Devonport Post Office

The Tale of Devonport Post Office’s Air Raid Shelters

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In the turbulent year of 1942, as World War II escalated, the far-flung shores of Devonport, Tasmania weren’t isolated from the echoes of war. The threat, although distant, was real and brought to the forefront when a Japanese submarine-launched seaplane flew a reconnaissance mission over the Hobart area in March 1942​1​. Tasmania, albeit shielded by its geographical isolation, was made keenly aware of its vulnerability. This led to the inception of air raid precautions throughout the state, including the construction of shelters and trenches to protect civilians from potential aerial attacks.

In the heart of Devonport, a significant initiative emerged from the employees of the Post Office. They undertook the construction of two air raid shelters capable of holding nearly 40 individuals. These shelters were meticulously engineered with reinforced roofs to withstand bombardments, barring a direct hit. The zigzag design of the shelters was a strategic choice aimed at deflecting the shockwaves of aerial explosives.

The inclusion of ventilators in the ceilings of these shelters was a thoughtful design element ensuring a steady supply of fresh air, a crucial feature for the occupants’ safety and comfort during a potential air raid.

The construction of these shelters was a testament to the community’s foresight and collective effort in securing a safe haven for its citizens. It reflected a broader scheme of air raid precautions across Tasmania, which included building other shelters, slit trenches, and casualty stations, conducting regular drills, and even a trial blackout of the whole state in 1942​1​.

The year 1942 saw the Japanese making significant advances in southeast Asia and bombing northern Australia, intensifying the war’s reality for Tasmanians​1​. Although Tasmania might have seemed a long way from the central theatres of war, the events of 1942, including the reconnaissance mission over Hobart, shattered any semblance of isolation and prompted a statewide effort to bolster defensive measures​2​.

The Devonport Post Office air raid shelters stand as a historical emblem of a community’s resolve to ensure the safety of its citizens during a global conflict. The tale of these shelters intertwines with the broader narrative of Tasmania’s wartime vigilance, shedding light on a chapter of resilience and preparedness amidst the uncertainties of World War II.

It is currently unknown if the shelters constructed at the Devonport Post Office still exist today. Their physical presence may have faded with time, yet their legacy continues to echo through the annals of Devonport’s history, serving as a profound reminder of a community united in the face of adversity.

References:

Devonport – Advocate (burnie, tas. : 1890 – 1954) – 7 mar 1942. Trove. (1942, March 7). https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/68757134?searchTerm=Devonport+Bomb+shelters

Henning, P. (n.d.). SECOND WORLD WAR. Second World War. https://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/S/Second%20world%20war.htm

Lehman, R. (2023, April 24). WWII didn’t seem real for southern capital Hobart – until a Japanese submarine launched a Plane. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-04-25/hobart-streets-dug-up-air-raid-shelters-ww2-bombing-threat/102214542


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