Record Rewind: the school with trenches

The first classroom at Darling Downs Christian School (1942).

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It has been 75 years since Darling Downs Christian School (DDCS) opened its doors in Toowoomba (Qld) to welcome its first 17 students—16 boys and one girl.

Established in March 1942, just days after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, the school was given a blueprint for wholistic education by its founders, the South Queensland Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Plans were made in faith and parents welcomed the opportunity to send their children to a small school with Christian values

Following the fall of Singapore (February 15) and the twin raids on Darwin (February 19), two slit trenches were dug at the back of the school to be used in the event of an air raid and regular drills were carried out.

The school’s first teacher and principal, Wanda Niebuhr, was born in Tahiti in 1898. Miss Niebuhr was teaching in Papua New Guinea when war broke out and she was recalled to Australia. She arrived in Toowoomba with one small case containing just two changes of clothing while she awaited the arrival of the rest of her belongings some six weeks later.

There was a cane in the classroom but Miss Niebuhr was renowned for never using it. Instead, she had a more effective form of discipline. Most of the boys earned a lot of pocket money after school by selling newspapers to the hundreds of American soldiers who were stationed in Toowoomba at the time. For them, the threat of detention after school was a much bigger deterrent than any cane.

Fresh faces: Darling Down Christian School’s first students.

Student fees that year were roughly $A1.56 per term, being heavily subsidised by the local Seventh-day Adventist church, the governing church body and Sanitarium Health Food Company. When the school’s first tuckshop eventually opened some years later, its menu consisted of six different sandwiches, all 20 cents each, and two cordials (orange and blackcurrant) at 10 cents a cup.

DDCS will hold a commemorative 75th Anniversary Day on Friday, October 27. Coinciding with World Teachers’ Day, it will include a historical re-enactment, plaque unveiling and speeches from past and present students and staff.

“We would love as many of our alumni—staff and students—to join us,” DDCS principal Adrian Fitzpartick said.

The day will be followed by an evening service at Glenvale Seventh-day Adventist Church and Community Centre, with a special anniversary service to be held on Sabbath, October 28. This will be followed by an alumni picnic lunch and a community bush dance on the school grounds.

For more information, please contact the school on 07 4659 1111 or email

Elissa Dowling works at Darling Downs Christian School.

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