WW1 and WW2


World War I

The effect of the outbreak of the first World War on citizens of the Lismore region was to be divisive. Those in favour of conscription and those against argued strongly their point of view, often leading to permanent severing of friendships. 1914 saw a patriotic fever for Empire and Country surpassing that of the Boer War. On Empire Day, 24 May 1915, one of the most enthusiastic Patriotic Carnivals took place in Lismore with a large number of horse-drawn floats and even some of the new motorised vehicles.

One notable ugliness occurred in Lismore on Christmas 1915. Under the heavy influence of a certain amber fluid, Christmas revellers in Molesworth and Woodlark Streets undertook a disgraceful display of vandalism, smashing and looting businesses which bore German names. These events were thoroughly condemned by the vast majority; the same majority that were nevertheless strong supporters of the war effort.

By the conclusion of the Great War in 1918, Lismore had suffered its share of losses in life, in a war which was said to end all wars.

Between the wars

Suddenly in 1929 the economic future took a decided turn for the worse. The Wall Street stock market crashed and the shock waves engulfed Lismore, bringing an alarming rise in unemployment and a drastic downturn in the rural economy. The 1930s were to herald the Great Depression.

However the effects of the depression did not cause as much difficulty for the man on the land. No-one in Lismore starved and most people were able to be fed and clothed. Norco continued to expand, opening its new Lismore factory in 1931, and the dairy industry remained viable though farm incomes declined as prices fell. In the same year Lismore's population had grown to 10,000. The situation darkened in February – 260mm of rain fell in under 12 hours causing a major flood and raising the Wilsons River some 12 metres. In April the flood was followed by the collapse of the Government Savings Bank in Lismore and the freezing of depositors’ funds.

Despite the economic gloom, 1931 saw the construction of St Vincent's Hospital and St John’s College Woodlawn by the Catholic Church and the building of the Salvation Army's new citadel in Molesworth Street. George A. Robinson established his New England Airways at Gundurimba, providing both mail and passenger services to Brisbane and Sydney. At the height of the Depression, 1932, local leading business men gathered to form the first Rotary Club. This was to be Lismore’s first service club.

By 1935 Lismore homes were receiving their first broadcasts from the Australian Broadcasting Commission (the ABC) and the following year Lismore’s own radio station 2LM was established. It was via this medium that the citizens of Lismore were first to learn the news that Hitler and Nazism were in control in Germany.

World War II

On 3 December, 1939, radio listeners in Lismore were to hear the following broadcast from Robert Menzies, the Prime Minister of Australia:

Fellow Australians! It is my melancholy duty to inform you that, in consequence of the persistence of Germany in the invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war on her, and that, as a result, Australia is also at war.”

The citizens of Lismore went about their normal day to day activities, but perhaps with a little more determination than usual. The older folk and parents carried on working their farms and businesses, while the younger men went to support the war effort. Guards were placed on all the major bridges in and around Lismore to presumably protect the area from enemy invasion and movement. All small rowing boats used by the local folk were confiscated as a precaution against possible use by the Japanese to penetrate inland. The boats were allowed to rot upside down on the riverbank opposite the Lismore Police Station with their disgruntled owners having to accept this situation as part of the price of war.

Lismore also contributed directly to the war effort by constructing larger boats (up to 45 feet) for the Australian and US armies. Some 14 vessels were built by local firms and launched at the government wharf located where the Northern Rivers Rowing Club building in Lismore stands today. Lismore was honoured by having a Bathurst Class Corvette named after the town. The Sydney-built HMAS Lismore was commissioned on 24 January 1941.

In 1942 plans were drawn up for the evacuation of Lismore in the event of enemy landing. People and livestock were to be moved westward and all crops were to be destroyed to prevent their use by the invasion forces. Fortunately these plans never needed execution.

All householders in Lismore were asked to implement blackout arrangements with all windows covered by dark curtains. Doors were to be kept closed after dark to prevent light escaping into the streets; light which could be seen by enemy aircraft. Motor car drivers required to travel at night were requested to affix slotted hoods over their headlights to minimise the length of the light beam. In any case, in Lismore there were few cars on the roads because of severe petrol rationing.

On 6 August 1945, the Americans dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima; bringing an end to World War II.