World War II
At the commencement of World War II in September 1939, much of the local Geelong industry was placed on war footing.
Two thirds of the newly opened International Harvester was commandeered by the R.A.A.F. and an ad hoc airfield was established. The U.S. Air Force arrived shortly thereafter.
The presence of American servicemen has left an enduring impression on the North Shore community. Their arrival was the cause of much local excitement, particularly among the children who made a pretty penny running errands for them. They were also a hit with the ladies, who enjoyed a social dance at the local community hall. The story of the American presence in North Shore remains largely untold, and the reflections of local residents provide a fantastically rare insight into a unique period in Victorian history.
[Bryan Power Former North Shore resident & local historian]
I was born in '34, so when the war broke out, I was five.
[Black-and-white photo of propeller plane]
I used to keep scrapbooks of aeroplanes. Any time there was a photograph of an aeroplane in the newspaper, I'd cut it out and stick it in my scrapbook.
[Four propeller planes]
When the RAAF base came here, I was delighted.
[Ferg Hamilton North Shore resident & local historian]
The International Harvester, during the war years, part of the factory was taken over by the RAAF to assemble Fairey Battle Planes.
[Jon King Former North Shore resident]
They'd come in crates, be offloaded onto that Ford's Wharf, and then they'd be assembled in the workshops here.
[Assembly of propeller planes]
[David Gibbons North Shore resident]
They used to taxi up to the railway line that goes into the Phosphate and then take off down towards the distillery at the other end.
The school was across the paddock and across the railway line, into the North Shore Primary. We just had to be careful as we crossed the paddock. But the RAAF blokes were very good. If they saw us, they'd pick us up in the truck, take us for a ride - no problem at all. Yeah. They were very good.
They weren't there all that long. I suppose they had assembled all those, and those planes went off, and then the American Air Force came in, and they had Kitty Hawks they were assembling.
The Yanks were very security conscious.
My father told me that an American had challenged somebody moving in the dark. Of course, it was all blacked out.
One of the American guards called on somebody to halt, 'Who goes there?' and threatened to shoot him.
Person didn't respond, he kept on going.
So he shot it, but it turned out to be a cow. So he shot the cow, and there was a bit of an uproar over that.
One day, I was home from school. No-one else was home. I was out the back, cutting the kindling wood. I heard, 'Roar, roar, roar!' down the paddock. I thought, 'Oh, yeah, someone's taken off.' 'Roar, roar, roar!' It was getting closer and closer. 'Gee, it's getting close.' In the front of our house was a great big peppercorn tree, enormous, really high peppercorn tree.
And this Tiger Moth went straight into the top of it. Nose-dive into the paddock. Two Americans staggering around, one with blood on his nose, and the other one looked alright. We were told later that they weren't even pilots, they were security guards that had decided - I think they'd got a little bit tipsy - decided to go for a flight!
[Della Mitchell North Shore resident]
The Americans used to come into Dad's house and they'd carry on and party and have a great old time.
[Black-and-white photograph of a young couple dancing]
They used to go to the North Shore dances and used to do the Charleston.
They looked impressive. When they had their dress uniforms, it was much more impressive than the Australian uniform.
Well, they used to have the dances down at the North Shore hall, and a lot of people used to come out on a bus as well. They'd park the bus out in the street. And I won't mention the name of the young man that used to go peering through the windows with a torch, see what he could see what was going on in the buses!
[Black-and-white photograph of young men sitting at counter]
Then all the ladies used to make their own cakes and sandwiches, take them round for supper. You'd have your dance and enjoy yourself and then, come half-time, all the ladies would bring out all the cakes and the sandwiches and things and cups of tea and coffee and walk around and give it to everybody, so that was really good too.
It was always at about 4:30 the air raid sirens would go, and we had to get off the roads, 'cause the roads had to be cleared.
[Val Gibbons North Shore resident]
One bell and you went under the desk, two bells and, you know, you went into the corridors, and three bells, you ran all the way home, and threw yourself under the kitchen table when you got there.
I used to go and hide in the trees off the road, in the trees.
[Black-and-white photo of Shell Depot]
Later on, I realised, the Shell had their depot opposite. Now, talk about the innocence of youth or the stupidity of youth. When I look back at that and I think, 'Well, I'm glad it wasn't a fair dinkum air raid! It was only a practice.'
We used to follow the war in the paper. We had a map. Battle here, battle there. So, I suppose it was exciting that way. Until you hear that Mrs, I think it was Mrs Ferrell, lost her husband on one of the Phosphate boats. It was... a submarine torpedo hit. So she lost her husband. So that brings it home, then. Yeah.