Posted By michellef on September 16, 2014
Ipswich’s first defence forces were established in 1860. With the Crimean War in 1854-56 and the Russian scare in 1859, the Government at the time believed that the Ipswich and Brisbane area needed to be able to defend itself if an attack ever came there way. Colonel Charles Gray the Police Magistrate of Ipswich at the time gathered volunteers to establish an Ipswich Company of riflemen. The ‘Ipswich Battery of the Queensland Volunteer Artillery’ group and an Ipswich Troop of Mounted Rifles were formed soon after in 1864. Military training, camps, parades and official functions were held, with Ipswich volunteers training in the Milford Street Drill Hall.
The Boer war broke out in 1899 and by October of that year Ipswich had rallied and a number of volunteers were headed with Australian forces to Transvaal to fight in the South African conflict. Ipswich people were very patriotic and aware of the Boer War. A day of celebrations was held when War news reported the town of Mafeking was relieved.
As Britain entered the conflict of World War 1 in 1914, calls went out to Queenslanders ‘to help the mother country in her hour of need’. Many Ipswich men volunteered and soon there were groups leaving Ipswich for army camp. By 1915, Ipswich recruits were sending letters home from Egypt about their exploits overseas. As many Ipswich men moved to Gallipoli to fight, reality of the war soon struck home. Major Sydney Robertson of Quarry Street and Lt John Roberts of Flint Street, North Ipswich were the first Ipswich men to die in the beginning days of the Gallipoli campaign in April, 1915. Soon the sick and wounded started to arrive back in Ipswich. The Newspapers printed lists of those killed and injured and those taking up the cause and being farewelled on their way to war. A wave of Patriotism flooded through Ipswich and its surrounds. Flags were hung in shops, Red Cross branches gathered together to make clothes and bandages for injured soldiers and socks were knitted to be sent to soldiers overseas. A ‘Train Tea Society’ was formed by women to meet soldiers with refreshments as they came through Ipswich on Troop Trains. Patriotic parades, demonstrations and concerts were held. Recruiting rallies and marches were held with the most famous march beginning in Warwick and making its way through towns to Brisbane. Met with bands and parades in each town they changed into dungarees along the way and were soon known as ‘The Dungarees’ or ‘Binnie’s Dungarees’ after the leader Lieutenant J. D. Binnie. In Ipswich they were met by a huge crowd and the Ipswich Ladies Patriotic Committee presented them with a side drum. The men stayed at the Drill Hall in Milford Street for two days and left with 36 local recruits. As the Armistice was signed on November 11, Ipswich celebrated with ringing bells and bands playing. A public holiday and celebration was held the next day in Queens Park.
In 1938 a year before World War II began, an aerodrome named ‘RAAF Station Amberley’ was constructed on the outskirts of Ipswich. It commenced operations as an RAAF base in June of 1940. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 15 December, 1941, United States Air Corp began to arrive and Australians and Americans began assembling Kittyhawk and Douglas Dauntless aircraft. Around 2290 personnel were at Amberley in early 1943. World War II also saw work on the Redbank Army camp in 1939. Huts were built and a road sealed from the railway station to the camp site. The number of personnel grew from 400 to 2500 quickly with recruits beginning training straight away. With the scare from Japan’s surprise attack on Pearly Harbour those still at home took measures to protect the community. First Aid Posts and volunteer fire-fighting teams were set up. Elevated positions around the city, such as the tower at Ipswich Grammar School and the rooftop skylight at Ipswich Girls Grammar were used as fire watch stations. Air raid shelters were built in the streets and slit trenches were dug at schools, businesses and at homes. With World War II also came rationing. Ration coupons were issued for items such as petrol, tobacco, tea and butter to name a few. The Ipswich community again rallied together and sent food parcels, to Britain and knitted woolen clothing to homeless school children in England.
To read more about Ipswich and its military past visit the Viva Cribb Local History Resource Room at the Ipswich Central Library. The Local History Room is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. You can also visit the Picture Ipswich website at http://www.library.ipswich.qld.gov.au/ .
Information taken from Ipswich Remembers: Military Heritage of Ipswich from the 1860s to the 1990s by Robyn Buchanan, Ipswich District Roll of Honour World War I by Edwin Habbin.