Year Nine History Essay – Carly Littlewood

How did World War II affect South Australia?

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Most of Australia was affected by World War II especially the larger cities. During and after the war, which lasted from 1940 to 1945, many changes occurred in the common life and industry of South Australia. This essay will primarily look at the changes Whyalla faced.

South Australia helped the war effort with many volunteers joining the armed forces. But the majority of the population went on with their usual lives since there was no real threat. The people only noticed small changes such as petrol rationing and wartime censorship.

"There was…no immediate threat to Australia, and people in Australia criticized the beginnings of such things as war-time censorship and petrol rationing."

A History of South Australia – R.M. Gibbs

Southern Heritage 1969

As the war continued, Australia knew it had to protect itself from possible attacks so the government began to protect the country. There was a great fear that the Japanese would invade Australia. Each state organised the Volunteer Defence Corps and trenches were dug in parks and schools. There were also plans to destroy our harbours and airfields but fortunately this was not needed. In Whyalla, Hummock Hill was fortified with anti-aircraft and coastal defence guns. Bunkers were built in case of air raids in large cities and towns. One such bunker was built in Adelaide on South Road.


"…The bunker that is on South Road in the middle of Adelaide. The bunker is a classic wartime, solid concrete air raid shelter. It has recently been decided to ensure that this old WWII site survives in original condition."

Campbell, Lindsay

Squadron Leader, 92WG RAAF Edinburgh (amateur air force historian) 17 Sep 2000


Before the war, Whyalla was busy with the construction of their harbour and blast furnace in 1939. As world tensions increased and the outbreak of world war two the Royal Australian Navy asked BHP (Broken Hill Propriety) to build patrol ships. The BHP agreed and construction began on the shipyard. With the increase of labour in the town brought more workers were necessary. More workers made the population rise considerably and in turn made businesses and facilities for the residents increase. This is evident in the fact that in 1940 many buildings were built including Whyalla hospital, the RAOB Hall, the Ozone Cinema, St Theresa’s School, the Bay View and Spence Hotels. Also the Whyalla News was established.

Source: Photo ‘The No. 1 blast furnace and shipyards’

(1940? no photographer)

Nearing the end of the war brought even more adjustments with a change of views from the whole townships. They all agreed that the town should be governed in a new way with its citizens having more part. Until then Whyalla had always been a company town with all the services provided by BHP. But with the increase of population and a new range of ideas, the citizens wanted to run their town by local government. On 31st March 1994 the Morgan to Whyalla pipeline opened and this was very important because the availability of water allowed industry and population to grow further. In 1944 a new town Commission started the first local government for Whyalla.

"By 1943, Whyalla's population had soared to more than 5,000. The same year, a new Police Station, Court House and Whyalla Technical School were built and opened. Until now, Whyalla was a company town and all services had been provided by BHP but the residents of Whyalla were starting to give serious thought to how the town was being run."

Whyalla City Council 1996-2000

South Australia experienced further affects after the war with immigrants coming from many countries, mainly Europe, to find a home. These immigrants gave Australia a multicultural and increased population. Whyalla no longer needed to keep building war ships and kept the shipyard open building commercial vessels.

"The end of the war in 1945 was to bring yet more change to the fledgling town. BHP no longer needed to build naval ships and started building commercial vessels. The war had left large numbers of refugees in Europe and the Australian Government had adopted a policy of increasing skilled migration to Australia."

Whyalla City Council 1996-2000

The end of the war brought great change to South Australia. The state had given a considerable amount of work in to the war effort throughout many areas. Over 10 000 citizens had volunteers in a war that had come so close to home. Whyalla had gone through lots of change with a large increase of population and had a new industry.



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This page first produced 21 November 2000

This page last updated 15 December 2017