War Precautions Act 1914

The War Precautions Act 1914 increased the regulatory scope of the Government of Australia for the duration of the First World War. This act allowed the Governor-General to make regulations to secure public safety and defend the Commonwealth. And while it’s certainly worded like typical legislation, the regulations refer to local place names and even permits for homing pigeons.

A copy of this act, regulations and orders – to continue for the duration of the “present state of war and no longer” – was printed as a poster and then sent to principal police stations with instructions from the Queensland Commissioner of Police to display them.

Poster displaying the "War Precautions Act 1914" and "War Precautions Regulations 1914", 27 November 1914
Poster displaying the “War Precautions Act 1914” and “War Precautions Regulations 1914”, 27 November 1914

Some of the regulations included that no-one should:

  • trespass on any railway, or loiter under or near any bridge, viaduct, or culvert, over which a railway passes. (Part II – No 5)
  • keep or have in his possession any carrier or homing pigeons unless he has obtained … a permit for the purpose. (Part III – No 12 (2))
  • spread reports likely to cause disaffection or alarm among any of His Majesty’s Forces or the Commonwealth Forces or among the civilian population. (Part III – No 17)

Just as restrictive was an order issued under Regulation (6) about fires and lights, referring to specific railway stations and Brisbane suburbs:

  • No person shall light any fire or show any light on any hill within the area enclosed by the following boundaries, viz.:- A line commencing at a point on the Sandgate Beach directly north of Sandgate Railway Station to Sandgate Railway Station, thence along the Sandgate-Brisbane Railway Line to Northgate Junction, thence in a south-easterly direction through the Pinkenba Railway Wharf to Tingalpa, thence along the Old Cleveland Road to Cleveland Point.

The light restrictions also extended to cinemas and homes:

  • All searchlights, including those operated by Picture Shows, are forbidden within a radius of fifteen miles from the General Post Office, Brisbane.
  • All lights, other than lights not visible from the outside of any house, shall be kept extinguished between the hours of sunset and sunrise, and within and area of two and a quarter miles of Fort Lytton.

This and other interesting flyers, letters and reports have been found in the general correspondence (Series ID 16865) of the Police Department and many items have been digitised. Two examples follow:

 

Flyer outlining the objectives of the Citizens' Volunteer force for Home Defence, 15 February 1915
Flyer outlining the objectives of the Citizens’ Volunteer force for Home Defence, 15 February 1915
Flyer advertising the programme of the Patriotic Motor Gymkhana organised by The Automobile Club of Queensland, 10 October 1914
Flyer advertising the programme of the Patriotic Motor Gymkhana organised by The Automobile Club of Queensland, 10 October 1914

(See blog post: Patriotic Gymkhana – but not a horse in sight)

About Queensland State Archives

For more information about Queensland State Archives visit www.archives.qld.gov.au

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