Schools in Australia during WW2


The outbreak of war in the Pacific led to the release of Regulation 35A of the National Security (General) Regulations. This Regulation allowed Queensland Premier Forgan Smith to order the immediate closure of coastal schools from Thursday Island to Coolangatta under the Protection of Persons and Property Order 8A. Schools were to remain closed at the end of the summer holidays.

At the start of 1942 all schools closed for several months. This was at a time that the perceived threat of a Japanese invasion was very high. Things were very tense in Queensland at the time of the Battle of the Coral Sea in early May 1942. In some north Queensland towns, trains were parked at railways sidings with their boilers at the ready, to evacuate school children in the event of an invasion.

Thousands of students from many State Schools as well as exclusive private secondary school were moved to scattered dormitories and classrooms either within the local area or moved to inland towns such as Stanthorpe, Dalby, Barcaldine and Warwick. There was a shortage of teachers during the war years.

Approximately 60 boarders at St. Augustine's Marist Brothers School in Cairns were relocated to the Lake Barrine Guest House which had been leased by the school. The school and household equipment was loaded by the Marist Brothers with assistance from the boarders and other helpers and sent in convoys to Lake Barrine on the Atherton Tablelands. The boarders had what they considered to be a fantastic 12 months "holiday" at Lake Barrine. This included numerous bush walks and fishing trips They would attend the picture theatre at Yungaburra and encounter the variety of animal life in the tropical rain forests of the Atherton Tablelands. Despite a small outbreak of dengue fever a great time was had by all. So much so that it was difficult for the Marist Brothers to maintain the boy's interest in school work.

12 sisters, 130 girls and 2 large van loads of classroom and boarding school furniture were part of the wartime evacuation of All Hallow's school in Brisbane. 75 girls from All Hallow's went to Warwick, 47 others went to Stanthorpe. 8 went to Roma and 7 went to Dalby.

The girls of Lourdes Hill school in Brisbane were evacuated by train on 16 February 1942 to Gayndah convent. 

The girls at Stuartholme in Brisbane were evacuated from their school to a small country hotel at Canungra near the bottom of Mount Tamborine. The hotel bar was turned into a study room. Stuartholme was then taken over by the Americans to establish the US Army's 42nd General Hospital. The Stuartholme girls were relocated to the Grand Hotel, at Southport when the Americans established Camp Cable in the Mount Tamborine area. The girls remained at the Grand Hotel until the end of 1944. 

Loreto girls school at Coorparoo in Brisbane was evacuated interstate to the New England Boys' Grammar School in Glen Innes in New South Wales. Loreto was used by the Australian Army as a Convalescent Hospital for wounded soldiers.

St. Rita's girls school at Clayfield in Brisbane, was inspected by both the American and Australian military forces, but was used by neither. St. Rita's was very close to Camp Ascot at the Ascot Racecourse. Because of its perceived vulnerable location, the girls at St. Rita's were given an option to evacuate to Murgon for the year if they so desired.

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College for Boys at Whinstanes was ordered closed due to its closeness to some petrol storage areas near the Brisbane River. The College was run by the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. The students were evacuated to two rented properties in Toowoomba. "Maranoa" a former guest house was used as accommodation and "Sonnenberg" a nearby house, was used as classrooms. In late 1942, the school was relocated to "Lyndon" which was a few blocks away. After the war the sisters stayed permanently in Toowoomba and the school at Whinstanes was sold to the Augustinian Fathers.

Schools at Charters Towers were not ordered closed and many reported record attendances due to the number of children from coastal areas being sent to western towns.

When some schools reopened in March 1942, slit trenches were dug as Air Raid Shelters before the children returned to the school. Evacuation procedures were taught and regularly practices. Teachers were taught First Aid techniques. Infant classes remained closed until the end of 1942. Classes up to Grade 6 only attended school for morning classes.

Many school buildings proved to be very suitable for military purposes during WW2. The Hirings Section of the Australian Army Hirings Service were involved in acquiring many school buildings for the Army and other military services. The schools were mainly used for two purposes:-

- barracks and administration centres
- hospitals

The staff and students of the Church of England Boy's School in Toowoomba were moved eastwards to St. Hilda's School at Southport in April 1942. Captain Melloy of Hirings Section, No. 1 L of C, acquired the school on behalf of the Australian Army who set up their Headquarters, 1st Australian Army under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir John Lavarack.

The Catholic Church and the Church of England were staring to feel uneasy about the number of their schools being requisitioned by the Australian Army. The Australian Catholic Bishop's meeting in Sydney protested strongly to the Australian Prime Minister about the issue. Frank Forde, the Minister for the Army, then undertook to personally become involved in approving the requisitioning of all future schools. He indicated that there would be no exemptions for State-run schools.

The Army Hirings Section would take a full inventory of the schools that they were taking over and carry out an assessment of the school's condition immediately prior to occupation. The School Principal would countersign these documents.



All Souls', Charters Towers
Church of England Boy's School

Church of England Boy's School, Toowoomba

Brother's Residence and Mount Carmel Christian Brothers School, Charters Towers
Downlands College, Toowoomba Glennie Anglican Girls' School, Toowoomba Ivanhoe Grammar School, Melbourne
MacRobertson Girls High School
350-370 Kings Way, Melbourne
Mareeba State School Moorooka State School
Mother of Good Counsel School, Cairns Our Lady's Mount College, Stanton Hill, Townsville Somerville House (Girls School),
South Brisbane
South Townsville State School, Townsville
Used by the 208th CA AA CNG
St. Anne's Church of England Girl's School, Townsville
used as Barracks accommodation for WAAAF
 St. Augustine's Marist Brothers School, Cairns
St Hilda's Girl School, Southport
(135th Medical Regiment, US Army)
St. Joseph's College, Nudgee Junior, Indooroopilly
US Army Hospital
St. Joseph's Convent, Mount Isa
St. Laurence's College, Brisbane St. Gabriel's School,
Charters Towers, Church of England Girls School 
St. Mary's Convent, Cooktown
St. Mary's Marist Brothers College, Ashgrove, Brisbane St. Patrick's (Catholic) College, The Strand, Townsville
used as Barracks accommodation for the WAAAF
The Southport (Boys) School
(153rd Station Hospital, US Army)
Townsville Grammar School Townsville High School  



"And all this shall be added"
Catholic Education in Queensland - Volume VI
by Susan Mary Tobin

"Schools at War - Memories of schooldays during World War II"
by Greg Logan and Rosemary Mammino

"Time Will Tell - Memoirs of a Kangaroo Point Kid"
As told to Diane Melloy


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This page first produced 22 June 2002

This page last updated 06 March 2020