Wartime Melbourne

| On Liberty in Melbourne

| George Washington’s Birthday Parade

| American Marines and Melbourne’s Chinese restaurants: New perspectives on the home front, 1939-1945


James Martin

Melbourne was the biggest city many Marines had ever seen. By 1943 it was a city in the midst of war. To protect its port facilities, factories and people from aerial attack, streetlights were dimmed under ‘brownout’ regulations and air-raid trenches were dug throughout parklands. Many staple items of food and clothing were rationed or simply unobtainable. Civilians queued for beer, chocolates and other luxuries. Strict federal controls were enforced over all aspects of civilian life, from employment to travel to leisure.

More women than ever before had entered the workforce, taking on non-traditional roles. Families were split apart, and all young adults were in the military services or in essential war work.  For Dawne Balester, in her late teens in 1943: ‘Melbourne was an empty city. The only men you saw were little boys or very old men…Women drove the trains, women delivered the mail, women did everything…. When [the Marines] came, the whole city came alive again’.

The Marines presence stimulated the city’s social and economic life and made a considerable impression upon local people. They provided Melbourne businesses with a much needed boost and their cigarettes, chocolates and nylons were sought after gifts. With preconceived ideas about the U.S. gleaned from Hollywood movies, Melburnians eagerly learned about ‘real’ American habits and customs.


Image 1 (right) U.S. Marine Private James Martin with “Peggy” the dog, Victoria Park, Ballarat, 1943.
~ Rachel Jenzen Private Collection ~

The DugoutEating Habits

Image 2: Operated by the Myer department store, The Dug-Out was one of many Melbourne clubs
which provided facilities for servicemen and women on leave.
Postcard, The Dug-Out, Allied Services Club, Capitol House, c. 1942. Published by
Rose Stereograph Co, Armadale, Victoria.
~ City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection ~

Image 3: “How USA and Australian eating habits differ” in Instructions for American Servicemen in Australia 1942, Special Services Division, Services of Supply, United States Army, Published by U.S. War and Navy Departments, Washington DC.
~ Reproduction. Rachel Jenzen Private Collection ~

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