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Category: Army History/WW2

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The Civil Constructional Corps & The Civil Aliens Corps

The badge of the CCC The Civilian Service Medal 1939/45 was instituted partly to recognise the service of the CCC & CAC

The need for labour in wartime

One of the most pressing demands on Australia during World War II was for the construction of infrastructure and communications works, such as port facilities, aerodromes, fuel depots, roads and bridges. Commonwealth expenditure on works increased from £2 000 000 in the year preceding the outbreak of war to £32 000 000 in 1941–42.

Extensive runway development took place during the Second World War years, constructed by authorities such as RAAF and U.S. Army construction units, the Civil Construction Corps, Commonwealth Works Department, State Road Departments and local Councils. The methods and materials used were understandably directed towards speed of construction rather than permanence. Nevertheless, some 138 runways were of permanent value and formed the basis for the development of an airport network throughout Australia.

In February 1942 the Allied Works Council (CA 497) was created to take responsibility for carrying out all works required for war purposes by the Allied forces in Australia. Edward Granville Theodore, a former Premier of Queensland (1919–25) and Federal Treasurer (1929–31) was appointed Director-General of the Council.

Establishment of the Civil Constructional Corps

The major difficulty faced by the Allied Works Council was the supply of labour. In March 1942 the War Cabinet accepted a recommendation from Theodore for the creation of a Civil Constructional Corps (CCC), which would undertake war-related construction projects within Australia.

The Corps was formed as a civilian rather than military organisation and comprised volunteers and persons called up under military impressments. Given the wartime climate and the range of powers given to the Director-General, the Corps operated under a more rigid discipline than would be normal industrial practice. While members’ pay was based on civilian award rates, they could not refuse work and were subject to regulations governing their conduct on the job and to the orders of the Director-General for maintaining good order at works or in camps.

By June 1943 some 66 000 men had sought enrolment in the Corps of whom 53 500 were selected as medically fit and suitable. Of these, 8 500 had volunteered, 28 000 had already been working on Allied Works Council jobs at the time of enrolment and about 17 000 had been called up for service. Most were over 35 years of age. The major occupational categories were labourers, carpenters and truck drivers.

Members of the Corps were sent to all parts of Australia to work on projects such as docks, aerodromes, roads, gun emplacements, hospitals, fuel storage depots, pipelines and factories.

The Civil Aliens Corps

Following Italy’s entry into World War II as an Axis power, life on the home-front was often difficult for people of Italian origin in Australia. Many of the men not serving in the armed services or held in internment camps were conscripted into compulsory labour service. The Civil Construction Corps for those with British citizenship, or the Civil Alien Corps for Italian citizens, frequently meant work in remote locations in the bush.

Supplementing the workforce in wartime

The Civil Aliens Corps  was established on 3 May 1943 under the National Security (Aliens Service) Regulations to come under the control of the Director-General of Allied Works. War Cabinet had approved this step as a means of giving relief to Australia's worsening manpower shortage as the War progressed. Under the regulations any male refugee alien or enemy alien between the ages of 18 and 60 could be directed to serve in the Civil Aliens Corps.

Allied Works Councils, which came under the Director-General of Allied Works, were established in all states and the Northern Territory in February 1942 to administer the work of the Civil Aliens Corps and other works labour forces, such as the Civil Constructional Corps. 

Aliens, who were required to register with authorities following the outbreak of war, were classified according to their nationality in the following categories: Allied, Neutral, Indeterminate and Enemy. Many of those who joined the Civil Aliens Corps were internees who were released from internment camps and sent back to their home states to await call up to the Corps. Out of some 15 601 registered aliens 1 671 were accepted into the Corps.

Members of the Civil Aliens Corps were required to work on projects of a non-combatant nature managed by the Allied Works Councils. These included projects such as road construction, or the forestry industries.

The Corps was disbanded in May 1945.


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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces