Exploring Brisbane During WW2 : A Walking Tour

The 2 hour tour begins at the Museum of Brisbane on the the third floor of City Hall, King George Square.

King George Monument in King George Square with City Hall in background.

City Hall was built in 1930 and at that time was the tallest building in Brisbane. It was an important building during WW2 as it housed a recruitment area, was a distribution point where the Red Cross handed parcels to troops heading overseas, and has a ballroom suitable for 1500 guests. It was standing room only for 3000 when Eleanor Roosevelt arrived in Brisbane.

City Hall

During the early 2000’s City Hall underwent a massive restoration. What do you think they found? In the men’s bathroom in the basement Australian soldiers had signed their names on the wall along with their service numbers, as did many American servicemen who included their regimental details. This has been preserved and a reproduction is located within the museum.

Signature Wall Reproduction

Diagonally across the road from City Hall sits a church, a familiar landmark within the CBD, which was the site of 16,000 marriages between American men and Australian women during WW2.

Proceeding to ANZAC Square and The Shrine of Remembrance we then visited the Memorial Galleries underneath this structure. Most locals are unaware of the Galleries : for twenty years I too was totally ignorant and walked past on my way to the railway station. It is well worth a visit with its interactive displays and the staff are an invaluable source of information.

Self indulgence

Moving on we heard all about the Battle of Brisbane, the “ riot between United States military personnel on one side and Australian servicemen and civilians on the other on 26 and 27 November 1942.”

This was the American PX during WW2 and site of the riots

This concluded our walking tour though not the insights gained about Brisbane and her involvement during WW2. Brisbane had the name of Jazz Capital of Australia thanks to the influence of American soldiers. Who knew? We learnt about the HMAS Centaur, a submarine base in nearby New Farm and the SS Growler, and I was so excited to see my very first Air Raid Shelter, one of only three remaining in the vicinity. I repeat : who knew?

This walking tour is suitable for all fitness levels and we totally enjoyed seeing the city in a totally different light.

For further information go here : https://www.museumofbrisbane.com.au/whats-on/walking-in-wartime/

We paid an additional $10 each to also visit the MacArthur Museum.

Absolutely fascinating and I learnt more in a 1 hour talk by a passionate volunteer named John, standing in front of a map of the Pacific, than I did during six years of high school. Toss out the text books. This was easily digestible, understandable, and logical and the personal tidbits made it interesting to boot.

Here’s ol’ Doug’s office :

I worked in the Brisbane CBD for twenty years and knew little of this history. Once again I put it down to COVID making us more familiar with our own backyards. Now that’s a positive from a negative, wouldn’t you say?

9 thoughts on “Exploring Brisbane During WW2 : A Walking Tour

    1. Central Business District. The hub of the city. Yes, we are out and about but there wont be any international travel till the end of ‘22. Doesn’t distress me at all : Australia is such a big country with so much to see it is proving a great opportunity to learn about our own country and spend locally. So many younger folk think that overseas travel is two weeks in Bali getting smashed on cheap booze.

      Liked by 1 person

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