Perth City Council 1939 to 1945
Exhibited in the Perth Town Hall Foyer
16 April - Sunday 4 May 2008
An exhibition of memorabilia items, photographs and information about the role of the City of Perth during World Warll. Under Lord Mayor Thomas Meagher Perth City Council built air-raid shelters for 25,000 people in the CBD and organised evacuation plans for the city. The Council also gave the Perth Town Hall over for use as a recreation centre for the fighting forces allowing the Citizens Reception Council, a group of 28 women’s organisations, to provide daily refreshment and entertainment for the forces.
While much remains to remind us of the valiant efforts of our fighting forces and the hardships they underwent overseas- it is hard to imagine today what life was like for those left behind. Two men from the Perth City Council (PCC) provided strong, dedicated leadership during the war years; the charismatic young Lord Mayor, Dr Thomas Meagher and the highly experienced Town Clerk, Mr WE Bold. As men were called up for military service in 1940, the Perth City Council accepted the emergency authority of the Civil Defence Council (CDC) and took on massive responsibilities with a greatly diminished staff. The Council at this time was responsible for the needs of ratepayers of five wards – an area spanning from the coast to Carlisle. During the war the Council reduced general rates and fire levies, pegged rentals and raised health levies. Most of the Council’s energy however was focused on central Perth. It initiated war fund campaigns, built air raid shelters and quickly made the Perth Town Hall available as a recreation facility for thousands of visiting servicemen and women from Australia and abroad.
The Council constructed air raid shelters on public streets and reserves. By April 1942 the Council had built 532 trenches that could accommodate 10,640 people; 47 Pyramid shelters to accommodate 1,410; 30 Breastwork V’s to accommodate 600 and eight shop front shelters for 550 people. Accommodation for another 500 people in two basements was also completed and three more planned. From December 1941 until October 1943 ‘Blackout’ restrictions massively affected life in Perth. Lights in shop windows at night were disallowed and all but the base of street light globes were painted out. The light emission of the clock face at the Perth Town Hall was reduced by 90%. Driving in Perth at night was nearly impossible. To assist visibility the Council painted 58 miles of white traffic lines at intersections and corner junctions. Sanitary workers found it was impossible for them to carry out their nightly duties without lights and so had to work in daylight.
From March 1942 until July 1944 Perth Town Hall was handed over to the Citizen’s Reception Council (CRC), a combined group of 28 women’s volunteer organizations, to use as a recreation centre for members of the Fighting Forces. The CRC opened every day from 10.30 am until 10.30 pm serving light refreshments. They created writing facilities on the stage of the Town Hall and at night provided music and dancing. Perth citizens took to the streets to celebrate the end of the war on Wednesday 15 August 1945. A huge V for victory was hung from the Town Hall Tower. This victory also marked change at the Perth City Council. The Lord Mayor retired in November 1945 and after 44 years in office Mr Bold relinquished the position of Town Clerk. The Council had instigated a Reserve Fund in 1942 for the purpose of carrying out works after the end of the war. By 1945 they had £86,000 in this fund. Accommodating the returning troops was only one of the many challenges faced by the Perth City Council in the post war period.
The Perth City Council 1939 - 45 History Exhibition exhibition was presented by the City of Perth to fulfil its aims to make the history of the city of Perth a living history and show the role of Council in contributing to the cultural life of the city.
The 4 page exhibition catalogue (see link on right) produced for the exhibition contains a precis of the information in the exhibition.
For further information contact the City of Perth Memorabilia Curator, Jo Darbyshire on 9461 3116 or email Jo.Darbyshire@cityofperth.wa.gov.au