Sepia Saturday – Bikes in the bush

 

Sepia Saturday 530 : Bike With Side Car (1940s)

Sepia Saturday 530 : Bike With Side Car (1940s)

This will be a short and sweet Sepia Saturday post but how could I resist such a perfect match to the theme?

This photo includes my grandmother’s younger sister, Edie and her daughter, Muriel. They are obviously out camping somewhere and having a fine time though they do look rather well dressed for the event – certainly not how I look when I’m holidaying in a tent.

Edie McCorkindale was only 17 when she emigrated to Brisbane from Glasgow with her mother and siblings in 1910. Like most of her family she lived in Brisbane until she reached adulthood and can be found on the electoral rolls for Enoggera in 1915. At the time Edie was working as a saleswoman whereas her sisters had been employed as dressmakers. She married her husband Richard Amesbury in Brisbane in 1919 and after  few years the couple moved to Sydney where they lived for the rest of their lives.

115 U Dick A Edie and Muriel at Penrith Easter

I only knew Edie as an elderly woman, very trim and stylish, when she would visit my grandmother next door. It seems so strange to me to imagine her life as a young woman of adventure, riding on a motor bike and camping.

Edie query at Hartley Easter

And how could I ignore a “blast from the past” with this photo of Mr Cassmob on his bike many years ago. I wrote about it on another Sepia Saturday post in 2013. All I can say, though, is I’m glad the bike had gone before we married because I can’t quite see myself on a bike or sitting in a side car!

Why not see where other Sepians rode to this weekend?

peter-and-his-bike

Trove Tuesday: Thanksgiving Day in Brisbane 1942

The Battle of Brisbane or “Celebrating” Thanksgiving Day 1942

Thanksgiving Day 1942 must have seemed so very strange for the American forces stationed in Brisbane. Not only were they away from their families on what is possibly the most important family date on the American calendar, but the world around them would have felt so strange. Brisbane was approaching summer with blue skies and sunshine. The jacaranda trees would have been in full flower – traditionally exam time for local students. It’s fair to say that most Brisbane people would have had no idea what Thanksgiving was all about, or why it mattered so much to the men. Nevertheless, there were plans to give them a traditional Thanksgiving meal with formal dinners, dinner in the canteen, or at family homes around town.

American red cross service club

Brisbane City Council (1943). American Red Cross Services Club.

The Red Cross went to a great deal of trouble for the men so they would feel more at home with turkey, pumpkin pie and plum pudding. I’d imagine they’d have thoroughly enjoyed the meal but I do wonder where all those turkeys came from – I remember even as a child that cooked chicken was expensive and I can’t recall ever seeing a turkey, cooked or live.

thanksgiving

(2005). Workers carve 250 turkeys for Thanksgiving Day dinners at the American Red Cross Services Club, Creek Street, Brisbane, 1942. State Library of Queensland

During the days, life continued on as usual around town. One Brisbane woman who worked at the American Red Cross, reports “the city was jam-packed with Americans strutting around in fancy clothes. Walking down Queen St (the main street in the CBD) in 1942, I would say there were nine men to every woman, and six or seven of the men would be Americans…The Americans gave presents to the girls and won them over, which was extraordinarily annoying for the Australians[i]. Many women also worked repairing US service uniforms. Their employment gave them entitlement “to go to the American Red Cross canteen opposite the Gresham Hotel and have your meals.… they had so many things you couldn’t get in the shops like salmon and chocolates and Nestles tinned cream. The boys used to bring us nylon stockings[ii] The social pressure cooker was bubbling away beneath the surface.

clothing repair shop

Unidentified (1944). Clothing Repair Shop No. 2, Brisbane, ca. 1944. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Wherever men are gathered at leisure, and able to have a few (?) drinks, there’s always the risk of a testosterone takeover especially when they’re geared up to go to war. Aussie soldiers, it must be said were very inclined to this social activity. Never known for  being compliant to superior officers unless they were well respected, it could take very little to set them off. On top of which Australians at the time had little inclination to fight with knives or weapons (at least when not in battle) – something which had been occurring in the recent past in Brisbane. Esteemed war photographer Damien Parer is quoted as saying “Those American MPs, the bloody bastards, they always hit first and talked afterwards.[iii]

US MPs

(2005). American military police outside the Central Hotel, Brisbane, Queensland, 1942. State Library of Queensland.

And so the scene was set. An American, Private James Stein, from the 404th signal company accepted an invitation to have a Thanksgiving drink with an Aussie soldier at their canteen. He had a leave pass so was confident he would pass muster with the patrolling MPs. Leaving the canteen after a few drinks, he literally ran into an Aussie former soldier, Ed Webster, recently returned from Syria and the Middle East campaigns.

Daily News Perth 27 Nov 1942 p8

Soldiers Riot In Brisbane (1942, November 27). The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), p. 8 (CITY FINAL). Retrieved July 14, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78306972

Before it could get confrontational, the MPs intervened and asked to see Stein’s pass. The attitude of the MPs set off the Aussie dislike of authority and they angrily took exception to the MPs. They in turn, unwisely, struck one of the Australians with his baton. It was now on for young and old! He was punched and kicked and then chased back to the PX building on the corner of Adelaide and Creek Streets.

As more MPs got involved and passing Diggers decided to get into the action, it got very ugly very quickly. The MPs called in off duty reinforcements from across the river as the Australians did their best to destroy every window in the PX building. Police were called but the suggestion is they did little to control the mob. Similarly, the Australian MPs, who were only a small group and armed, but without ammunition, did their best to stay out of the melée. A fire engine arrived and the firemen were requested to use fire hoses to disband the crowd – they declined saying controlling riots wasn’t their job.

The arrival of a heavy vehicle and Provosts who’d been armed with loaded riot guns was a red rag to the Australian mob. (It was the 1970s before Queensland Police would carry guns). Norbert Grant, one of the provosts, was attacked by Webster and in the process his gun discharged. Webster was fatally injured though his name was mostly not mentioned in news reports.   Several other shots were discharged and seven others were shot, some severely but not fatally. Another eight were injured by batons. “The use of a shotgun on Australian troops had enraged the rioters.[iv]” Most of the men in the rioting crowd were from the 9th Battalion who had previously experienced heavy fighting in the Middle East and Milne Bay. They were not men to back down easily. “They [the American MPs] picked on the wrong mob, it was the silliest thing they ever did.[v]

Repairing American canteen

(2007). Repairing broken windows at the American canteen, Brisbane, November 1942. State Library of Queensland

Order was eventually restored that night but feelings ran high in the ensuing days. The canteens were closed and the brownout lifted in some city streets. Despite this gangs of Australian soldiers (rabble really) wandered the streets looking for Americans to attack and when found they would given them a massive bashing and kicking. A disgrace entirely. For some bizarre reason, no decision was made to keep the men in their barracks until feelings might have died down.

The Herald 27 Nov 1942 p3

One Dead; 16 Hurt In Brisbane Riot (1942, November 27). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245115498

Reports of the riot were covered in newspapers the length and breadth of the country and it’s surpising how sometime the most accurate reports came from farther away. However not all were accurate as they mis-reported the name of the deceased soldier and instead included the name of one of the severely injured.

American Lt Bob Firehock is quoted as saying “the Battle of Brisbane was a tragedy that should never have happened[vi]. I would add that it’s an ignominious episode in Brisbane’s history. So many strategic decisions could have been made differently that might have avoided or moderated the outcome. “The Battle of Brisbane” book provides insights into the attitudes preceded the riot as well as how it might have been handled otherwise.

On a personal note, it’s a strange thing to think of an event like this in my home town. Even stranger that mum was only a teenager working in the city, and well monitored by her father I have no doubt, while Dad was with Queensland Railways, an essential occupation. I know he talked about the event very briefly once, and I took some notes….but where are they? Mum doesn’t recall much about it at all.

In the aftermath, some of the Australian soldiers were charged and sent to prison. The American MP, Norbert Grant, was found not guilty of manslaughter in the death of Ed Webster.

Brisbane brawls Cairns Post 30 Nov 1942 p4

BRISBANE BRAWLS. (1942, November 30). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article42369776

There was no indication in most of the news reports of the nationality of the participants to avoid making it clear to the enemy that the Allies were fighting among themselves. No wonder we love Trove when it opens up so many wonders for us but this one did give me a good giggle.

Typo on Trove

Those who are interested can follow the articles and photos I flagged in the Brisbane 1940s list on Trove. There are also a couple of interesting articles online:

Australia at War: the Battle of Brisbane has an excellent mud map if you want to orient yourself to the events.

The Battle of Brisbane by Dr Judith Powell

I will also have to look out this book to see if it offers a different perspective.

They Passed This Way: The United States of America, the States of Australia and World War II, By Barry Ralph

I was cheered a little by this image of a square dance in Brisbane for Thanksgiving 1943. A lot more pleasant than the events of 1942.

