Darley Military Camp 80th Anniversary – Online Community Project 2020 Ends

Thank you to everyone who followed our Blog and Saturday Facebook interviews and articles on the Darley Military Camp. We have enjoyed bringing this history to you and reading your comments. To all of the participants, thanks for your contributions!

Today we end this project with sharing some final photos of unnamed service personnel. All courtesy of the Society’s Collection.

Servicemen – Balliang Volunteer Defence Corps – 13th December 1942 – names unknown.
Three Servicemen at the Darley Military Camp – 17 November 1940 – names unknown.

Servicewoman during World War II – Name unknown.

Serviceman at the Darley Military Camp in World War II – name unknown.

Airforce Serviceman at the Bomb Dump in the Pentland Hills – name unknown.

Three Airforce Personnel at the Bomb Dump in the Pentland Hills – names unkown.

If you happen to know a person or maybe some history about the photographs, please let us know and make a comment on our Facebook page now.

Stay tuned to next Saturdays new online history project!

Adrian Oomes – A Community Remembers 2020

This week Katrina Lyle (nee Oomes) reflects on her Father’s experiences as a Dutch Medical Serviceman who came to Bacchus Marsh during World war II.

As a young sergeant in the Medical Corps of the Royal Netherlands Indies Army, (KNIL)  Adrian Oomes could not have imagined just how important Darley Camp was to become  in shaping the direction of his life.

A photograph of Adrian Oomes in uniform during World War II. Courtesy of Katrina Lyle’s Private Collection.

Born in May 1918 at Breda, in the south of the Netherlands, Adrian had completed compulsory national service prior to the German occupation of his country.  Many young Dutch were keen to do their bit in the Allied war effort and when the opportunity arose following the liberation of Breda in October 1944, Adrian volunteered for military service.

While the war in Europe was in its final stages, the  war against the Japanese occupation of South East Asia, including  what was known as the Netherlands East Indies (NEI), had reached a critical point. The Dutch government wanted to raise a standing army of two hundred thousand, over half of whom  would be sent to the East Indies.

War Facts in Brief, Melton Express (Vic. 1943 – 1954), Saturday 18 August 1945, page 3.

Courtesy of NLA, TROVE website

More Dutch Coming to Midlands: Friday 13 July 1945, Newspaper: Birmingham Daily Gazette, County: Warwickshire, England, Page: 4

The goal of Netherlands East Indies force was to join the Allies in subjugating the Japanese, and then to re-establish safety and order in the NEI under Dutch administration. While Japan officially surrendered on  August 15 1945, Japanese forces continued to be active in the Indies  until  November that year. Many Dutch had faced years in Japanese internment camps and their safety was a priority. The Dutch government moved quickly to mobilise its military, and used Darley Camp to house and train troops as a springboard for the Indies. Dutch military personnel from the Indies had been at Darley since 1943 and had participated with the Allies in the fight against the Japanese.

Adrian arrived at Darley Camp mid 1945. Prior to that time, he was based at Wrottesley Park near Wolverhampton where the Dutch had maintained  a military presence, the  “Princess Irene Brigade” during WWII. As was later to happen at Bacchus Marsh, Dutch soldiers formed strong bonds with the local community. Adrian developed a keen interest in the Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club and was thrilled when, years later, he could follow their fortunes on SBS.

 On arrival at Bacchus Marsh, Adrian recalled marching in formation from the railway station, through the township, past the Express Office (where a photo was taken)  and on out to Darley Camp. By 1945, Darley Camp had housed thousands of Australian and international military personnel. As Cr Con McFarlane noted in his outgoing speech as Shire President of September 1945:

Fears that the advent of Darley Camp would have unpleasant effects on civilian life in Bacchus Marsh had proved unfounded. During the past five years soldiers of many nationalities had passed through and the town had been particularly fortunate in not having some disturbances (seen elsewhere).”

The Bacchus Marsh community had provided social and practical support for the visiting soldiers and they had reciprocated, sharing many sporting, social and significant events. The newly arrived Dutch soldiers were no exception. On the 18th of August 1945,  the Express reported:

One of the most pleasant interludes of the two holidays (VE and VP Days) was a disciplined march through Bacchus Marsh streets on Thursday by a couple of hundred singing Hollanders from Darley Camp, whose predilection for choral singing was one of the first things noticed on their arrival some weeks ago.

1945 had been a busy year in the household of Shire President Con McFarlane. Unfortunately, Mrs McFarlane was in increasingly failing health and was not able to support her husband in the many civic duties of his presidential year – which encompassed  both VE Day and VP Day. His daughter Jean was sometimes called upon to accompany him to social events.

In July, Jean was one of 40 local debutantes presented at a ball hosted by the Patriotic Society with shire councillors and other notable community members in attendance. The event typifies the way in which the local community took Darley military personnel into its collective embrace. Sgt  Dyball, an AWAS physical training instructress, had been invited to judge and award two  prizes to the dancers. The debutantes were presented to Capt. Schram de Jong, newly arrived from Holland to command the NEI troops at Darley. The debutantes then mingled with the throng of other dancers, including the NEI troops.

HOLLANDERS SING AT DEBS’. RETURN BALL. (1945, September 1). The Express, Melton (Vic. 1943 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved November 16, 2020.

 At the end of August, the debutantes hosted a “return ball,”  for the ladies of the Patriotic Guild, shire officials and others who had been in attendance at the debutante ball. It was Dutch Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday and directly after the debs and their partners sang God Save the King, the Dutch soldiers, including Adrian Oomes, sang the Dutch national anthem.  The gesture expressed alliance between the Dutch and Australian forces. Perhaps Adrian recalled this event  so vividly because it was first time that he  had danced with Jean McFarlane.

 Adrian and Jean did not meet again until a chance encounter in Main Street one Saturday at lunchtime. Jean found Adrian hungry and puzzled by the strange cultural practice of  shops shutting promptly  at 12.00 noon.  

Can I help you? she asked.

I would like to buy something to eat, he replied.

A moment passed.

Oh, she said. You were that soldier.

Yes, he answered, and you were that girl.

Jean invited Adrian home for the midday meal at the McFarlane farm,  just a short walk down The Avenue of Honour. In those days, midday meals were the main meal of the day, especially among farming families. 

Mrs McFarlane, confined to her home and often needing extensive bed rest, was pleased to meet the young Dutchman who brought such entertaining stories from the outside world. A friendship developed between Adrian, Jean and her family.

While at Darley, the Dutch troops were “hardened” in the rugged terrain surrounding Darley Camp. All units, including the medical units, were gearing up for active conflict. By 1946, his time at Darley Camp completed, Adrian was relocated to the Dutch Headquarters in St Kilda Road. From there he joined a contingent of Dutch troops heading for Batavia (Java) in early 1947.

The Dutch had originally believed that once the Indonesian people were liberated from the Japanese, Dutch governance could resume, if not within the old colonial status quo then with a new role acceptable to the Indonesians. But it was increasingly clear that the Dutch were not fighting Japanese inspired extremists but a legitimate and evolving Indonesian nationalist movement.  As the British and the French would find, the time of European colonial power  in South East Asia was over. For the Dutch, the lesson was a protracted one.  Political agreements punctuated by periods of fierce conflict characterised 1947-48.  Adrian’s role was to provide medical support and supplies and he  worked  directly with Dr  The Bing Tjouw.  He later recalled that snipers were a continual hazard as the militarily overwhelmed Indonesian nationalists  had perfected a kind of guerrilla warfare.

Dr The Bing Tjouw.

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

Adrian and Jean wrote to each other during this time and occasional parcels of tea from the Indies would arrive at the McFarlane household. As part of the demobilization of Dutch forces, Adrian returned to Australia in 1948. The long journey to Melbourne culminated in a crowded troop train trip from Brisbane. Adrian had time to contemplate his future. Should he return to the Netherlands as his parents expected, or would he begin a new life in Australia? As the train inched along the Spencer St platform, the train’s window slowly framed a waiting Jean McFarlane. Wherever his future lay, she would be a part of it.

Jean and Adrian on their wedding day at St Bernard’s Catholic Church on the 16th of May 1949. Courtesy of Katrina Lyle’s Private Collection.

Jean’s mother lived to see the young couple engaged but passed away on Christmas Eve 1948. Jean and Adrian were married at St Bernard’s Catholic Church on the 16th of May 1949.

After briefly returning to Dutch headquarters in Melbourne, Adrian began working at the Lifeguard Milk Factory. He then joined his father-in-law, Con McFarlane, on the dairy farm. 

Adrian passed away on the 16th December 1997 and Jean on the 27th of February 2009. The couple had  two children, Adrian and Katrina.

For comments check out our Facebook page.

Allan Comrie – Community Interviews 2020

A portrait photograph of Allan Comrie, remembering Bacchus Marsh in WWII and the Darley Military Camp.

Courtesy of Allan Comrie’s Personal Collection.

Allan was born in 1940 so he was only a young kid when the Darley Military Camp was established. He remembers watching soldiers marching out to the Camp from the family farm in Raglan Street Darley. The front of the house faced onto Gisborne Road. Pat Whelan had a market garden on the Lerderderg Gorge Road and he would go with him sometimes and watch the soldiers do their training and exercises.

His cousin, Nellie Whelan married Don Wicks, an American soldier stationed out at the Darley Camp. They met at one of the Saturday night dances held at the Mechanics Hall in Bacchus Marsh during the war. In 1945 Don returned to Australia to marry Nellie and they moved to Portland Oregon USA and started their family. 

Kevin Whelan, Noel Whelan, Patricia Comrie, Allan Comrie, Lorraine Whelan.

Courtesy of the Catholic Museum of Bacchus Marsh.

American Hamburgers

They returned to Bacchus Marsh and opened an authentic American style drive -in hamburger joint. Just like from the show ‘Happy Days’ your order was placed on trays that were fixed to the car window. It was a real hit with the locals because most hadn’t seen a real hamburger before. After four or five years they decided to go back to America. Nellie is 96 years old and still lives in Portland Oregon sporting a broad American accent.

American Army Soldiers from the Darley Military Camp, during World War II.

Courtesy of John Hannah’s Private Collection.

Allan remembers that compared to our Australian soldiers, the American soldiers had plenty of money. One of the locals had the lucrative taxi business transporting American soldiers back to the Camp.

Learn more about Allan’s memories of when the soldiers came to Bacchus Marsh. Find out how many locals remember the Hamburger Shop. How did the local taxi service work and who made all the money? Check out our Facebook page now.

The Brave 39th

Plaque remembering the 39th Infantry Battalion “Raised at Darley Camp October 1941“, which is mounted on a large rock in Darley Park. Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc. Collection.

Over the past few months we have learnt how the community dramatically changed when the soldiers came to the district, but what about the soldiers. This week learn about the 39th Australian Infantry Battalion that trained at the Darley Military Camp.

39th Australian Infantry Battalion
EventKokoda Trail Campaign
Battle HonoursAmboga River
Eora Creek-Templeton’s Crossing I
Kokoda Trail
Sanananda Road
Campaign HonourSouth-West Pacific 1942-43
Commanding OfficersConran, Hugh Marcell
Honner, Ralph Hyacinth (Jump)
Owen, William Taylor
Decorations1 DSO; 2 MBE; 7 MC; 4 DCM; 10 MM; 11 MID; 1 DSC
ConflictSecond World War, 1939-1945
ReferencesAWM52/8/3/78: 39 Battalion war diary
– Austin, Victor, To Kokoda and beyond : the story of the 39th Battalion, 1941-1943(Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press, 1988)
– Brune, Peter, A bastard of a place : the Australians in Papua : Kokoda, Milne Bay, Gona, Buna, Sanananda(Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin, 2004)
– Brune, Peter, We band of brothers : a biography of Ralph Honner, soldier and statesman(St Leonards, N.S.W. : Allen & Unwin, 2000)
ConflictSecond World War, 1939-1945
Unit hierarchyAustralian Army
39th Australian Infantry Battalion
Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.

The 39th Infantry Battalion was raised in Melbourne in 1921 and was often referred to as the “Hawthorn-Kew Regiment”. Formed during the Great Depression, when little money was spent on national defence, the battalion initially had few volunteers.

In 1937 it merged with the 37th Infantry Battalion, forming the 37/39th Infantry Battalion. A few years later it merged with the 24th Infantry Battalion, forming the 24/39th Infantry Battalion. Between October to November 1941 the 39th was raised as a single unit, comprised mostly of young men of 18 or 19 years called up for national service.

Off to War

They were trained at Darley Military Camp, which they left by train on 26 December 1941 to embark on HM Troopship Acquitania in Sydney Harbour, where a convoy was assembled. The convoy arrived in Port Moresby Harbour on 3rd January 1942 and the battalion occupied a camp site at the Seven Mile Aerodrome. Their role was to defend the aerodrome from attack by the enemy. More time was spent as wharf labourers and digging defensive positions.

“B” Company became the first white troops to cross the Kokoda Track to provide a garrison on the aerodrome at Kokoda on 7 July 1942. On 21 July 1942 Japanese troops landed at Buna and Gona, with the intention of crossing the Owen Stanley Ranges to capture Port Moresby, which they would use as a base to attack Australia.

On 22 July 12 1942 a Platoon of “B” Company became the first unit to face the Imperial Japanese Army in Papua. The 39th Australian Infantry Battalion is the only unit to have Kokoda listed as one of their Battle Honours.

The 39th Remembered

On 3 July 1943 the 39th Battalion, after numerous battles, was removed from the order of battle and ceased to exist as a military unit. At the time little recognition was given for the major role it played in saving Australia from a Japanese invasion in 1942.

August 1942 – Wounded members of the 39th Australian Infantry Battalion making their way back along a jungle trail to the base hospital. They are all suffering from gunshot wounds sustained in the fighting against the Japs in the Kokoda area. To reach the hospital area they had to walk for nearly six days through thick jungle. Identified is VX137545 Raymond Cecil Burmeister, third from right, wearing glasses.
Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Collection.

Learn more about the brave 39th Infantry Battalion via the 39th Association website and our Facebook page now.

The ‘STICH-IN-TIME’ Club – Community Reflects 2020

Getting things Done in Bacchus Marsh in 1941

As the army personnel prepared for war at the Darley Military Camp, the local community played its part by mobilising fundraising and support on the home front.

The Weekly Times, Sat 18 October 1941, Page 7 celebrate the effort of the local Bacchus Marsh community. Courtesy of TROVE, National Library of Australia.

One endeavour included a group of industrious ladies who helped by mending clothing and other apparel for the soldiers. They called themselves – the Stich-in-Time Club.

The Stich-in-Time Club

Bacchus Marsh ladies went to the Camp regularly to mend clothing, sew on buttons and darn socks for the soldiers.

Members of the Stich-in-Time Club. Courtesy of the Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society’s Collection.

In one case, they almost completely rebuilt a pair of socks owned by a Tasmanian Private. Luckily, the local Patriotic Guild came to the rescue, with three new pairs.

The ‘Stitch-In-Time’ Club operated in a room at the YMCA hut at the camp, managed by Mr Cutler. To assist the ladies the ACF (Australian Comforts Fund) provided them with an electric sewing machine, electric irons and ironing boards.

Learn more about this story and who paid for the materials, who made afternoon tea, by checking out our Facebook page now.

