Lou and Zillah at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens on January 1, 1944.
Lou and Zillah at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens on January 1, 1944. Rob Williams

Ipswich woman's war letter discovered

ZILLAH Norrak barely reacted when she overheard peace had been announced in 1945.

The Ipswich woman had heard the rumours before.

But this time was different.

World War II was finally over.

Letters written in August 1945, describing Zillah's experience that day as she journeyed home from her workplace in the Brisbane CBD, were recently discovered by her daughter Llewella and shared with The Queensland Times.

Zillah wrote to her future husband Lou, telling him about the overcrowded vehicles carrying the celebrating crowds, the music and impromptu embraces between young men and women.

You can read about Zillah in the QT's 2009 tribute here


Zillah Norrak on her 92nd birthday in 2008.
Zillah Norrak on her 92nd birthday in 2008. Rob Williams


22nd August, 1945



Well, I guess it is time I told you just how Peace came to Brisbane.

About 9am I was struggling with a Sales Tax Return - not a bit interested in it either, when someone burst in to Qantas and said something about Peace. Well, we had heard so many rumours that we just turned a deaf ear, and went on with a pretence at work.

The partition between us and Qantas is slightly inadequate, as you will have gathered...

Soon, I noticed that the people at the Bank across the way were out at the door looking at something.

I decided to look too, and lo! Such a lot of cut-up paper was pouring out of the windows of the navy, just nearby.

Then a boat whistle sounded and people began to to surge into Queen St.

Slowly it dawned on us - yes, Peace had come at last. Well, we just didn't know what to do to show our joy.

Some of us dashed up to the corner and beheld Queen St in the grip of people.

We then made for the Post Office, not that there was anything to see, but it seemed the thing to do.

4BK, situated near by, had a loud speaker going but no-one seemed to be paying much attention.

Traffic could hardly pierce the human cordon, and in no time, kerosene tins appeared, tied on bikes, cars and even in the hands.

The noise proclaimed far and wide that Brisbane was happy.

More paper commenced to come out of the windows, and lo! from the navy windows came some rare "sticky" paper, which was just ideal for mending music. It has already served just that purpose with me too.

String was thrown out; old records; streamers; old bill-heads; anything at all, which would add to the general "celebration".

Some of the torn-up paper ascended, at times, instead of descending, and the effort was very pretty indeed.

Above, was a blue sky, below were lots of people, and in between was this confetti was going up and down.

Cars, trucks, lorries, bikes and so on appeared by magic, and each vehicle was laden with human cargo.

In fact, one could see people only, and presumed that underneath then was a conveyance of some kind.


People celebrating the end of World War II in Queen Street, Brisbane in 1945. Photograph taken at the intersection of Queen and Edward Streets, looking south along Queen Street.Photo: State Library of Queensland
People celebrating the end of World War II in Queen St, Brisbane in 1945. Photograph taken at the intersection of Queen and Edward streets, looking south along Queen Street. Contributed

Bikes carried people everywhere, and carried more people than safety demanded.

Bugles, rattle things, trumpets all appeared, and did the people know how to use them.

Each truck which passed carried a human cargo of yelling, happy folk and some were armed with waste-paper baskets, and when hit, they produced a quota of noise.

Soon, however, Queen St had to be closed to traffic, and it was then everyone commenced to walk up and down the streets.

The street was covered with paper, and it was impossible to see the cement and stuff beneath it all.

Well the sirens joined in the fun, and no-one felt like work. At times, we ran back to the office, saw that nothing was doing, so we went off again.

Continue reading Zillah's letter here.