Square dancing Thanksgiving 1943

(2005). Square dancing at the Riverview Leave Area, Brisbane, Thanksgiving 1943. State Library of Queensland

war brides

(2005). Happy young brides on board a ship bound for their new homes in America, Brisbane, September 1945. State Library of Queensland

 


[i] Thompson, P. A and Macklin R. The Battle of Brisbane: Australians and the Yanks at War. ABC Books, Sydney 2001, pages 155-156

[ii] Ibid pp103014 Gloria Valentine later Mrs Gloria Bradshaw.

[iii] Ibid p209

[iv] Ibid p215

[v] Ibid p215 quoting Lt Lance Watts of the 2/2nd Anti-Tank Regiment, Webster’s former unit.

[vi] Ibid p217

Ibid pp219-226

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sepia Saturday: Wartime in Brisbane

Unidentified (1940). View along Adelaide Street, Brisbane, ca. 1940. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Brisbane in the late 1930s was a sleepy town more reminiscent of a country town than the capital of the state of Queensland in the land Down Under. That would change in 1939 when Australia entered World War II and men and munitions were despatched forth for embarkation to the European front.

AERIAL STARBOARD SIDE VIEW OF THE AMERICAN TANSPORT HOLBROOK WHICH BROUGHT US TROOPS TO AUSTRALIA AS PART OF THE PENSACOLA CONVOY IN 1941-12

Japan entered the war by bombing  Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and then made swift and steady progress south through Asia. After this attack by Japan, America entered the war with specific concerns about the Japanese focus on the Philippines where the USA had significant military and naval interests. The Pensacola Convoy of ships was heading to their Philippines base prior to Pearl Harbor but were re-routed to sleepy Brisbane. As with a US naval visit in 1941, the troops were welcomed with great excitement especially by the women of the town. Already the seeds of disenchantment, frustration and anger were being sown.

2005. Women with visiting American sailors, Brisbane, Queensland, 1941. State Library of Queensland.

Australia’s new Prime Minister, John Curtin, was forced into a conflict of wills with Britain’s Winston Churchill to bring our troops back from the European front, north Africa and the Middle East. The Fall of Singapore in February 1942 and capture of Australian (and other) troops and evacuation of civilians and nurses certainly caused great anxiety in Australia. Britain had refused to believe Singapore could be defeated, assuming any attack would come from the sea not through the back door overland. With the determined and steady approach of the Japanese military, there was a fear that Australia was in the line of attack. No doubt the bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942, of Broome on 3 March 1942, and Townsville on 25 July 1942 could only have exacerbated that fear.

Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT. 1972-09-15. A copy of  a colour lithographic print of a painting by a Japanese artist, showing the signing of around a long table of the surrender documents at Singapore, by Lieutenant General A E Percival on 1942–02-15. The table is now in the collection of the Australian War Memorial. Image out of copyright.

There is a strong belief, at least in Queensland, that, during the war years, our national policy was to defend the country below the Brisbane line. The rest of the state, to Brisbane’s north, was to be considered expendable. This strategy has been widely disputed over the decades but only detailed historical research would confirm or deny it.

I have often wondered whether it was a coincidence that my grandfather relocated his family from Townsville to Brisbane in mid-1941. He was a supervisor in the carpentry workshop with the railways, an essential service during the war. I can only imagine how relieved he must have been to be miles away when Townsville was bombed, but perhaps less thrilled to have three teenaged daughters in Brisbane with the presence of so many Australian or US troops.

Brisbane City Council (1942). Air Raid Shelters and Salt Water Pipes in Elizabeth Street behind the General Post Office.

Just imagine Brisbane at the time: a country-town sized capital of some 330,000 people firmly entrenched in the idea of Britain as home and with very British attitudes. The architecture was peculiar to this sub-tropical town with many wooden houses built on stilts and hotels with wide verandahs – it probably all looked a bit “wild west” to the incoming troops. Sadly, today much of that diverse architecture no longer stands having been wilfully demolished to make way for grander, taller, more modern buildings.

Unidentified (1942). Australian Hotel in Brisbane during World War II. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. This hotel was not far from the US PX.

During the years 1941-1945, around 90,000 US military (including the much-debated General MacArthur) would pour into the town. If we put a rubbery 1:3 ratio on the men in the local population, they were matched 1 to 1 by the new arrivals although many Australian soldiers (Diggers) were already posted elsewhere. There was also resentment between the two forces about their relative fighting “performances” in the highly challenging Papua New Guinea confrontations with the Japanese, even though the first land battle defeat of the Japanese had occurred in Milne Bay in August 1942.

Unidentified (1942). American soldiers in Charlotte Street, Brisbane, ca. 1942. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

The local mantra during the war was that the US men were “overpaid, oversexed and over here”. Their uniforms were smarter, their pay was higher, and they had access to goods not available in the city’s shops through their Post Exchange or PX, and they were “exotic”. Perhaps unsurprisingly they were a big hit with the young Brisbane women.  The sad thing is how the behaviour of the women is reported – as if they were floozies, “no better than they ought to be”, tarts or amateur prostitutes. It seems that, as so often happens, the women got the blame for social behaviour. Add to that their Australian men weren’t socialised to just hang out with women and generally spent their spare time with their mates. Even today Aussie barbeques are famous for the division of the sexes. It can be argued that there was little difference between the Diggers in England during the war(s) when they were the exotic overpaid troops. The reality is that wherever men were stationed, they fell in love (or lust) with local women, and some married and the new-minted wives moved back to the man’s home country, as war brides.

Brisbane City Council (1950). Corner of Queen Street and Creek Street Brisbane.

It’s pretty easy to see in retrospect that there might be trouble brewing in sleepy Brisbane, but it seemed to have escaped the attention of the powers that be. On top of the social tensions, it was quite likely that tempers might well have been short simply because the heat and humidity of the approaching Brisbane summer.

Tensions would erupt with a vengeance on Thanksgiving Day in 1942. Come back tomorrow and learn what happened in sleepy downtown Brisbane. (pronounced, btw, as Bris-bin not Bris-BANE).

Meanwhile, venture over to see where other Sepians travelled this week.

Sepia Saturday 528 Header

As I write, US marines are currently stationed in Darwin in Australia’s north, and have been since 2011/12.  This is in addition to the Pine Gap base in Australia’s Red Centre.

You can read a few stories about the strategic decision to send the marines to Australia here and here. You can read some of my earlier stories about the Pitch Black multi-national ops in Darwin here on my other blog.

Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd (2007). American serviceman meeting a wallaby in Brisbane, Queensland. State Library of Queensland.

 

Sepia Saturday: To the beach

Sepia Saturday 527 - 4 July 2020

Going to the beach seems to bring out the silliness in most of us. As Aussies we regard a trip to the beach as our inalienable birthright, from infancy to old age. This week’s feature photo also reminded me of silly couple-behaviour, and so I’m leading with photos of my parents at the beach during their honeymoon. As my mother has never ever smoked in her life, this photo is all the more unusual. They were holidaying at Fingal in Northern New South Wales, after returning from Sydney.

Once there were three of us, we holidayed at the beach, having no doubt caught the train down the coast (when it was still operational, before it was removed, and before it was partially reinstated). Do you like the matching striped jumpsuits?

Trips to North Queensland every few years took us to Magnetic Island. My memories of these holidays at Picnic Bay are very special.

We in turn took our kids to the beach as littlies. The photo on the left was taken at Coolangatta on our first leave from Papua New Guinea. On the right, we see a doting group of relatives fussing over daughter #1. With her were her maternal grandparents and her paternal great-grandmother and great-aunt.

After we moved to Port Moresby, we often drove into Ela Beach at the weekend. We’d check our mail box then spend time at the beach either playing in the sand, swimming or listening to the Police Band playing. Our dog, Whisky, would come with us and loved every minute of her adventure, furiously wagging her tail and farting with excitement.

Perhaps our strangest experience of the beach is an overseas one – how peculiar to  be rugged up in woollies and jackets. There were women in leather jackets and boots out strolling on the seashore. Photo taken in the Netherlands 1977. And then on a visit years ago to near where we now live.

 

We will take every chance we can to see a beach even when the weather is cold. I was thrilled to discover this beach on Achill Island in 1995 and share it with Mr Cassmob on another trip when we made friends with a local dog.

We chose to commemorate our ruby anniversary with casual family photos taken at a beach near our house in Darwin. We really love the relaxed and happy photos of the family, but all you’re getting to see is the happy couple. It was a very hot time of the year and we were all “glowing”.

cass 068

Let’s wind the clock back before we leave the beach behind with an early photo of Mr Cassmob’s relations on a Victorian beach. Probably taken in the late ’40s or early ’50s.

134 Cass Thompson families at beach

And while we shouldn’t laugh at our relatives and their olden-day “fashions”, I just had to share this outing to the beach with you.

Denis and Norman Kunkel left Ted Bryson right and query

My grandfather, back left, and dad, with a pudding bowl haircut and a much more discreet swimsuit than his relatives were wearing. Don’t you just love the frills on the swimsuit trousers on the right?!

I wonder what other Sepians have made of this week’s prompt. Have they explored the idea of needing an occasional “pick me up”, gone to the beach or been even more inventive. Why not paddle over and check it out.