AIR RAID PRECAUTIONS IN MELBOURNE
The centralisation of industrial and port facilities in Melbourne meant the city was
deemed particularly vulnerable to aerial enemy attack. Anti-aircraft guns were installed at Maribyrnong, and by early 1942
more than 60 000 people voluntarily carried out Air Raid Precautions (ARP) duties.
Melbourne boasted an array of civil
defence bodies, ranging from paramilitary-style groups to more informal training sessions in first-aid and firefighting organised
by schools, workplaces and municipal councils.
Civil defence was initially the responsibility of the State Emergency
Council (SEC), supported from 1941 by the federal Department of Home Security. In January 1942 the SEC was replaced by seven
special committees under the direct control of Premier Albert Dunstan.
Melbourne was strategically divided into 11
sections, each with an area warden and first-aid post. A communications hub was established at Russell Street police headquarters;
if telephone lines were cut, Boy Scouts were to deliver urgent messages by bicycle.
Communal air-raid trenches scarred urban parks, and many families built air-raid shelters in suburban backyards.
Sandbags were piled against city shop windows to minimise damage from shattered glass, and the brownout was enforced by ARP
Despite elaborate evacuation plans, few people fled the city; the rural re-establishment of some
metropolitan schools was due to building requisition. Civil defence activities were important in maintaining morale during
the war's 'crisis' period, but ARP equipment was in short supply, and city-wide air raid drills were not a success. By 1943
enthusiasm for ARP work had waned.
In 1945, I can remember the trenches which had been dug in the parklamds in South Melbourne
- these were about 2 metres deep and invariably became waterlogged and muddy after rain.
In the 1970s, there was an air-raid bunker just outside of Glenferrie Station next to
the Owen Building.It was later demolished when Swinburne University expanded. The sign "Air Radio Shelter" remained in place
well into the 1980s.