Image Air-raid shelter in Brisbane, 1942

TLF ID R8614

This black-and-white photograph shows two women and two uniformed servicemen in a backyard featuring a homemade air-raid shelter during the Second World War. The two men, Private Dick of the AIF and US soldier Tom Squires, are standing in the shelter with Anthea Dyke while Doreen Smythe is jokingly pointing a hose at them. The Australian soldier's slouch hat and uniform jacket are hanging on a garden trellis in the background. A corrugated iron roof lies on the ground by the air-raid trench and hens can be seen in a pen against the back fence.

Educational details

Educational value
  • Air-raid shelters, such as the one in the photograph, were built by Brisbane people with good reason to fear invasion by the Japanese after Australia's declaration of war on Japan in December 1941. In 1942 Broome, Horn Island, Mossman, Darwin and Townsville were bombed and Sydney was attacked by Japanese midget submarines. The risk to Brisbane at the time was believed to be significant.
  • The air-raid shelter pictured was only one response to government plans to defend and safeguard the lives of citizens. Brisbane householders dug such air-raid shelters, even though governments did not make them compulsory or contribute to their cost, and often followed a government design standard for their construction. Buckets were filled with sand to smother incendiary bombs and windows were covered to block light at night.
  • Tom Squires was one of many US servicemen stationed in Australia for the Allies' counterattack in the Pacific. About 80,000 US soldiers were located in Brisbane at the peak of the War; they were often invited into local homes. An uneasy relationship developed between these soldiers and their Australian counterparts, who commonly derided them as 'over-sexed, over-paid and over here' and resented their dating and even marrying local women.
  • The young people appear at ease in this backyard shelter and would have been familiar with civil defence measures. Air-raid precautions were printed in newspapers and the people pictured would have taken part in rescue and evacuation drills. Some women became air-raid wardens, along with thousands of men who were exempt from fighting in the War. Many women also helped with fire spotting, essential services, anti-gas measures and at air observation posts.
  • A backyard air-raid shelter may seem relatively unimportant in the mobilisation of a nation for war, but under the leadership of Australia's prime minister, John Curtin, all resources were focused on the defence of Australia and the war effort in the Pacific. Curtin brought home troops from overseas to fight the Japanese and defend mainland Australia and approached the USA for help. Brisbane then became the US force's military planning headquarters.
  • This group appears quite harmonious, but the relationship between many Australian servicemen and US forces in Australia was uneasy. US servicemen were paid more than Australian soldiers (allegedly twice as much and more for higher ranks). Their uniform was smarter and they had access through their own stores to luxury goods such as silk stockings and chocolates, which were not available to Australian soldiers, to impress local women.
Year level

2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12

Learning area
  • History
  • Studies of society and environment

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Colour independence
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements