80th Anniversary – Darley Military Camp

On this day in 1945 the Australian Prime Minister Ben Chifley announced to the nation that the Imperial Japanese had unconditionally surrendered which marked the end of World War II.  

As Australians join other nations across the world to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II and honour those who served, today we also remember the 80th Anniversary of the construction of the Darley Military Camp.

Darley Military Camp
Aerial view of the completed Darley Military Camp looking eastly towards Melbourne – Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection

It was one of three WWII military training centres established in Victoria.   Construction commenced in July 1940, on 160 hectares at Cameron’s Road, (Camp Road) Darley about 8km from Bacchus Marsh and although not completed by September, the first of 4,000 troops from the 4th Infantry Training Corps had arrived.

The camp was without electricity, or canteens, and was a quagmire after 75mm of rain had fallen.   Work was accelerated with the help of the arriving troops and construction was completed for the arrival of many more military service men and women.

Construction Workers - Darley Military Camp 1940
Construction workers building the Darley Military Camp in 1940 – Courtesy of the John Hannah Collection

Catering was large scale for the construction workforce with daily consumption of 3 sheep and beef, 500 hen eggs, 15 to 20 gallons of milk and other staples such as bread, butter and vegetables.

It was reported that during construction there were nearly two kms of hardwood, 1.6km of flooring, 220 tonnes of corrugated iron and 30 tonnes of nails used.   On completion of the camp, there were over 360 buildings including recreation huts, a Post Office and a 68 bed hospital.

Between 1940 and 1946, the time the Darley Camp was in operation, the mainly agricultural township of Bacchus Marsh with a population of approx. 1,500 was totally transformed.  

Darley Military Camp
Part of the completed Darley Military Camp looking westerly towards Bald Hill – Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection

Eighty years on our Vice-President Cathy Pevitt has documented the stories from an array of townspeople who, although just kids or teenagers at the time, have shared their memories and memorabilia with us.

The Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society would like to sincerely thank all those individuals who have taken the time to tell their story and also Cathy for making the time to document their memories.

These amazing stories along with accompanying photos will be shared periodically on our Facebook page over the next few weeks. Now is the time to follow our Facebook page and discover what life was like in Bacchus Marsh during WWII.