ESCAPE FROM WOLLONGONG!"Scorched Earth" Military Map showing preparedness for attack and escape south of Sydney!
Download full map (103Mb zip archive) - click here
Sue Rosen is an historian and a heritage consultant. She is the author of several books
including Australia's Oldest House - Surgeon John Harris and Experiment Farm Cottage, We Never Had a Hotbed of Crime! Life in twentieth century South Sydney, Bankstown: A sense of identity, Government House Parramatta - 1788-2000: A History of the Governors, Their Home and its Domain Parramatta Park, and Men at Work - Penal Ideology and Nation Building on the Great Western Road - view these titles and more in our Publications section.
Allen & Unwin, June 2017
304pp + 8pp colour
We'd love to hear your own stories from your parents or other sources who may have been involved in the "Scorched Earth" preparations, or have heard of related activities.
Send Sue your stories, plus any photos or relevant documents - she'd love to hear from you. Use our contact form which allows you to upload files as well as enter text, or just send Sue a message...
All contact remains 100% confidential!
In 1942 the threat of Japanese invasion hung over Australia. The men were away overseas, fighting on other fronts, and civilians were left unprotected at home.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Japanese advance south, Prime Minister Curtin ordered state governments to prepare. From January 1942, a team frantically pulled together secret plans for a 'scorched earth' strategy. The goal was to prevent the Japanese from seizing resources for their war machine as they landed, and capturing Australians as slaves as they had done in Malaya and elsewhere in Asia.
From draining domestic water tanks to sinking dinghies and burning crops, from training special citizen squads to evacuating coastal towns, 'Total war, total citizen collaboration' was the motto. Today these plans vividly evoke the fraught atmosphere of the year Australia was threatened with invasion.
After the war these top secret plans were forgotten. This is the first time they have ever been made public.
“This is a treasure trove, a gold mine, a Christmas-every-day cornucopia of rich Australian history, particularly Second World War history. Arguments over the "Brisbane Line" are settled here. Now we have the detailed plans for the "scorched earth"tactic that might follow a Japanese invasion of Australia. We know that Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra were to be defended at all costs: too bad if you lived in Darwin, Perth, Adelaide or Hobart, still worse if you lived in Alice Springs or Townsville. Outside the big four cities, Australians could expect evacuation if all else looked like failing. The detail is mind-boggling: how to sabotage water supplies; how to wreck a car; a safe walking route from Grafton to Glen Innes; how to "trip: a tank with a crowbar. Read and wonder!”
— Peter Grose, author of An Awkward Truth and A Very Rude Awakening
These once classified "Scorched Earth" documents are not included in the published book! See first hand correspondence between the NSW Premier's Department and stakeholders initiating the "Scorched Earth" project, as well as other associated plans and reports discovered by Sue Rosen.
"My Mother was 10 years old in 1942, living in Harris Street Mascot. She remembers her father building an underground bunker in the backyard, paper covering the windows to keep light in at night, and street signs taken down to hinder spies. She was also sent to live with an aunt in Dubbo for a couple of months, but returned after feeling homesick."
—Linda Slinger. 3 August 2017
Dr Andrew Richardson's review of Scorched Earth was published in the May 2018 issue of the Australian Historical Studies journal.
Dr. Richardson is Historian at the Australian Army History Unit, Department of Defence, Canberra. While the views expressed are his own, it is a robust and even-handed...
Sue will be talking on the Scorched Earth policy of WWII at the rooms of the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society on 17 March at 2:00 pm.
Address: Old Gordon Public School, 799 Pacific Highway Gordon.
To make a booking contact the Society: (02) 9499...