Jezzine Barracks, Townsville (Wulgurukaba)

It’s been thirty years since my last significant visit to Townsville 1,400 kms north of Brisbane. I did visit fleetingly ten years ago and not so fondly remember the tropical heat pushing me to a pub at 11am for a refreshing G&T and having to take a minimum of four showers a day to stop from smelling myself in the humidity.

Townsville, Australia’s leading garrison city, has undergone some mammoth changes in recent years and is a vibrant centre which manages to meld its Indigenous, Military and Colonial histories in equal parts.

Case in point, Jezzine Barracks, named after a fierce battle at Jezzine in Syria in 1941, which is a definite addition to your Must Do List.

The Traditional Owners of Garabarra are the Wulgurukaba people and the Bindal people, who retain an enduring ‘connection to country’ despite the impact of non-Aboriginal settlement in the area. For thousands of years Garabarra was the centre of a common food foraging area for local Aboriginal people – an area with immeasurable cultural and spiritual values.” – Wikipedia..

This area became a military base in 1886 and up until 2006 was very much Secret Squirrel territory. The area had been utilised for 120 years and is situated on the Kissing Point Headland on the northern end of The Strand, Townsville’s esplanade bordering the city central, with an outlook across to Magnetic Island and the Coral Sea.

Townsville is just coming out of a 10 day weather event like most of the East Coast.


Opened to the public in 2014 this 15-hectare heritage precinct now commemorates the military and Aboriginal heritage of the area, including majestic water views. There are 34 specially commissioned public artworks, extensive interpretive signage, a coastal walkway connecting to Rowes Bay, as well as the restoration of significant elements of the Kissing Point Fort complex.

The Seven Sisters – based on the seven sisters who came from the heavens to create all that was beautiful, being “Women’s Business”.


The site also includes the Army Museum of North Queensland – closed for my visit but I’ll be back there soon- as well as traditional plantings along the ethno-botanical walk, the Crossed Boomerang Amphitheatre, and the Kennedy Regiment Plaza ( which is bordered by it’s proud history).

The picnic and barbeque areas are popular with both visitors and locals and for a change of pace, a gorgeous little Art Gallery located in old army huts will provide your wallet with the opportunity to enjoy a little dance.

Parade Ground highlighting the regiments that were based at Jezzine.

An example of the history that borders the Parade Ground.
You’ve got it made when you have a Prawn Shell dish from Townsville:)

Next post I will cover the monument commemorating the The United States 5th Air Force Memorial that is featured at Jezzine Barracks. I’m still processing Townsville’s role in military history and it’s connection to the Battle of the Coral Sea ( which of course was not covered in our schooling. Please note sarcasm).

Nancy Wake (1912- 2011)

AKA -The White Mouse

Born in New Zealand Nancy relocated to Sydney, Australia, as a child along with the rest of her family. She trained as a nurse and a journalist and moved to Paris in the 1930’s.

When World War 2 commenced she was living in Marseille with her French husband. When France fell to Nazi Germany in 1940, Wake became a courier for an established escape network where she helped Allied airmen evade capture by the Germans and escape to Spain which was neutral. She herself fled to Spain in 1943 and continued on to the United Kingdom when the Germans became aware of her activities, calling her The White Mouse. Her husband was captured and executed.

In Britain, Wake joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE) under the code name”Helene”. In April 1944 as a member of a three-person SOE team code-named “Freelance”, she parachuted into occupied France to liaise between the SOE and several Maquis groups, participating in a battle between the Maquis and a large German force weeks later. At the aftermath of the battle, a defeat for the maquis, she claimed to have bicycled 500 kilometers to send a situation report to SOE in London.

Immediately after the war, Wake was awarded the George Medal,[36] the United States Medal of Freedom, the Médaille de la Résistance, and thrice, the Croix de Guerre. She worked for the intelligence department at the British Air Ministry, attached to embassies in Paris and Prague.

It was not until February 2004 that Wake was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.In April 2006, she was awarded the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association‘s highest honour, the RSA Badge in Gold. Wake’s medals are on display in the Second World War gallery at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Wake remarried in 1957 and returned to Australia with her husband.

Her autobiography is a fascinating read and numerous other books have been written ( as well as movie scripts) about her courageous deeds.

“I don’t see why we women should just wave our men a proud goodbye and then knit them balaclavas.” – Nancy Wake

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.
#AtoZChallenge


NOTE:

When my daughters were in Primary School all those years ago there was an occasion where they celebrated famous Australians. Each child had to do a presentation about their favourite Australian.

There were talks about pop stars, cricket players – especially Shane Warne, and celebrities such as Steve Irwin, Wildlife Warrior.

When it was Pocahontas’ turn she did a flawless presentation on The White Mouse. God love her……

.

             

Another Project Giving Life To History

Research undertaken by Australian historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher for their book, Untraceables – The Mystery of the Forgotten Diggers has led to an interesting pilot project adopted earlier this year by sixteen Primary Schools across the nation.

The historians created The Find Them, Remember Them: Creating Citizen Historians pilot program to establish Living Memorials to the Fallen by creating Citizen Historians of school children.

According to the authors “during WWI, 60 000 Australian soldiers died.  The issuing of medals to fallen soldiers was governed by the Deceased Soldiers Act 1918.  The intent of the act as proposed by the Minister for Defence was to honour the wishes of the deceased soldier with all war medals to go to either their next of kin or will legatee.  However, an ascension list (not contained in the Act) was adopted when settling intestate estates.  The dogged application of this list denied many female next of kin and the deceased soldier’s nominated next of kin, the right to receive their loved one’s medals creating an archive of uncollected medals.”

There is some controversy that unissued medals from WWI veterans, soldiers who fought and died for this country,  and their individual military heritage,  were archived around 1998, and their location is unknown and denied by the Directorate of Defence Honours & Awards (DH&A). 

The intent of the program is to research the soldier, and have students educate the local community at an appropriate ceremony.  The school will commemorate the sacrifice by their researched soldiers on commemorative occasions such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day in an endeavour to keep their memory “alive”.

If eligible descendants are located from the pupil’s research they will be able to apply for custodianship of ( replacement) medals. If no descendants are located then the school can apply for the medals with the soldier thereby being “adopted” by that community.

A much better lesson in history than the old chalk-on-blackboard method, don’t you agree?

It can well be said the Anzac’s are not dead, their deeds and fame will live for evermore.  Australia’s duty to her dead may be expressed in four words- ‘Don’t let them die’!  Their memory should never be allowed to die.” Parramatta Mayor, Ald.

Some Military Stuff….

So much for a sedate start to the New Year. It’s all happening here on the south east corner of Queensland : tropical lows, the tail end of a tsunami, and floods. Yep, floods.

A while back I shared a visit to Maryborough, 200kms north of Brisbane and known as the home of P L Travers who wrote Mary Poppins, and the magnificent Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial Walk created in Queens Park by the river. See here :

https://wordpress.com/post/brizzymaysbooksandbruschettasite.wordpress.com/3246

Queens Park went under in the floods which provided one of the most compelling and slightly spooky sights in months.

In the park is a life-sized sculpture which commemorates Lieutenant Duncan Chapman, believed to be the first man ashore at Gallipoli, and a Maryborough lad. The memorial display contains stones and sand from Gallipoli and depicts the soldier gazing towards the high cliffs at the moment the first shots rang out. The floods seemed to recreate the scene of Duncan first stepping ashore back in 1915.

And A Book Review :

Cheerio, Don was written by Susan Alley, the niece of the subject of this book, Donald Mitchell, a young soldier who served in PNG during WW2. Taken from letters to his family and his diaries about life on the Mitchell dairy farm in Coraki, northern NSW, this is an interesting read because of the insights it provides about Australian life during the war years.

As the only son of a dairy farmer Don could have applied for an exemption because of his occupation. When called up for duty his only sister resigned from her nursing position to work on the farm to help Dad, only returning to nursing when Don was demobbed.(Note : upon Don’s return Dad would not pay his daughter a weekly wage).

Other fascinating snippets include the very real fear that the Japanese  would invade the east coast and a “Scorched Earth” policy was indeed under serious consideration.

My fellow Aussies : did you ever hear about that in your High School History classes? Or that the road between Nimbin and Uki was land mined to stop travel between Qld and NSW? Or that many folk relied on brown paper to block out the lights during evening “black outs”? 

It was the trivia in this story I found fascinating – ration books, trenches in school yards to “protect” the children, the price of beef –  which is so often the case in these biographies about family members.

War Records Conundrum

I recently located an interesting children’s book about Sister Marie Craig, one of the “Flying Angels” who cared for some 18,000 injured soldiers on flights from Papua New Guinea to the hospital in Darwin during WW2. After the misleading book  about a cat who survived a sinking ship, Changi and Sandakan as mentioned with much disgust last week, I didn’t want to get caught out again, so checked the records at the Australian War Memorial. Sister Craig’s story is fair dinkum and is an interesting one……

So, whilst looking at records at the AWM, I discovered a new record under my father’s name which is out there on the internet for all the world to see. Their database contains the names of WW1 and WW2 soldiers, service numbers, rank, date of discharge and decorations and other basic information. I’m not sure about other Conflicts – records were still being digitalised at one point. It’s a user friendly database and you simply search using a name.

