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Bribie War Years


The Military installations on Bribie Island were built between 1939 and 1942.

Defence of Brisbane was considered necessary shortly after the outbreak of World War Two and Military installations on Bribie Island, including Fort Bribie on the northern end, and RAN4 and Skirmish Battery, at Woorim, were planned and construction commenced had commenced by October 1941. This need preempted the Japanese attacks in December 1942.

During WW2 Bribie changed from being a holiday island to a military installation and from 1940 only a small group of residents were allowed to remain at Bongaree but all residents had to leave Woorim. Remaining residents provided essential services to the troops and the Civil Construction Corps who supplied the workforce for the establishment of infrastructure for gun emplacements etc.

The military commandeered the new ‘Hotel Bribie’ and the ‘Ocean Beach Guesthouse’ at Woorim and the Bowls Club at Bongaree.

Personnel were billeted in many private cottages and guesthouses. Owners of cottages, wanting to check on their property, had to obtain permits from Victoria Barracks, Petrie Terrace, Brisbane prior to visiting the island.

By 1941 the Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) was formed with many serving at Skirmish Battery (Woorim) and Fort Bribie on the northern tip of Bribie Island. They were employed as switchboard operators and in signal communications at the Ocean Beach Guesthouse at Woorim and at Fort Bribie where they were involved in most tasks except the manning of the guns.

A large Training camp was established at Toorbul Point (now Sandstone Point) where 25,000 Australian & US troops were progressively trained in beach landing craft.

The Defence facilities were never used in anger. However, on the night of 14 May 1943 the Australian hospital ship CENTAUR, with 332 on board, was sunk by a Japanese submarine torpedo off Moreton Island with only 66 survivors.

Bribie Island was a popular resort before the war but for the military it wasn’t an island paradise as the mosquitoes and sand-flies were a major problem. The dung from roaming cattle was sought after to burn on open fires as a deterrent.

There was not much entertainment at Bribie for the troops. The beach provided respite for off-duty personnel as did a spot of fishing and dances were arranged periodically at the Bongaree church hall, where a shortage of women didn’t stop men dancing to the popular tunes of the day.

Written by Graham Mills from information sourced from the BIHS database and the public domain.

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