 on her 18th birthday. A few days before the end she was given leave and, along with her two close friends Eunice and Lyn, went to Sydney where they took part in the victory parade. She skilfully captures the bitter-sweet atmosphere of the time.
"…. and so we were down there when peace was declared, and for the big victory parade, so we joined all the other servicemen and women, and marched in Sydney. What a day it was. Unless you have lived through such an event, it is hard to imagine the atmosphere and the crowds, and the flags, balloons, confetti, the bands, the proud people marching, the crowds lining the streets, the joy, happiness, excitement of that day. The war was over, this was a victory march. PEACE AT LAST. However amid all the excitement, we spared a thought for all the servicemen and women who had died on active service, and who would not be coming home to enjoy the peace, they had fought and died for, to keep AUSTRALIA free. We will never forget them."
After the War
The end of the war was the beginning of the peace when everybody expected to 'get back to normal' but the trouble was, no one knew just what normal was anymore. Much had changed and people had a lot of adjusting to do after the shortages, the stress, grieving for the dead, but there was a general expectation that 'things would be better'.
There would be no more war; people would build a better world, building homes, making refrigerators, washing machines, wireless sets, lots of goods instead of guns and bombs and weapons of war. There was joy at seeing the service men and women coming home especially the Prisoners of War, there was also an expectation that the war criminals would be punished.
The service personnel had to be demobilised or 'demobbed' back to 'Civvey Street', collect their deferred pay and use it to start their new lives. Being young, most wanted to settle down and raise a family in their home on their own block of land. There was going to be a big demand for tradesmen to build the new suburbs that would arise in the scrub and the materials had to be found for the expected expansion.
A series of social benefits were implemented during the war by the Commonwealth government such as Child Endowment in 1941, Widows Pensions in 1942, Funeral Benefits in 1942, Unemployment Benefits and the Commonwealth Employment Service in 1945.
The 44 hour working week was gradually being phased in, state by state, during the 1920s but it was replaced by the old 48 hour week in the tougher economic times of 1929. In 1939 the 44-hour week was phased back in and World War II broke out.
Female wages were fixed at 54% of the male wage even though they might do the same work. The theory was that the male had to support a family but the female did not. Also, when a woman married she was often expected to resign and stay at home to raise a family.
However, many women who had served in the forces or worked in industry, found that they could do many things as good as the men and their thinking was changing; they wanted a better life in the new world that was expected to begin when the war ended and they began to agitate for equality in jobs and salaries.