Backward Glance: Military history of the Sunshine Coast
  • Wednesday 11 November 2015

This year marked the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Pacific when Japan surrendered to the Allied forces on August 15, 1945.

This spelled the end of World War II. On this day Australians spilled out into the streets dancing and singing. They honoured a generation of Australians who helped turn the tide of history.

VP Day, as it is known, holds particular significance to Brisbane and indeed the Sunshine Coast region. Tens of thousands of troops trained throughout this region and it is important for residents of the Sunshine Coast to understand the valuable contribution our ancestors made to the Allied victory.

With troop trains passing through, soldier camps, MPs stationed at the main intersection on what was known as ‘Fiveways’ Landsborough, the Bribie Island Fortifications and Military Jetty at Golden Beach and restricted zones such as Caloundra, almost all of the Sunshine Coast region was involved in some way including its residents.

It is important to not forget the soldiers and sailors who trained in the Sunshine Coast region.

The formidable Australian Army commandos conducted training on Fraser Island which was chosen due to isolation and a tough training environment.

Even the American Marines conducted training for amphibious warfare in Pumicestone Passage on Toorbul Point, while areas such as Conondale, Yandina and the Blackall Ranges were used for jungle warfare training by the Australian Brigades during the transition from the Middle East to the operations in Papua.

The men of the 61st Battalion, known as the Cameron Highlanders, trained throughout the region. Caboolture, Beerburrum, Landsborough, Woombye, Nambour, Yandina and Glass House Mountains all saw soldiers such as these in the country towns. Previously the military recruited along regional lines and the Sunshine Coast proudly recruited 2/16th Battalion from the Maroochydore and Buderim district.

For the defence of the Sunshine Coast, the 21st Brigade was given the task of preparing to resist enemy movements for road and railway in the vicinity of Yandina, Maroochydore and Caloundra areas. The 2/16th Battalion had prepared the protection of Buderim and the beach defences of Maroochydore and Mooloolaba.

After fighting for more than three years in the Middle East, the 7th Battalion also came to the region and were the forward patrol north of Brisbane. The soldiers manned the defences, patrolled the areas of responsibility while the formations trained day and night throughout Pumicestone Passage and northwards.

Brisbane became the largest US naval base in Australia during World War II. It was first established as an advance submarine base and then for the amphibious forces. The submarines started patrolling in early 1942 into the Coral Sea.

Brisbane was of enormous strategic importance to the naval war in the South Pacific. The North West Shipping Channel which is very close to the coastline played a very big part. Mine sweepers patrolled the shipping channel daily and a radar station watched and monitored closely the comings and goings of the shipping channel from Caloundra.

War put a stop to a period of rapid growth which had started in 1935 when the roads were improved from Brisbane to this region.

Today we will share with you a story not known for many years, due to secrecy, of American men, women and children who had been stranded by the outbreak of war and were hiding in the Philippines.

They were rescued from the Philippines by US submarines Narwhal and Crevalle and were brought to Australia.

They arrived in Darwin and were then flown south to Brisbane. Some days later they arrived exhausted in Caloundra where they spent the remainder of the war.

In her memoirs ‘My Faraway Home’, Mary Maynard wrote of arriving in Caloundra where she attended the Caloundra State School, sworn to secrecy along with other American children.

‘To Caloundra, you opened your doors and healed more waifs in World War II than you ever imagined,’ Mary Maynard wrote.

After the war, they all returned home to America.

Learn more about the Coast’s unique history by reading our Backward Glance series. There’s a new story every Wednesday.


Photo: Crowds in Currie Street, Nambour, welcoming men of the USA Naval Squadron on 25 March 1941.