Gordonvale Air Raid Shelter

Civil defence facility

Norman Street, Gordonvale 4865

A surviving remnant of one of Gordonvale’s wartime air raid shelters stands in Norman Park opposite the site of the US Station Hospital. This reinforced concrete shelter was erected early in 1942 soon after Japan’s entry into World War II. It was probably constructed by the Mulgrave Shire Council. At least two other air raid shelters were constructed in Norman Park during this period. However, both were of timber and earth construction and have been demolished.

Like most public air raid shelters Gordonvale’s concrete shelter was constructed to a standard design with seating for 50 people. Shelters were built in the shape of a rectangular box with 12-inch (300 mm) reinforced concrete walls and 6-inch (150 mm) thick roofs. Where there was the possibility of debris falling on the shelter, the thickness of the roof was increased to 300mm. Between Mackay and Cairns, 57 public shelters were constructed during 1942, most in Townsville and Cairns. Only two now survive in the north, including this remnant at Gordonvale and a more intact example at nearby Babinda.


With the mounting threat of war with Japan, construction of public air raid shelters was planned through the main population centres considered vulnerable to air attack. Details of air raid shelter requirements were published by the Queensland government just two weeks after Pearl Harbor. Under National Security Regulations, local councils were responsible for the provision of public air raid shelters and the enforcement of orders requiring their construction by commercial property owners.

The Queensland government undertook to build shelters on behalf of the local authorities, with the costs deferred. A special Act was passed enabling local authorities to obtain loans from the government for the purpose of air raid shelter construction and to levy special rates to meet interest repayments. After Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor a partial black out—known as 'brown out'—was enforced in all towns from Mackay north and up to 160 kilometres inland. Air raid drills became a normal part of the local community routine, especially during the first half of 1942.

Black-out restrictions were gradually relaxed after 1943 and removed altogether in late 1944. After the war almost all air raid shelters were demolished, but several including the Gordonvale shelter were converted for use as public toilets. In recent years the reinforced concrete shell of the building has been partly demolished.


Pearce, Howard (contributing author).

Stephen Fowler, Babinda Air Raid Shelter report, DERM, Brisbane, 2007.

Clive Morton, Gordonvale, Personal Communication.

HC Morton, Mulgrave Shire Historical Society Bulletins 13–15, ca.1982.

Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.