Babinda Public Air Raid Shelter
Public Toilets, ANZAC Park
- Civil defence facility
ANZAC Park, 109 Munro Street, Babinda 4861
The former public air raid shelter at Babinda, built in early 1942, appears to be the most intact public air raid shelter to survive in north Queensland. It was built to a standard design, to provide seating for 50 people. The shelter is located in Anzac Park, on the south side of Munro Street, Babinda, where it now functions as a public toilet.
It is an above ground reinforced concrete structure with entrances at both the northern and southern ends, on the west side of the shelter. The reinforced concrete walls are 300 mm thick, while the concrete roof is 150mm thick. Internal blast walls form a corridor into the central space. The original toilet cubicles next to each entrance survive, although these have been sealed.
In form, the exterior of the structure has changed little from its original design. The interior has been converted into female and male toilets, with a dividing concrete wall erected through the centre of the structure. Apart from the addition of fixtures for water, power and lighting the only other apparent changes have been alteration to the offset ventilation vents to a more open style.
The sudden fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942 and the rapid, unchecked Japanese advance through the islands of the Netherlands East Indies raised fears of air attacks on Australia. The outlook during the first six months in 1942 looked grim and the possibility of Japanese air raids and invasion was considered likely. As a result, Babinda air raid shelter was one of a number of public air raid shelters constructed in Queensland during early 1942.
The impetus for building public air raid shelters was provided by the Federal and State Governments. Regulation 35a, an amendment to the National Security (General) Regulations of the National Security Act 1939–1940, was notified in the Commonwealth Government Gazette on 11 December 1941 (as Statutory Rules 1941 No.287), and authorised each State Premier to direct 'blackouts' and to 'make such provision as he deems necessary to protect the persons and property of the civil population'.
In the Protection of Persons and Property Order No.1, gazetted 23 December 1941, Queensland’s Premier William Forgan Smith, with powers conferred by Regulation 35a, ordered the Brisbane City Council to construct 200 public surface shelters in the city area (235 were built). Another 24 local governments in Queensland’s coastal areas were ordered to produce surface or trench shelters for the public (135 non-trench shelters were built).
The Babinda public air raid shelter, the only public shelter ordered for the town, was ordered for construction on 16 January 1942. Other public air raid shelters built in 1942 included: Cairns (9), Atherton (1), Gordonvale (2) and Innisfail (3). Further south, shelters were built at Ingham (2), Townsville (15), Charters Towers (4), Ayr (3), Home Hill, Bowen and Proserpine (2 each), Mackay (8), Sarina (3), and Rockhampton (20). More shelters were constructed at towns from Gladstone to Southport, plus Kingaroy, Ipswich, and Toowoomba.
In addition to the public shelter building program, a large number of businesses built air raid shelters, as the owners of any building in the coastal areas where over 30 people would normally be present at any one time were required to build shelters either within the building, or adjacent to it. Air raid shelters were also built next to government buildings, to protect public servants and the public, and at railway stations. For example, air raid shelters survive behind the old Court House on Channon Street in Gympie, and at the Maryborough Courthouse; and there are still railway air raid shelters at the Landsborough and (former) Maryborough railway stations.
The Babinda shelter was constructed by Mulgrave Shire Council during 1942 to the same standard design as the public air raid shelters constructed in Cairns. They were above-ground structures designed to accommodate 50 persons seated, with 300mm reinforced concrete walls and a 150mm thick roof. The shelters contained an open entrance at either end protected by an internal blast wall. A small room at each entrance, referred to on plans as a closet, may have contained male and female toilets (water closets). The interior of the Babinda shelter comprised one large room with a timber bench along the western wall between the two internal blast walls, which could accommodate up to 20 persons seated; and a long, double timber bench positioned north-south in the centre of the room, which could accommodate a total of 30 persons seated. An alcove for a lamp was provided at the end of each blast wall. Eighteen offset open air vents around the building provided ventilation while protecting the occupants against direct blast from a near miss.
As the threat from air attacks lessened, the shelter was turned into a public toilet by Mulgrave Shire Council during 1944–1945 and remains today for this purpose. A mural was painted on the shelter in 1992. The building was last used as a public shelter during Tropical Cyclone Larry which passed through Babinda on 20 March 2006 causing severe damage in the town.
Babinda Air Raid Shelter. Queensland Heritage Register 602743
Public Air Raid Shelter, Landsborough Railway Station, Queensland Heritage Register 602709
Queensland State Archives, Item 269093. Correspondence- Local Authorities- air raid shelters- civil defence- Steel Helmets. 1942–1946.
Queensland State Archives, Item ID 328630 Air raid precautions concrete pill box shelter 1941