On August 8, 1944, more than 10,000 servicemen of the Seventh Division of the Second Australian Imperial Force (2nd AIF), most of them veterans of the Middle East and New Guinea campaigns, marched through Brisbane city streets.
A crowd of approximately 250,000 gathered along the parade route to cheer the passing troops.
Tram and rail services were stretched with more than 400,000 fares travelling to and from the city especially to watch the parade, with extra trains added to relieve stress on the rail network.
The 5km-long parade began at 12.45pm, departing the assembly area at Victoria Park and progressing along Gilchrist Avenue.
The Courier-Mail reported the crowd’s reaction:
“Spontaneous cheering met them at all points along the route, and though the parade took an hour to pass, enthusiasm never flagged”.
Showers of confetti rained down from tall buildings as the troops marched in six columns carrying rifles with fixed bayonets, or Owen guns.
Over excitement got the better of the crowd near Petrie Bight, where they pushed past the police cordon. Mounted police and soldiers cleared a path so the march could continue and the troops were joined by 11 marching bands. The Courier-Mail reported what happened when one band began to play Waltzing Matilda: “A few voices took up the chorus; in a few seconds an entire city block was ringing with the refrain, as steel-studded boots beat out the time”.
When the procession finally reached City Hall, its leader Major-General Edward Milford joined Queensland governor Sir Leslie Wilson on the saluting dais.
Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland