Ducks on the Noosa River, 1940s style

LOCAL historian George Pearce of Tewantin remembers when the Second World War came to Noosa.

The hostilities did not have a great impact here but George's memories are of a time when patrol was rationed, the army trained in "ducks" on the Noosa River, and Kenilworth was the site of a POW camp.

George Pearcee at 21-years-old.
George Pearcee at 21-years-old.

No one could buy petrol without a ration ticket and George's dad Frank devised a plan to get an extra ration.

So father Frank, an expert woodworker who made everything from canoes to clothes pegs, built two boats - one for the family's everyday use and one for George, thinking to qualify for the petrol allowance for two boats.

He applied to the police station for registration but found this second boat had to be registered separately under the owner's name and had to be licenced, and because George was about 12 at the time the plan didn't work.

A short time later George was driving the boat past Parkyn's when there was the cop on the jetty waving him in.

Wondering what he had done, George manoeuvered the boat in through the craft crowded on the mooring.

The cop was impressed.

"He said 'I've seen you handle that boat so I don't have to test you, come up to the office Monday and I'll fix up the paper work'," George recalled.

George's first boat had bolleygum sides and a beech bottom with a 4hp in-board motor and was christened Pixie.

It was to be put to good use over the coming months as the result of the army's presence on the Sunshine Coast.

In those days (early 1940s) most of the army's amphibious vehicles were kept where the Munna Point camping grounds are now.

Officers and their families were billeted in accommodation in nearby Russell St;

other ranks were encamped in Noosa Junction not far from the present-day servo at the roundabout.

The army "ducks" trained in the river and the sea, going over the bar to Sunshine Beach and back into the river, following a series of buoys to train the drivers on how to handle them, which George says was a lot harder than now with today's automatic gears.

They had to stop to engage neutral, then engage the prop or the wheels whichever was required.

However the ducks had long shaft props that churned up the river and loud were the complaints about them disturbing the fish.

The trainees would pull the vehicles up and take out the bungs on the bank near the Pearce home in Hilton Tce at 3pm, just about the time young George was coming home from Tewantin school, stopping at Parkyn's to buy six penn'orth of prawns.

After a cup of tea and a biscuit father and son would set off in the boat for "the best fishing you could ever hope for."

After lying low all day the fish were ravenous and the catch often supplied the Pearces, and their neighbours as well, with whiting, bream in the winter, flathead and sometimes tailor caught with a bit of white rag on the line.

George remembers a camp for Italian prisoners-of-war on the hill at Kenilworth.

The POWs worked on local farms and George's brother Don had some on the farm at Oakey Creek.

They lived as part of the family.

The men slept on the verandah where the weatherboards had occasional gaps. One night the men saw three geckos on the ceiling, whereupon they fled out to the paddock screaming "serpents!".

Of the first two one took off back to camp and the other reluctant farmer was a professional boxer who was the lightweight champion of Italy.

"Leo" the third, stayed until the end of the war.

He was an excellent farmer and a wonderful cook who got on with everybody.

He vowed to come back after the war, as the Fascist government had confiscated all his property but George never heard from him again.

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