Sergeant Winifred Emma (Wynne) Jennings – Community Interviews 2020

In April the Society received an email from Brett Jennings, the son of Winifred Emma (Wynne) Jennings, a former member of the AWAS. Unfortunately, Wynne passed away on the 30th August 2017, however, Brett and his family kindly gave permission for us to share Wynne’s Australian Women’s Army Services (AWAS) story.

The article (AWAS WRAAC JOURNAL, 18 July 2018, pages 37-45) is a tribute to when Australian women contributed to the Country’s overall defence and freedom and it should never be forgotten.

Is AWAS for you?

A World War II recruiting poster, for the Australian Women’s Army Services (AWAS).

‘There’s a Job For You in the A.W.A.S, the Service That Is Uniformly Smart! Join the A.W.A.S. Australian Women’s Army Service’.

Printed in Australia, colour offset, linen-backed, 63 x 50 cm.

Courtesy of the Antique Reporter sold at auction in 19 August 2008.

Wynne writes about the volunteer groups in Victoria – Australian Women’s Legion and WOMENS Cavalry Corps. She initially joined the Red Cross to learn first aid and home nursing. In March 1941 the director of manpower met with heads of volunteer groups, and later that year approval was given for the formation of the women’s services. After the formation of AWAS in August 1942, Wynne joined on 3 September 1942 (VF391261). She served until she was discharged on 1 May 1946 – a total of 1337 days service. She also had two sisters who joined the AWAS.


Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.

After about three months, orders came through that she was to be transferred to the Darley Military Camp near Bacchus Marsh. She recalls the arduous journey to Bacchus Marsh and the kind local ladies who provided refreshments on their arrival.

Camp Life

Wynne found the surrounds to the camp pleasant with good views towards Bacchus Marsh and the closeness to the Lerdergerg Gorge.

Members of the Australian Women’s Army Services (AWAS) turning up to the Darley Military Camp during World War II.

Courtesy of the John Hannah Private Collection.

“Darley became my home. Conditions were reasonably good”.

Sergeant Winifred Emma (Wynne) Jennings

She vividly recalls the rigours of camp life, the washing and cleaning, and the importance of being connected to people outside the confines of the Camp.

“The ablution blocks were quite primitive. The showers had no doors so we all knew what our various bodies looked like. We had to stand on “duck boards”. I presume because concrete floors get slippery, but they were great for passing on tinea”.

Sergeant Winifred Emma (Wynne) Jennings
What to do?

Wynne remembers how leave was a big part of their lives while in service. Initially they were only allowed two days a month, but this was relaxed to 24 hours per week over time.

Members of the Australian Women’s Army Services (AWAS) at the Darley Military Camp in August 1943.

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

A great deal of leave time was spent in Bacchus Marsh. There were dances and picture shows at the local theatre. Even the odd pub meal at local hotels.

“We enjoyed going to The Border Inn for a meal – the mixed grill was very popular. Six o’clock closing”.

Sergeant Winifred Emma (Wynne) Jennings

Learn more about Wynne’s memories as a sergeant in the AWAS during World War 2. Find out what everyday life was like at the Darley Military Camp for a member of the AWAS. How the service women found Bacchus Marsh and interfaced with the local community. Check out our Facebook page now.

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.

Jean Carboon (nee Wittick) – Community Interviews 2020

Jean Carboon (nee Wittick) taken in January 2020 - born in Bacchus Marsh in 1935, remembering Bacchus Marsh in WWII and the Darley Military Camp.

Jean Carboon (nee Wittick) born in Bacchus Marsh in 1935, reviewing her autograph book from the 1940s, remembering Bacchus Marsh in WWII and the Darley Military Camp.

Taken in January 2020.

Courtesy of Jean Carboon’s Personal Collection.

Jean was only five years of age in 1940 when the Darley Military Camp was established.   The family lived at 72 Gisborne Road and she had just started school at State School No. 28 in Lerderderg Street.

