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.
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.