World War 2 brought a period of enormous change to South Australia. As Australia allied with the United Kingdom and the United States in a desperate fight for our lives, a great deal of money was spent around Australia to support the war effort. When war with Japan erupted in the Pacific the pace increased dramatically.
Defences around the country were substantially upgraded, while the industrial might of our factories swung into action and re-tooled for war production. Production lines at General Motors-Holdens, British Tube Mills, and the TJ Richards' factory later Le Cornu's Anzac Highway switched to producing guns, tanks, and military aircraft parts. Islington Railway Workshops churned out armoured cars, and enormous new munition factories were built. Many are now disused, long forgotten abandoned places.
World War 2 Armaments Factory Building in 1940 (State Library SA BRG-264-40-5)
You can still find war relics from World War 2 scattered about South Australia. From the Hummock Hill battery that protected Whyalla shipyards to an abandoned cell block used to house military prisoners in the ghost town of Terowie, these military installations were built to last.
Demolishing Fort Malta in 1958 - But Some Ruins Remain Still (Image: N Grist)
Abandoned Buildings and Ruins From World War 2 Many factories in Adelaide grew rapidly during World War 2 to accommodate increased wartime production, and women were finally allowed into the workforce while men were fighting overseas. Production of tubes for aircraft guns and warships' boilers began at British Tube Mills in Kilburn (later Tubemakers) within days of the outbreak of the war.
Entrance to Bomb Filling Section Salisbury Explosives Factory
A new fort in South Australia - Fort Malta, was built in 1942 as the location of Fort Largs was well known to the enemy. The Lefevre Peninsula was heavily fortified with anti aircraft guns, fixed gun emplacements and barbed wire along the beach to protect our coast and shipping. Fort Malta had 36 personnel and was protected by anti-aircraft and machine guns, and searchlight positions. Despite attempts to obliterate it, World War 2 relics of it continue to be found.
Abandoned Places: A World War 2 RAAF Radar Station in South Australia
Several top secret radar stations were built for the RAAF in South Australia to provide early warning of air attack, and their abandoned buildings and ruins can still be found in South Australia. In Mount Gambier the RAAF also built No. 2 Air Observers School which was home to over 1000 personnel during World War 2.
An Underground Bunker Used for World War 2 Communications, Now a House
Wartime Tunnels and Underground Bunkers London was severely bombed in World War 2, and it was quickly realised that underground bunkers and tunnels would be necessary in Adelaide. They were particularly necessary at military installations to protect emergency power supplies and store munitions. Other secret bunkers housed military wireless communications units at Gawler in air raid shelters - now disused World War 2 relics in South Australia.
Some World War 2 air raid shelters in South Australia have been creatively reused, and one is now a comfortable underground house that needs little temperature control. Another of the former air raid shelters has found a new use as a garden, with room for securely storing equipment and working underground.
Disused Underground Bunkers Used by RAAF for Munitions Storage
Other RAAF underground bunkers can be found north of Adelaide, war relics which once housed munitions and emergency power supplies for communications. People pass these disused military bunkers daily, completely oblivious to their dark past.
Disused Munitions Factories, One of Many Abandoned Places From World War 2
Explosives and Munitions Factories
Massive munitions factories were quickly built in the early days of the World War 2. The Finsbury munitions factory in the north west of Adelaide and Salisbury explosives factory now have abandoned buildings, but the Small Arms Ammunition Factory no 3 at Hendon later became the Philips Electrical factory. Parts of the Hendon factory are now used creatively for film production.
The Dry Creek explosives magazines were built long before World War 2, but found new uses in wartime. These state heritage listed buildings were abandoned after many years service, but are still an important reminder of times gone by.
Plans for Finsbury Ammunition Factory (National Archives
World War 2 Railway Stations and Infrastructure
South Australian railways were upgraded and extended to support the war effort. The Penfield 3 railway station and Hendon railway stations serviced the neighbouring munitions factories, while a spur line from Woodville brought workers to the Finsbury armaments factory.
A World War 2 Troop Train From Quorn Arrives in Alice Springs (SLV)
The Salisbury Explosives Factory was so large (3,672 acres) that it needed trams and a light railway system to maintain productivity. You can see the original battery powered electric vehicles at the Milang Railway Museum. Read more about the Salisbury munitions tramways here.
Thank you for this historical article. when i was a young nursing cadet in 1958 we had our training in an air raid shelter next to the Norwood Town Hall. Later a squash court was built there,( we moved into the Town Hall for our training) Now a group of shops stand there. Do you know if the shelter is still there? Pauline Hancock