Service records are available for a fee and the AWM will post a copy of these documents. I ordered my father’s service documents after he died : 42 pages, which to be honest, apart from medical history, promotions, and changes of pay means little to me. 

( I digress, but on my first visit to the AWM in Canberra as a young woman travelling with a young man who found it difficult to locate hotel accomodation because we were not married – Canberra being Australia’s porn capital no less – a research officer at the AWM explained veterans service documents by using the records of a deceased Prime Minister as an example. Though not fond of the deceased Prime Minister in question I was somewhat appalled that his medical records included a dose of VD during his time in a theatre of war which was clearly pointed out by the employee. So much for privacy.)

But back to the old man.

Dad’s plane.

There is now a record that states under Collections that the AWM is in possession of my father’s leather bound diary from 15 April, 1943 to 24th August, 1945 that includes movements, roles, and flying missions etc. It also states ” entries describe leave, dances, the Boomerang Club and meeting girls”. Photographs, poetry, propaganda leaflets are also included as well as details of his marriage to an English sweetheart. ( Not my mother).

My father never discussed the War. It wasn’t until he was in his 70’s that he let things slip, like Dresden and how ” bloody cold” it was high in the skies above Europe. He wasn’t quite the hard old bastard by then.

There was never any mention of a diary nor a first wife.

My curiosity is piqued but it is not my life. It is a diary of a life before I was even a twinkle in the eye. A life 15 years before mine even started. 

That these records of times past are retained for historians is a wonderful thing. I get that. What I don’t get is that there are 566 words included in the description of the diary’s contents available on a search under my father’s name on the Australian War Memorial’s website available for all and sundry to see.

I’m a little conflicted :don’t dead people deserve some privacy? I can hear the old bugger telling me to ” cop it sweet, Pet”, but it just doesn’t sit well.

Any thoughts?

Some Real Duds

The front cover of Red Lead – The Naval Cat With Nine Lives by Roland Perry grabbed my attention with the announcement   ” the legendary Australian ship’s cat who survived the sinking of HMAS Perth, Changi and the Thai-Burma Railway”.

A $1 investment – what could go wrong?

61 pages in and my intuition kicked in necessitating the need to research some military websites, including the Australian War Memorial and the Naval Institute.

Guess what? 

A work of fiction. Very misleading and disappointing. A total non-story.

The reality is Redlead, like many of the cruisers crew, did not survive the sinking of HMAS Perth and there was no Dan Bolt, the ex veterinarian who adopted the cat at sea.

Indeed one reviewer summed it up thus: “Finally in this case you can ‘judge a book by its cover’.  The photo on the front cover of a cat sitting in the gun barrel is not Redlead; it’s the ship’s cat of HMS Cornwall taken in 1933. Also the front cover wording stating the “cat who survived the sinking of HMAS Perth, Changi and the Thai-Burma Railway” is false.”

61 pages. What a time waster!

Next up, The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French, another $1 investment.

I’ve mentioned Jackie French AM , Australian author, previously. Not only is she a historian, ecologist and wombat carer, she was 2014–15 Australian Children’s Laureate and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year. Love her work, I really do.

Young Harry Kilometres, the grand child, is the product of a military family. Indeed, he was born in a rural and remote area of Australia because of his father’s military involvement. For overseas readers that means crocodiles, poison jellyfish, snakes galore, wild camels, and bison on the golf course. So little Harry is already ensconced in certain traditions. He’s been practising the manoeuvres to parachute out of a plane since he was three months old  and his library of army history is already enviable.

So I just had to pick this book up for Harry’s bedtime reading for his coming visit. Beautifully illustrated by Bruce Whatley with a sprinkling of vintage photos and Jackie French, writer of children’s books.

DEPRESSING

I appreciate that Gallipoli was not an uplifting experience however this book is not the kind of book to hand to a child as a learning tool. Jackie and Bruce were clearly on the red wine when they dreamt up this concept. I’m thinking an Art Gallery or Museum would have been far more suitable.

And you know what? Two lousy books in a row can destroy your day.

Tomato Update and Weekend Plans

Spring in South East Queensland lasted for all of a fortnight and then we pounced straight into Summer, evening storms and all.

