Australia under attack

  • Exhibition time
  • Exhibition location
    Located on the Ground Level


Air Raid Precautions

Few Australian cities had the sort of anti-aircraft defences that protected London during the Blitz of 1940. However, Australians prepared for the attack with whatever resources they had to hand. Volunteer air observers were constantly vigilant and civilians of all ages practiced concealment.

Air Raid Precautions (ARP) is one of the most remembered aspects of home-front Australia. Wardens carried gas masks, helmets and rattles or whistles. Schoolchildren were issued identity tags, in case they had to be evacuated to somewhere safer, and told to carry something to bite on to limit the shock of bomb blast. People often found it difficult to take ARP drill seriously, but there was a serious purpose behind it.

In the rush to prepare for the looming threat many organisations were formed with overlapping tasks. Poor communication and coordination occasionally led to competition for resources and some waste of effort.

ARP exercises

Dr William Read, a First World War veteran and local air raid warden, made and used these 12 model buildings to plan ARP exercises. They represent buildings from a section of the northern Sydney suburb of Wahroonga. Dr Read’s daughter, Margaret, recalled: “He used these to play ‘war games’ with his fellow wardens and had them set up on the verandah of his home at Cleveland Street, Wahroonga.”

Model buildings for ARP exercises - REL/12577.010Model buildings for ARP exercises REL/12577.010

First World War veteran and ARP warden Dr William Read - P04324.001First World War veteran and ARP warden Dr William ReadP04324.001

ARP exercises Melbourne

On 1 November 1942, extensive ARP exercises were carried out under air raid conditions by 5,000 ARP workers in seven municipalities of the city of Melbourne under air raid conditions. In order to make the exercise as realistic as possible, mocked up Japanese bombs and scores of ‘casualties’ were employed.

ARP exercises Melbourne - 027457AARP exercises Melbourne027457A

ARP exercises Melbourne - 027451ARP exercises Melbourne027451

ARP exercises Melbourne - 027454ARP exercises Melbourne027454

Boy with mocked-up Japanese bombs - 138529Boy with mocked-up Japanese bombs138529

Enemy Raids Precautions Services badge, c. 1942 - REL29397Enemy Raids Precautions Services badge, c. 1942REL29397

Armbands worn by the State Emergency Services in Victoria - RELAWM31637.003, .008, .012, .014Armbands worn by the State Emergency Services in VictoriaRELAWM31637.003, .008, .012, .014

ARP lapel badges - REL/15711.001, .003, .004, .007, .012ARP lapel badgesREL/15711.001, .003, .004, .007, .012

Advice on the evacuation of Townsville - RC02459Advice on the evacuation of TownsvilleRC02459

Screen-A-Beam headlight masks - REL29409.001Screen-A-Beam headlight masksREL29409.001