Supplies are short 

She recalls her father meeting an American soldier Bill McKercher at Eddie Toole’s petrol station. Her father invited Bill home for a meal and they became good friends.

“Bill would often come to our place for a meal when he was off duty”.

Jean Carboon

The family must have made a big impression with Bill, because at the end of the war they received a box full of soap from his mother. She believed that Australians were short of soap. Jean and her sister Vera just loved the floating soap called Swan Soap.

1940-50s Swan Soap packaging manufactured by Lever Brothers Company USA.

Swan soap was introduced by the Lever Brothers Company in 1941. It was advertised as a soap that could be used in the kitchen as a hand soap or in the bathroom to bathe the baby.

Lever Brothers used the Swan brand name to sponsor several radio programs during the 1940s.

Swan Soap is no longer marketed.

Courtesy of Wikipedia and Etsy Sales.

A typical Swan Soap full-page colour magazine advertisement from the 1940s.

“Heavenly suds for everything – cause this baby-gentle floating soap is a sudsin’ honey”!

Image curtesy of private eBay sale.

Essential Services

Dad worked at the Darley Brick Company, where his father was the manager”.  

Jean Carboon

The Darley Firebrick Company was classified as an ‘essential service’ during World war II. The manufacture of the fire brick retorts assisted in the vitally important production of ammunition.   To maintain production on the home front, women replaced men at the at the Darley Firebrick Company.

Her father could not enlist as he worked in an ‘essential service’. He didn’t like going to church. He felt that the congregation would have looked unkindly on men who hadn’t signed up.

Throughout the war there was a shortage of petrol and work trucks operated on gas producers fired with coke.  The coke collected from Stawell, facilitated the firing of the bricks. The overnight trip to collect coke was a family affair, even Sailor the dog came along for the ride.

Jean remembers the petrol shortages and the impact it had on everyone in Bacchus Marsh. Petrol-powered vehicles travelling around the town mostly belonged to the Military at the Camp and the locals rode bikes.

Soldiers come to town

Photo of Jean Carboon (nee Wittick) in her swimming outfit, taking tea in the front garden of her family home at 72 Gisborne Road in 1940.    The fence in the background is where she used to stand and wave to soldiers with her autograph book. 

Gisborne Road is in the background behind the front yard fence.   

There were no houses opposite the home just open paddocks.   Houses were built after the war using building materials from the Darley Military Camp when it was demolished.

Courtesy of Jean Carboon’s Private Collection.

Jean remembers standing at the front fence waving and calling to the men in uniform marching past along Gisborne Road. She asked the US soldiers for their autographs as they walked by the family home. Soldiers who signed her book were from all over America:   Virginia, St. Louis, New York, Maryland, Nevada, Oklahoma, Ohio, Denver Colorado and Chicago. Many of the soldier’s left little messages in her book as well.

 “To little Jean. Good luck from an American soldier. We’re hoping to be home by Christmas. It’s a swell place. I love it here and united we stand”.

Myron Kaypner
Myron Thomas Kapner's U.S. Army WWII draft card.

Image of Myron Thomas Kapner’s U.S. Army WWII draft card.

It was identified from a signature in an autograph book owned by Jean Carboon (nee Wittick). He signed it when he was stationed at the Darley Military Camp, Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Australia.

Courtesy of Ancestry.com

“Oliver L. Jenkins from Wheeling, USA wrote: July 13th 1942 is when I would like the war to stop“. “That was the day of my 7th birthday”.

Jean Carboon

World War II Ends 1945

Jean recalls being chosen to ring the school bell, the day the war ended. The bell was in the big Gum tree near the school’s entrance.  

I sang out the war is over, the war is over! The teachers told us we could all go home for the day”.

Jean Carboon

Learn more about Jean’s war time experiences. Find out how the war impacted on the manufacturer of Fire Bricks, operation of work vehicles and the number of American soldiers who signed her autograph book. Check out our Facebook page now.

