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Town Hall, 333 Bay Street, Port Melbourne
Town Hall, 333 Bay Street, Port Melbourne

1940 – 1950

Wackett Trainer flying over Fisherman’s Bend, 1942, AC0154, Australian War Museum

The first half of this decade was dominated by World War II and the second by the transformation of Fisherman’s Bend that had a key role in post-war reconstruction.

Once again troop trains rattled from Flinders Street Station to Station Pier carrying soldiers leaving for overseas service. Factories recently built for aircraft manufacture were rapidly converted to the assembly of military aircraft and car manufacturing was converted to the assembly of ambulances.

Aircraft Assembly (left) and Ambulances built by GMH, c. 1939 (right), State Library of Victoria

In 1941 there was fear of imminent Japanese invasion, although it was never publicly admitted that a Japanese submarine had sailed close to Port Philip heads or that a Japanese aircraft flew over Port Melbourne.

Air-raid shelters were dug in many back gardens and an air-raid siren was installed on the roof of the Police Station.

The Air Raid Siren once mounted on the roof of the Police Station. PMH&PS Collection

HMAS Lonsdale naval base on Beach Street was an important training centre for recruits. Most navy recruits from Victoria spent at least some time there. The Answering the Call memorial on the seafront commemorates this. In 2021 the site is occupied by the apartment block “HMAS”.

Naval National Service men, HMAS Lonsdale, J Bagnall,State Library of Victoria

Daily life in Port Melbourne resumed its regular pattern at the end of the war in the Pacific in August 1945, although food rationing of some essential items remained in place for several years.

Interior, Benjamin Bolton’s Grocers Shop, PMH&PS Collection

The interior of this grocers shop at that time was a very familiar site. Many goods such as flour, sugar and biscuits were not packaged but sold from hessian bags like the one that can be seen to the left in this photograph of Benjamin Bolton’s shop.

General Motors-Holden Factory, Fisherman’s Bend, Charles Daniel Pratt,State Library of Victoria

The factories on Fisherman’s Bend were rapidly converted from their wartime role producing ambulances and other military vehicles to peacetime production. The industries of Port Melbourne were a vital part of the post-war reconstruction.

1930 – 1940 | Decade x Decade | 1950 – 1960

PMHPS acknowledges the generous support of the City of Port Phillip.


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Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians

We respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet and work, the Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation and pay respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.