Walcha history: Community ready to run for cover

War-time precaution: Identity cards were compulsory during the World War II years from 1942-1945.
War-time precaution: Identity cards were compulsory during the World War II years from 1942-1945.

The Armidale Express of March 3, 1942, in reporting on the introduction of the identity card wrote: “All British subjects, except those on the paid strength of the army, navy and air force, who are aged 16 or over as at March 15, 1942, must complete the necessary form. Women whose name changes after marriage must re-apply.”

The age at which children were obliged to have an identity card was later lowered to 14. The need to have the card, and carry it at all times, ceased in November 1945.

Enemy attacks on coastal shipping led to the government requiring all communities to take precautions against air raids, in particular those places within a direct line of 100 miles from the coast.

Walcha’s municipal and shire councils produced a list of all residents and kept it updated. This enabled the councils to accurately account for casualties in the event of an attack.

Blackout trials were conducted in the district on several occasions, but were not as numerous as those in coastal communities. I can remember my parents putting up blackout curtains and removing globes. Richardson’s in Armidale advertised “long lasting ormanoid blackout paper for windows at ninepence per square yard”.

The lamps in Walcha’s streetlights were reduced to 60 watts and disconnected if unable to be turned off at a central location. Illuminated signs and exposed lights were made inoperative.

The late Noel Cross said trenches, for the protection of pupils and staff, were excavated along the Public School’s Fitzroy Street frontage; glass was treated to make it shatterproof.

It was not reasonable to put Walcha’s hospital patients in trenches so an above-ground shelter was constructed. Its sturdy timber frame was clad with corrugated iron before being heavily sandbagged. In the immediate post-war years, and in the absence of a dedicated x-ray room at the hospital, the shelter was used as a darkroom.

The town’s manually operated air raid siren was installed in Derby Street and, years later, was put back into service to warn of approaching floodwaters.