Ruby Barnes (nee Manly) – Community Stories 2020

This week’s story comes from a letter written by the late Ruby Barnes in 2016 from her home in Texas to her relative Barbara Manly.

A Tough Start

Ruby was the seventh child in a family of ten. She had seven brothers and two sisters. Her mother also took in two young orphan brothers, Bob and Tom Wilson. Her father died when she was young and she spent most of her early years helping her Mother run a dairy farm with her sisters. Balancing time between school and work was a challenge and often homework was completed by candle light or oil lamp.

Sunday School was held in the Rowsley Hall next door to the family home. After completing eighth grade, Ruby commenced work like so many other girls at that time. She undertook a number of local jobs until she was lured to Melbourne. That didn’t stop her from returning to Bacchus Marsh on weekends for the Saturday dances and helping out on the farm.

The Americans come to Bacchus Marsh

American Army Men stationed at Darley Military Camp walk down Main Street Bacchus Marsh.

Two unnamed American soldiers stationed at Darley Military Camp, walk down Main Street Bacchus Marsh.

Taken During World War II (1939-1945).

Courtesy of Bacchus Marsh and District Historical Society Inc.

When the American Army came to Darley Camp they were regular visitors to the local dances. This often led to invites to visit the farm and escape the riggers of military training and camp life. Private Harold Barnes of the US Army, became a regular visitor to the farm and quickly grew fond of the family, the farm life and Ruby.

“He helped Mum on the farm and was teaching her to cook American food! Then he would join us at the dances if he was on leave, so we four were on the farm at weekends”.

Ruby Barnes

Cupid at Work

The arrival of hundreds of single young American soldiers had an immediate impact on the local community. Cupid was at work – the result leading to a number of loving and lasting relationships.

An excerpt from the article titled Bacchus Marsh Surrenders – US Troops Here that was published in the Melton Express on Saturday 21 March 1942 on page 1.

Courtesy of TROVE.

“Harold seemed interested in me, so we were married in Bacchus Marsh one September day”.

Ruby Barnes

The Rowsley Correspondent’s weekly review provides a detailed obituary for Sapper Leonard Moser. A World War I soldier (V18092), along with an update on the shearing season. At the end it announces the kitchen tea that will be held in the Rowsley Hall on Saturday the 26 September 1942. The purpose of the occasion being to celebrate Miss Ruby Manly’s marriage to Private Barnes of the US Army.

Published in the Melton Express on Saturday 19 September 1942 on page 3.

Courtesy of TROVE.

Public notice announcing the kitchen tea in the Rowsley Hall on Saturday the 26 September 1942 for Mrs. Barnes (nee Ruby Manly).

Published in the Melton Express Saturday 19 September 1942 on page 2.

Courtesy of TROVE.

Ruby and Harold’s lives became fairly disjointed after their marriage. Harold moved interstate and then finally to the Islands with the American Army. During this turmoil, Ruby worked various jobs and gave birth to their first child.

The Move to America

In February 1945, Ruby and their son John began the long journey from Rowsley to Kansas, USA, via Sydney and New York. Harold thankfully survived the war and re-joined his family. The family expanded over the years and settled on a farm in Texas.

“I have had a wonderful life, have four sons John, Tom, Robert and James who lives on our old farm in Texas, where I worked for 37 years…. A great life”.

Ruby Barnes
The Barnes family on their rocking chairs at their farm in Texas, USA.
The Barnes family on their rocking chairs at their farm in Texas, USA. Left to Right: James, Ruby, Robert, Tom and John. Courtesy of Ruby Barnes’ Private Collection.

Read the complete story of Ruby’s experiences as the bride of an American soldier – Rowsley to Texas. Check out our Facebook page now.

Kenneth (Ken) Lewis – Community Interviews 2020

Ken Lewis portrait photograph

A portrait photograph of Ken Lewis, remembering Bacchus Marsh during World War II and the Darley Military Camp.

