Brisbane as a Garrison Town
Brisbane was home to only 350,000 people in 1941. Over the next three years,
many times that number of troops passed through the city en route to the Pacific
War. By mid-1943, nearly 100,000 US troops alone were stationed around the city.
Suddenly, most of the freedoms which Brisbane people took for granted, had vanished.
In daily life, from shopping to schooling, winning the war came first.
22 December 1941 a US naval convoy arrived at Brett’s Wharf, guarded by the heavy cruiser USS Pensacola. The convoy’s troops were billeted at
Eagle Farm. Over the following years, Sandgate, Petrie and Strathpine
housed major airforce bases and warships and submarines crowded the banks of
the Brisbane River. Australian and American troops poured in from southern States,
filling camps in and around Brisbane along with British, Dutch, and Filipino
troops. City offices and university buildings at St Lucia became military headquarters.
Private homes, schools and other buildings were taken over for military use.To
meet the perceived threat from Japan, the Brisbane City Council began construction
of at least 200 surface shelters. These concrete and sandbagged boxes changed
the face of the city.
buildings had taped windows and sandbagged entrances, water mains filled with
salty bay water for fighting fires ran from North Quay along Ann and Elizabeth
Streets. Lights were turned off for each night’s ‘brown-out’.
Brisbane had become the Command Centre for one of the largest wartime campaigns
Gas and electricity companies, Police, Ambulance, even the Salvation
Army, Fire Brigade and Boy Scouts formed a civil defence network.
Junior police officers at a Roma Street Control Centre co-ordinated
the many civil defenders, amongst them Air Raid Wardens. Fears
of an air raid on Brisbane lasted for a long time after the attack
on Pearl Harbour.