Barry has noted down some of his memories of growing up in Palmyra…
1 Air Raid Drills 1942-1944
The war years altered our way of life considerably, especially as Fremantle was such a strategic submarine port with fleets of up to 140 submarines berthed in the harbour. Fremantle based submarines accounted for the second highest tonnage of ships sunk by southern hemisphere fleets in World War II. As a result, Fremantle was always under imminent threat of enemy attack.
At school we had trenches that were dug in a zigzag way in the playground adjacent to McKimmie Road where the wing of the buildings that include the Staff Room now exists and we had regular air raid drills. Hanging on our desk was a cloth bag, like a cycle bag and in which was a bandage, a cork for our mouth to protect our ears in an explosion, a bottle of water and a paper bag of biscuits. When the practice siren would sound, we would file out to the trenches with our bag. The biscuits were intended as food should we be in the trenches for a lengthy period of time, but most of us would have starved as we had already eaten our biscuits surreptitiously in the classroom. We also wore an identification disc around our neck all the time. On the disc were our name, next of kin and our blood group.
2 A “Real” Raid 1943
On the one time when we had what we thought to be a real air raid on 10 March 1944, allegedly caused by an unidentified aircraft near the metropolitan coast, we were sent home from school. As a horse had walked on top of our air raid shelter in the backyard and the protective structure had collapsed, Mum, who had come home from work used the recommended alternative and put us under the kitchen table with mattresses on top. She then went to the tram terminus at the corner of Marmion and McKimmie Streets to collect the children who were in the council provided air raid shelter waiting to catch the now non-running tram. There was little spare room under the table. Years later it was revealed that there was not an unidentified enemy aircraft, as was announced. A Japanese fleet could not be accounted for near Indonesia and the defence force heads decided to take the opportunity to have a practice warning to evaluate Perth and Fremantle’s preparation for an attack.
3 Ration Coupons 1942-1946
Ration coupons were introduced to equitably share the scarce foods, clothing and fuel (if appropriate.) Each person had a ration book and food coupons had to be exchanged for staples such as sugar and butter. Similarly, clothing coupons would need to be handed over for items of clothing. Thus a coat may be advertised as costing £2 ($4) and requiring six coupons. Mum made most of our clothing, saving the coupons. She then would exchange the clothing coupons with friends for food coupons to buy more sugar. I was a prolific sugar eater and had four teaspoons of sugar in my tea until my early twenties.
4 The End of the War 1945
The memories of 15 August 1945, when Japan surrendered and World War II ended still are vivid in my mind. I wanted Mum to send a telegram to Dad who was on landing barges in Bougainville telling him of the peace, but she assured me that Dad would know. The next day, Mum took Maureen and me to Perth for the planned street parades and we saw many spontaneous activities as well. All adults were looking forward to returning to their normal world. As a child who had spent four of his last nine years in a wartime period, I did not know what was normal as referred to by adults. Wartime conditions and restrictions were normal to me. However, the major thought that occupied our minds from 15 August was that Dad would be coming home at last. I then even started to tolerate the crabby teachers.
5 My Dad Came home at Last 1946
Dad finally came home on 10 January 1946. My world improved greatly from that day as my Dad was home. There was a family custom that we would have a new bike before we were ten years of age. One of Dad’s first tasks was to take me to Swansea Cycles in Fremantle and buy me a new, red bicycle. He reiterated to me our family custom and that there were still some days before I was ten. A week later, Dad went to Karrakatta Army Barracks accompanied by me, to get his discharge from the army, effective from 16 January. Not only did many of the soldiers give me chocolate, an unobtainable luxury during the war, but I also received “discharge papers” from a friendly official.