18 Oct 2019

Brisbane's WWII relics hide in plain sight as bus shelters and waterfront bunkers

Brisbane played an important role in the Pacific theatre of World War II, serving as the headquarters for US general Douglas MacArthur and becoming home to 80,000 Allied soldiers.

Curious Brisbane has dug into the history books and found what war-time infrastructure still stands around the city, and even busted one longstanding myth.

The secret tunnel network

After prime minister John Curtin declared war on Japan in 1941, the people of Brisbane heeded his warnings to be ready for an attack by building significant war infrastructure.

Bunkers, air-raid shelters and tunnels were created across the city and have since become an ongoing source for folklore among locals.

There are perhaps none so famous as the tunnels that lie beneath the University of Queensland's (UQ) St Lucia campus.

"Each semester we hear stories coming from the student body right up to our property and facilities division saying, 'What's this I hear about mysterious tunnels from the war?'" said Stewart Hobbs, UQ's head of property and facilities.

Despite being constructed during the war, the tunnels had little else to do with the conflict.

"We refer to them as the cloister tunnels; some refer to them as the great court tunnels," Mr Hobbs said.

"But their actual function is much more benign … they're service ducts.

"It had things like power and telephone and drainage. It was not for any secret ways to get from A to B."

The myth is perhaps fuelled by the fact the Main Building — later the Forgan Smith Building — was occupied by the military and became home to the largest Allied communications centre in the south-west Pacific.

"The US military had an office set up there, so they were actually the first occupants here before the university occupied the buildings," Mr Hobbs said.

So where are the real relics?

About 200 air-raid shelters were built in the city centre, and about 20 are still standing.

Only two brick air-raid shelters survive at bus stops at Newstead and Newmarket, while the former tram shelter at King Edward Park is the only stone air-raid shelter left.

Last year, during redevelopment of the Howard Smith Wharves, two bunkers were discovered beneath the Story Bridge.

Meanwhile, one of the city's most popular venues, the Powerhouse, is home to one of the WWII bunkers near the Brisbane River.

Precinct director Neil Cairns said it was discovered nine years ago when the building was being checked for termites.

"All the sub-floor areas needed to be opened and it took three guys eight hours to cut off and re-weld the hinges to get in there," he said.

"There's one tunnel that goes in and turns 90 degrees and runs further along a corridor that opens to a large room with a storage cupboard."

Mr Cairns said the room was connected to another corridor that led out towards the river.

"It's been bricked up from the riverside so there's only one entrance in and out."

"There's nothing in there — even the lightbulbs were taken out before the door was re-welded."

One of the most unique parts of the bunker was one of the remaining signs.

"There's a sign in there that tells you what to do in the event of a gas attack," Mr Cairns said.

"It's hard to believe these things were in place right here in Brisbane."

The bunker could not be developed due to its poor condition, he said.

"Unfortunately, the corridor where you enter slowly disappears downwards, so we have no way of knowing how stable it is as one corner is already dropping down."

SOURCE ; https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-04/brisbane-world-war-ii-relics-where-to-find-them/11469900


Share Socially