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The War Years: Americans at Newstead

11/05/2018
Did you know that from 1941-45, Brisbane was in the grip of war but besieged by love? Nearly 80 000 US servicemen were stationed in Brisbane during World War II, sent to secure victory in the war in the Pacific.
 
The War Years: the Americans at Newstead, an innovative partnership program between Moreton Bay EEC and Newstead House, engaged students and adults alike, using Theatre-in-education in the culture clash experienced by the people of Brisbane when the ‘American Invasion’ of US service personnel occurred during WWII’s expansion into the South Western Pacific from 1941. Feedback from students and the community was outstanding, with Heads of Department congratulating us on this learning journey that enabled students to experience what if felt like during this time.
 
Some background:
Newstead Wharf, opened in 1936, was used by the military during WWII. In March 1941 crowds gathered in Newstead Park and other vantage points to welcome a fleet of American ships. By December, the USS Pensacola arrived unannounced following the bombing of Pearl Harbour by the Japanese. From 1942 Brisbane became a major military supply depot and naval base for the war in the South Western Pacific. Brisbane had a population of 300,000 in 1941 and over the next four years the city hosted over a million US servicemen. Newstead House, occupied from 1942 by service personnel of the Photographic Detachment of the 832nd Signal Service Company, Signal Section of the United States Army Services of Supply, was used as barracks for the men. A gun emplacement was located on the riverfront beyond the bandstand and a series of air raid slit trenches were dug in Newstead Park. An air raid shelter was located in the park on the creek bank, built over by the Breakfast Creek Bridge in 1959.
 
Impacts of the ‘American invasion’ included new forms of entertainment culture: dances, drinks, dress and sport. Cola became the drink of choice, with 10 000 bottles imported to the first American PX (postal exchange) in South Brisbane in 1942. Americans taught local girls to jitterbug, baseball was played at Perry Park and volleyball at Newstead House. Many local girls fell in love with American servicemen and war brides were an international phenomena during and after the war.
 
A thoroughly moving experience that we were incredibly proud to deliver in partnership with Newstead House and our ridiculously talented actors Zoe Deplevitz, Kristian Santic and Jason McKell.