The tomato plants have revelled in the heat and humidity and I have no doubt that the bandicoots that frolic in the vege bed at night will also be prone to acidic disorders from over indulging. The freezer is full of pasta sauce, a little heavy on the chilli and garlic apparently, and I’m now moving on to tomato chutney production. Not that I eat chutney but I can’t handle food waste. Blame the Depression parents who wouldn’t let us kids leave the table until the plates were clean.

The good news is that I will pull the remaining plants out on the weekend (before sunrise). The bad news is that means no tomatoes for summer salads and I’ll probably have to sell a kidney to afford them for Christmas Lunch.

Talking of waste, Australia has collectively moved away from single use plastics recently. Well done! So please explain somebody, anybody, why the shops are all full of plastic pumpkins. Crappy, cheap plastic pumpkins from China.
1. Why is Halloween becoming such a big deal in Australia?
2. Why is it that freight from China has been delayed since Covid but plastic pumpkins arrive in time for the end of October?
3. If children under 12 are not allowed to walk to school without parental supervision why are they allowed to go trick or treating? I’m not even going to mention the legalities of nazi teachers checking the contents of lunchboxes. I’m too old to open that Pandora’s Box.
4. If we really must instigate this Halloween business, how about next year we all plant some pumpkin seeds and harness our own food source?

So, you’ve figured that I don’t give a rats. Instead, and weather permitting, I plan on a much more appropriate celebration. Yep, a reenactment of the charge at Beersheba at the Laidley Pioneer Village. Entry is by donation.

Never heard of Beersheba?

On 31 October 1917, during World War 1, Australia’s Desert Mounted Corps led the famous charge of Beersheba by the 4th Light Horse Brigade, probably one of the most stunning victories in any battle or war in Australian history. This charge saw 800 Australian horsemen gallop their horses across three miles of open desert, through the Turkish defences, to win the precious wells of Beersheba.
 
The victory by the Australian horsemen, under the command of Lieutenant General Harry Chauvel against the Turks, was the beginning of a successful Australian campaign that led to the collapse of the Turkish Ottoman empire and turned the tide of war in the Middle East.

And I wont be watching anything starring Jamie Lee Curtis either. It’s the 1980’s Australian flick, The Lighthorsemen, or nothing. Forget the insipid romance between a young Sigrid Thornton and Peter Phelps before he got paunchy, it is a beaut little story and a reminder of old fashioned Aussie larrikins.

It would be totally hypocritical of me to wish you all Happy Halloween though I do hope you all play safely and that there are no chipped teeth from all those boiled lollies. I’ll be at Laidley – yee haa.

ADD TO 2022 TO DO LIST :
Instigate a community pumpkin growing plan and eradicate all plastic pumpkins.

War Memorials on my travels

Did you know that there is a Queensland War Memorial Register, currently with over 1300 sites listed?

War memorials resulted from a ground swell of community sentiment going back to the Boer War when memorials were usually situated within cemeteries. With the mass casualties of the First World War affecting almost every family communal memorials in prominent public places were established as a tangible symbol of national mourning. 

These memorials are ever so present in country towns where the names of the fallen indicate just how many local families lost their husbands, fathers and sons. Some are big, some are small. Each are poignant.

Roma, Qld
Longreach, Qld
Ilfracombe, Qld
Chinchilla, Qld
Exhibition in Winton, Qld, in a Troop Train transporting soldiers to the Big Smoke. ( Located in the Waltzing Matilda Museum)

These are just a selection from my recent travels. I’ve always been a sucker for these memorials and how they correspond to a township’s history. When I was in my teens and working for Veterans Affairs ( then Repat) my dream was to travel Australia and photograph all those in small, country towns. Copped the ” responsibility lecture” instead. In those days I listened to what I was told. How things change.

For more information go http://www.qldwarmemorials.com.au

Exploring Brisbane During WW2 : A Walking Tour

The 2 hour tour begins at the Museum of Brisbane on the the third floor of City Hall, King George Square.

King George Monument in King George Square with City Hall in background.

City Hall was built in 1930 and at that time was the tallest building in Brisbane. It was an important building during WW2 as it housed a recruitment area, was a distribution point where the Red Cross handed parcels to troops heading overseas, and has a ballroom suitable for 1500 guests. It was standing room only for 3000 when Eleanor Roosevelt arrived in Brisbane.

City Hall

During the early 2000’s City Hall underwent a massive restoration. What do you think they found? In the men’s bathroom in the basement Australian soldiers had signed their names on the wall along with their service numbers, as did many American servicemen who included their regimental details. This has been preserved and a reproduction is located within the museum.

