Queensland Emergency Supplies

Guest blogger: Erica Bolto

During World War II there was great concern in Queensland regarding possible invasion by the Japanese. Some people in Brisbane who had friends or relatives in the country had already evacuated from Brisbane. In mid 1941 the Queensland government set up an organization called Queensland Emergency Supplies. Its brief was to set up large food depots away from the coast in the event of the wholesale evacuation of Brisbane and other coastal centres. The organisation’s headquarters were established in the old Queensland Hotel building in Mary Street. I think the existence and work of the Queensland Emergency Supplies was probably kept rather quiet in order to maintain morale and stem any rising panic in the population.

View of Queen Street and the wharves on the Brisbane River, Brisbane, Queensland, ca.1943. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 125815

The organisation gathered information from country areas for details on buildings which were considered large enough and robust enough to accommodate the large depots of food supplies to be transported there. These buildings included shire halls, picture theatres, memorial halls, show ground pavilions, Masonic halls, industrial garages, cotton ginneries and animal health stations. Some of the buildings on inspection were found to have white ant damage and needed repair before they could be used. Others had to be strengthened. One letter held by Queensland State Archives, asked whether the Tivoli Theatre in Mareeba would be strong enough to carry the weight of 300 tons of flour. Another letter stated that the cotton ginnery in Gayndah was a suitable building, but owing to the bridge over the Burnett River having been washed away in a recent flood, there was now no vehicular access between the railway station and the town area.

A memo in Queensland State Archives' file states that it would be assumed that inland centres would have enough meat, milk and vegetables to feed the evacuees but listed the amounts of other foodstuffs needed to sustain 100 persons for one week at one centre. A partial example of one such list was:- Salt 250 lbs, Jam 600 lbs, Tinned fruit 2000 lbs, Sugar 1,250 lbs, Tea 200 lbs, Condensed milk 1000 lbs, Soap 280 lbs., etc. etc. etc. The Archives file also lists all the centres being used.

One letter of early 1944 shows how the authorities hoped to use prisoners from Stuart Creek Jail in Townsville to carry sacks of flour weighing 150 lbs. from the unloading point at the wharf to the stacking point, but it was found that there were insufficient numbers physically fit enough to cope with the task.

I’m sure that many young people living in today’s Brisbane would have no idea that the situation was considered so dire in the early 1940’s that the Government set up the organization of Queensland Emergency Supplies.

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