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When war broke out in 1939, the Menzies government immediately put Australia on a war footing. A National Security Act was passed and the recruitment of a volunteer military force for service in Australia and abroad began. The citizen militia was called up for local defence.

The outbreak of war had little initial impact on Cottesloe. The war seemed a long way from Australia. Indeed, to avoid panic at the beginning of hostilities, Prime Minister Menzies had encouraged a 'business as usual' approach. However, as German troops conquered more and more countries in Europe in 1940, Menzies called for an 'all in' war effort. With Opposition support, the National Security Act was amended to give the government additional powers including unlimited power to tax, to procure property, to regulate business and the labour force, and to conscript manpower for the defence of Australia.

1941 saw the Prime Ministership of Australia pass from Menzies to Fadden and then to Curtin.


Advisory War Council, 1940

Prime Minister Menzies chairs the Advisory War Council, which met for the first time in October 1940.



As the military situation in the Pacific began to deteriorate and the war moved closer to Australian shores, municipal authorities like the Cottesloe Council began to develop local defence measures.

When Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, without warning, on December 7th 1941, John Curtin had only been Prime Minister for 2 months. He immediately turned his attention to engaging the Americans in our defence and began negotiating with British Prime Minister Churchill for our troops to be sent home from the Middle East. An atmosphere of crisis was created in Western Australia with the fall of Singapore and the bombing of Darwin in February 1942. It was with a great sense of relief that the West welcomed the first contingent of American servicemen to Fremantle on 22nd February 1942.


John St, Cottesloe, January 1937

John Street, Cottesloe, January 1937

Courtesy Town of Cottesloe


Cottesloe's position on the main road and rail links between the capital Perth and the port of Fremantle ensured that it would play a significant role in the West Australian war effort. Search lights were set up facing out to sea and barbed wire stretched along the length of nearby beaches but not at Cottesloe proper. An anti-aircraft gun was installed on the corner of Jarrad and Broome Streets just above the Seaview Golf Course.

The golf course itself was requisitioned for use by the American Army and soon became a sea of tents. The Ocean Beach Hotel on Marine Terrace, became a recreational leave base for the American navy.

The Australian Army also requisitioned property. They occupied both the Ministering Children's League Convalescent Home on Marine Terrace and the Salvation Army Girl's Home for war-time purposes.

From late 1941, Cottesloe, like places all over Australia, feverishly built air raid shelters. Fourteen separate air raid districts were established and various institutions in the district set up air raid trenches with sand bags, fire buckets and first-aid boxes.

Map of Cottesloe, 1940s

Map of Cottesloe, c 1924
Perth Metropolitan Streets and Roads with Index, The Imperial Map Directory


Air raid drills were practised regularly on local ovals. Consideration was given to the dangers associated with shattering glass caused by bomb blasts with some local churches choosing to remove their leadlight windows both for safety and in order to preserve them for the future. Windows were boarded up where it was thought necessary.

The fear of invasion was so great that many children were evacuated to the country for the duration of the war. Some families even closed their homes and moved away from the coast. In preparation for the return of injured servicemen and POW's, the Department of Defence acquired the IOOF (Independent Order of Oddfellows) Orphanage on Railway Street and converted it to the Lady Mitchell Convalescent Home. The Lady Lawley Cottage in Gibney Street was also acquired after 1942, for the treatment of women members of the armed services. In the event of an air raid or an invasion, Cottesloe was as well prepared as anywhere else in southern Australia.

War Games, Cottesloe 1941

War Games - Cottesloe 1941. Ground Defence - 2 Volunteer Defence Corps members with anti aircraft gun.

Courtesy Town of Cottesloe

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