Signature Wall Reproduction

Diagonally across the road from City Hall sits a church, a familiar landmark within the CBD, which was the site of 16,000 marriages between American men and Australian women during WW2.

Proceeding to ANZAC Square and The Shrine of Remembrance we then visited the Memorial Galleries underneath this structure. Most locals are unaware of the Galleries : for twenty years I too was totally ignorant and walked past on my way to the railway station. It is well worth a visit with its interactive displays and the staff are an invaluable source of information.

Self indulgence

Moving on we heard all about the Battle of Brisbane, the “ riot between United States military personnel on one side and Australian servicemen and civilians on the other on 26 and 27 November 1942.”

This was the American PX during WW2 and site of the riots

This concluded our walking tour though not the insights gained about Brisbane and her involvement during WW2. Brisbane had the name of Jazz Capital of Australia thanks to the influence of American soldiers. Who knew? We learnt about the HMAS Centaur, a submarine base in nearby New Farm and the SS Growler, and I was so excited to see my very first Air Raid Shelter, one of only three remaining in the vicinity. I repeat : who knew?

This walking tour is suitable for all fitness levels and we totally enjoyed seeing the city in a totally different light.

For further information go here : https://www.museumofbrisbane.com.au/whats-on/walking-in-wartime/

We paid an additional $10 each to also visit the MacArthur Museum.

Absolutely fascinating and I learnt more in a 1 hour talk by a passionate volunteer named John, standing in front of a map of the Pacific, than I did during six years of high school. Toss out the text books. This was easily digestible, understandable, and logical and the personal tidbits made it interesting to boot.

Here’s ol’ Doug’s office :

I worked in the Brisbane CBD for twenty years and knew little of this history. Once again I put it down to COVID making us more familiar with our own backyards. Now that’s a positive from a negative, wouldn’t you say?

Two Stories

Read The Codebreakers by Australian author, Alli Sinclair.

“1943, Brisbane: The war continues to devastate and the battle for the Pacific threatens Australian shores. For Ellie O’Sullivan, helping the war effort means utilising her engineering skills for Qantas as they evacuate civilians and deliver supplies to armed forces overseas. Her exceptional logic and integrity attract the attention of Central Bureau – an intelligence organisation working with England’s Bletchley Park codebreakers. But joining Central Bureau means signing a lifetime secrecy contract. Breaking it is treason”.

This book became far too “girlie” for me with an overdose of romantic interludes. What did interest me was the property in Ascot, inner Brisbane, from which the Central Bureau actually did work during the war.

In July 1942, General MacArthur moved his Headquarters to Brisbane. Central Bureau immediately relocated to Brisbane, establishing its headquarters in “Nyrambla” at Henry Street, Ascot. The residence was built in 1885–86. In September 1942, the US 837th Signal Service Detachment relocated to Brisbane. The Detachment’s officers and enlisted men moved into “Nyrambla”. The machines to decode intercepted Japanese ciphers that concealed message were placed in the rear garage of “Nyrambla” and this is where the women Codebreakers worked.

Nyrambla

Over the years Nyrambla has been lovingly restored and recently went on the market.

Women working in the garage……..*still shacking my head.

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Terrigal, on the Central Coast of New South Wales, is a seaside township popular with both locals and tourists. Back in the 1940’s it was a sleepy fishing village with a population of less than 500. 

During World War 2 the Surf Lifesaving Association of Australia (SLSA) was stretched to provide rescue services along the beaches on the East Coast. Of the 76 original male members of the Surf Club at Terrigal only four were available to patrol beaches whilst the others went off to war.

This led the female members of the club – mostly wives, sweethearts and sisters – to ask permission to become lifesavers. Their application to the controlling body failed though this did not deter them.

After training by the chief instructor they were assessed by Central Coast Life Saving’s inaugural president Dr E.A. Martin.  In two exams, some 30 women qualified for the equivalent of the bronze medallion, receiving certificates on Terrigal beach and going on to patrol the area over the summer.

These young women undertook their duties with enthusiasm and passion even making their own swimming costumes and uniforms out of sheets, curtains and the odd parachute­, despite not having been awarded their bronze medallions.

At wars end 70 men returned and resumed lifesaving duties with the women then relegated to previous duties.

It wasn’t until 75 years later in 2017 that the women who patrolled the beaches of Terrigal during World War 2 were finally recognised. They were awarded their Bronze Medallions, most posthumously to their families, as well as a special Terrigal Parliamentary Award to acknowledge their contribution to the community.

75 years. *still shaking head.