Courtesy of Ken Lewis’ Personal Collection.

Ken Lewis recalls when the family moved to Bacchus marsh from East Brunswick. This was when his father was appointed the new Minister of the Presbyterian Church in Gisborne Road, during World War II. Mrs Daphne and the Rev. George William Lewis along with their family lived in the manse at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Bacchus Marsh, between 1940 – 1948.

Lewis Family taken at Bacchus Marsh in 1946-1947 by Jack Cox (?) Photography, Bacchus Marsh

Photograph of the Lewis Family taken at Bacchus Marsh in 1946-1947 by Jack Cox (?) Photography, Bacchus Marsh.

Front Row (left to Right): Rev. William G. Lewis, Murray M. Lewis, Mrs. Daphne M. Lewis.

Back row (left to right): John O. Lewis, Margaret Lewis, William D. Lewis, Kenneth L. Lewis

Courtesy of Ken Lewis’ Private Collection.

“I had two older brothers and a younger sister and brother. It was a new and exciting experience for us to come to Bacchus Marsh”.

Ken Lewis

Ken remembers when the Darley Military Camp was built and the hundreds of Australian troops that marched in after its completion. He recalls the impact the numerous soldiers had on the quiet little town. Learn how the church and his family opened their arms to the soldiers far from home. How they forged lasting friendships with service men and women from America through to the Netherland East Indies .

I remember when some of the American troops nicknamed it ‘Backward Marsh’. It used to have a friendly village atmosphere; I hope it still does”. 

Ken Lewis

Local Community prepares for the worst

Like many of the religious leaders within the local community, Rev. William G. Lewis was a notable participant in the War effort on the home front. Local newspapers document not only his strong spiritual leadership for the service men and women far from home.

St Andrew's Church Anniversary Article from the Melton Express from Saturday 27 November 1943 - page 1

St Andrew’s Church Anniversary Article from the Melton Express from Saturday 27 November 1943 on page 1.

The Rev. W. G. Lewis leads the celebrations of the 93rd Anniversary of St. Andrew’s Church at Bacchus Marsh.

Sergeant Lindsay and John Lewis, AC2 (Aircraftman Second Class), RAAF, joined the activities by speaking to the future of the church.

Courtesy of TROVE.

It also captures his participation in important communal activities, such as the local Air Observers, where his name is listed along with many other notable locals.

Air Observers Roster for Bacchus Marsh, published in the Express Melton - Saturday 18 March 1944 - page 6.

The weekly Air Observers’ Roster for Bacchus Marsh, published in the Melton Express on Saturday 18 March 1944 on page 6.

The Rev. W. G. Lewis volunteered as an Air Observer and was regularly rostered on the Friday No. 3 shift (11a.m. to 1.p.m.).

The Rev. Fathers Gavan Duffy and Murphy also performed the same shift on the Thursday.

Courtesy of TROVE.

Off to Fight

Inevitably, once their training was complete, the service man and women would leave for the war zones. Ken recalls the familiar faces marching down Gisborne Road to the railway station. He would ride his bike to Maddingley Park where the troops would be at ease, enjoying refreshments prepared by the CWA ladies, before leaving by the train.

Darley Military Camp Sports Day being held in Maddingley Park, Bacchus Marsh during World War II. Courtesy of the John Hannah Private Collection.
Soldiers from the Darley Military Camp participating in a Sports Day at Maddingley Park, Bacchus Marsh, during World War II. Australian soldiers march past onlookers in the old pavilion. Courtesy of the John Hannah Private Collection.

What a great debt we owe to those men and women who trained at Darley Camp before sailing away overseas to the fronts of battle, some never to return home. We will remember them”.

Ken Lewis

Read about Ken’s experiences, the soldier’s letters, photographs and autograph book that bring back vivid memories of those days. Check out our Facebook page now.