Michael Shea – Community Interviews 2020

A photograph of Michael Shea taken outside his property on Lerderderg Gorge Road, Darley, with a view of the road leading toward the Darley Military Camp.

Courtesy of Michael Shea’s Private Collection.

Michael Shea was born in 1936 and was only a young kid when the Darley Military Camp was constructed, and the soldiers came to Bacchus Marsh in the 1940’s.  

Initially the family lived on Gisborne Road at McLeod’s Flats and then moved to their farm on Lerderderg Gorge Road in 1943.

“where I still live today with my darling wife Carmel 77 years later”.

Michael Shea
The soldiers march by

The Gorge Road in front of their farm became very busy, as the many soldiers marched past going to and from the town and the Camp.  

The Shea family – (Left to right) Michael (aged 11), Monica, Margo and Peter.

Courtesy of Michael Shea’s Private Collection.

“My brother Peter and I used to sit on our front fence watching and ‘yahooing’ at them.   Being cheeky just as young boys of our age would be”.

Michael Shea
The local Horse hire business

He remembers how his father provided a hiring out service of the farm horses to trustworthy soldiers so that they could go into town. This turned into a thriving business for the family as word got around in the large camp. His father had to buy more horses as the demand grew.

An American Army Soldier from the Darley Military Camp riding a local horse, During World War II.

Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection.

His Dad always made the soldiers pay up front and most returned the horses.

The Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) had total enlistments of 24,026 during World War II and reached a maximum strength of 20,051 in January 1944. 679 officers were appointed, consisting of: 1 Colonel, 4 Lieutenant Colonels, 22 Majors, 93 Captains and 559 Lieutenants. After the war ended the AWAS was no longer required. Colonel Irving resigned on 31 December 1946, and the AWAS was demobilised by 30 June 1947. Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.

An AWAS service woman at the Darley Military Camp riding a local horse, During World War II. Courtesy of the John Hannah Private Collection.

Soldiers train for combat

Michael remembers how the soldiers trained on the land behind their property at McLeod’s Flat. He saw the young soldiers digging holes and practicing shooting as they quickly prepared for the battlefields in the pacific theatre of war.

“The holes were there for years later surrounded by big mounds of soil”.  

Michael Shea

The derelict camp became a great place to explore with his brother Peter. He remembered the old buildings and various sized sheds. One fascinated them both – the all important long-drop toilet!

Learn more about Michael’s memories of when the soldiers came to Bacchus Marsh. Find out what happened when the soldiers accidently left the farm horses tethered in front of the local pub. Check out our Facebook page now.