10 August 2005

Images from the Allied “occupation” of The University of Queensland`s St Lucia campus will be part of a major exhibition commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of the Pacific war on August 15, 1945.

Defending the north: Queensland in the Pacific War will be on display at the University Art Museum within the James and Mary Emelia Mayne Centre, St Lucia campus from August 13 to November 13, 2005 before touring to regional Queensland and New South Wales venues.

The exhibition is presented by The University of Queensland and The Brisbane Institute, in partnership with the State Library of Queensland, with the assistance of Visions of Australia.

UQ became a wartime hub in 1942, when Queensland Premier William Forgan Smith allowed military authorities to take over the new University buildings at St Lucia to accommodate the Advanced Land Headquarters.

In late July 1942, the University was given less than a week to vacate and told by Army sources that “a personnel of approximately 600” would occupy St Lucia, including “highly placed officers”, and “camping facilities within the grounds for considerable numbers of soldiers”.

What is now known as the Forgan Smith Building became, from August 1, General Sir Thomas Blamey`s Advanced Land Headquarters.

General Blamey`s dual commitments meant he had to be in both Brisbane and Melbourne: Brisbane for his role as Commander Allied Land Forces South West Pacific Area, to be near MacArthur`s GHQ, and Melbourne for his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces (AMF), to be near senior figures in Australian government and the Department of Defence.

When in Brisbane, General Blamey firstly lived at a house in Macquarie Street, St Lucia, and then at Moorlands, originally the home of the Mayne family, who donated the land on which the St Lucia campus is built.

General Blamey`s office at St Lucia was on the second floor of the Forgan Smith Tower opposite the drafting room, but photographs of him at UQ are rare.

Activities involving military intelligence were recorded in Ronald Keam`s Australian War Memorial photographs of 1943.

Staff members examine captured Japanese equipment, prepare topographical models of New Guinea, work in photography labs, and present the Mobile Cinema Unit vehicles.

An earlier photograph taken in 1942 shows a Japanese weapon being tested on the `range` at St Lucia.

Photographs also show Australian Women Army Service (AWAS) members working in signals and communications, operating teleprinters, wireless sets and telephone switchboards, and performing drills.

AWAS sergeants worked with staff officers in directorates such as Intelligence, Operations and Military Training and with the Military Secretary.

General Blamey vacated St Lucia at the end of 1944 and asked that a plaque be made to commemorate the Army`s occupation of the University. This plaque is still in the main foyer of the Forgan Smith Building.

Defending the North will feature paintings, watercolours, drawings, photographs and diaries by official war artists, artists serving in the forces and in camouflage units who visited different parts of wartime Queensland, and other local Queensland artists.

In addition to works from The University of Queensland Collection, the State Library of Queensland and the Australian War Memorial also kindly contributed a significant number of works.

Other contributors include the National Library of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Queensland Art Gallery, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Queensland Museum and Museum of Brisbane and private donors.

Following its exhibition in Brisbane, Defending the north: Queensland in the Pacific war will tour to Artspace Mackay, Perc Tucker Regional Gallery in Townsville, Tweed River Art Gallery in Murwillumbah, Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery, Rockhampton Art Gallery and Maitland Regional Art Gallery.

Media inquiries: Peter Liddy (07 3365 9782) or Celestine Doyle (07 3892 5436 or 0409 641 806).