Developments in Goolwa during March 1941 include the establishment of the Fishermen's Association

MARCH 1941 - Goolwa goes to war again 1939-1945.

Sunday, 9th March 1941 saw the second biggest assembly of troops ever brought together in Goolwa for a military event when about 600 men from the southern districts took part in a combined training exercise of the 27 S Battalion VDC. The units of the southern area came together on a 100-acre paddock on Frank Ayliffe’s property off Beach Road.  Following the Goolwa Troop organising the previous successful VDC district event held on November 17 last year at this venue, it was decided to ask them to do the basic catering arrangements here again.

     The VDC troops consists of returned soldiers and rifle club members and other volunteers reporting for duty from Goolwa, Pt Elliot, McLaren Vale, Yankalilla, Willunga, Victor Harbor, Meadows, Strathalbyn, Mt Barker, Langhorne Creek, Milang and elsewhere in the district.  The assembled unit was under the command of Lieut. Col. H.M. Parsons (shown on left), with Major R.C. Sexton (Strathalbyn) second in command.

     In perfect autumn weather, members of the combined district VDC troops, along with their families, friends and observers moved in around the parade ground and swelled the number attending to over a thousand people.  It is estimated there were at least 800 motor vehicles parked around surrounding the event area of the beachside farm.

     The bugler sounded the assembly at 11am calling the troops to order to form up on parade in groups representing their respective Company units.  This was followed by each Company going through a drill session to demonstrate their state of skills.  Next, all the Companies were led off by the host Goolwa Troop to the martial music supplied by the Victor Harbor Town Band and the McLaren Vale Rifle Club Band, on a march past the saluting post platform on which Brigadier-General Raymond Lionel Leane, DSO., MC., Corps Commander, took the salute. The General spent a few minutes to inspect the troops and at 12.15pm the company was dismissed to mess call, or disperse to have their lunch in picnic parties with families and friends.

      At 1pm the bugler sounded the ‘fall-in’ answered by each Company, A, B, C, and Ambulance, forming up in a hollow square facing the platform and sound amplifiers. When all were in position, the ceremony of dedication of the battalion colours commenced, conducted by the Corps Chaplain Rev. Kendrew.

    The flag supplied and stitched with the Corps’ identity by Returned ex-army Nursing Sisters, all of whom being residents of the district, including Lieut. Jessie Wakefield of Goolwa. They were proudly wearing their 1914-18 wartime uniforms when they handed the flag over to Colonel Parsons who in turn placed it in the hands of the colour party.  Trooping of the colours was then performed in the square after which the whole assembly of troops were joined by the visitors to sing the hymn, “O God our Help in ages past” followed by prayers and a short address given by the Chaplain.

     General Leane gave the final address to the Companies and expressed his satisfaction with the level of drill performance displayed by the battalion and for the excellent organisation of the whole event of the day. To which Lieut. Col. Parsons called for three cheers for the Returned army nurses and General Leane.

The troops were dismissed from parade at 3pm with a large number on dispersal choosing to spend a couple of hours of afternoon sun on Goolwa Beach before heading off home.   



Operation Compass has achieved much of its objectives against the Italian forces in North Africa, as the combined British and Australian forces pushed them out of Egypt and have been chasing them along the Libyan coastline.  Considerable changes have taken place in the 7th Division to which the 2/10 Battalion now belongs. The battalion is part of the 18th Brigade of which our Goolwa men are members.

     On March 21, the 2/10th reinforced the 2/9th Battalion in its attack on Giarabub, but the whole battalion was not involved. The rest of the battalion prepared to move into Tobruk when the whole of the 18th Brigade will shortly move up into that position in the first week of next month.

     Churchill orders a force of troops be detached from the north African campaign to be sent to Greece to reinforce their defences against threatened invasion by Nazi forces which would include the 18th Brigade. However, it was decided that they be retained to protect Tobruk against Rommel’s attack on this key supply point.

     In Washington, President Roosevelt signs into law the Lend lease Act, vital for essential military aid to Britain.  In Yugoslavia, a coup overthrows the pro-Axis government which will become a major problem for Hitler in Europe, but few doubts that he will act ruthlessly to restore the status quo.

     Goolwa men continue to step up to volunteer for military duty in March.  Tommy (T.B.) Atkins and Arthur Taylor both enlisted in the 2/AIF on the 26th, following Bert (A.L.) Lundstrom who had joined the Navy the day before.  Ernie (E.W.) “Cook” Godfrey and Bill (W.J.) Langake, volunteered on the 4th for the VDC Corps.



It appears to members of their newly formed Fishermen’s Association that the way the barrages are being worked, that the effects are being felt in reduced catches. Of two major statements to this problem, the first comes from Goolwa professional fisherman, Hector Semaschko, who states:

     “Before the barrages were built, the fishermen of Goolwa, Milang, Meningie and others on lakes Alexandrina and Albert were able to make a decent living; but today the lakes are useless for fishing. Consequently, some of the fishermen went out of business but the majority came to fish in the Coorong.  Unfortunately, the water there fell to such an extent that sandbars began to form, and soon sailing boats were confined to a narrow stretch of water about 16 miles long for all these men to fish in.  Despite various restrictions, we settled down in the job, and found that we only had hauling to rely upon.  A little line fishing was carried on last winter, but it was not much of a success, owing to the Murray Mouth closing, and this year it is expected to be worse”.

     “The hauling season, the fisherman’s harvest time, only lasts while the warm weather is on, and for some reason the authorities have kept these men idle for an unnecessarily long time, while a number of gates were opened up at Goolwa.  This could have been done without undue inconvenience to fishermen if at the outset a large number of gates had been opened, the water lowered to whatever level desired and the whole job done quickly.  But at present only a few gates are opened up at one of the locks, and the water is gently flowing away.  I am told that another month may pass before the locks are closed again, and in the meantime the fishermen are out of work”.

     “To men with families to maintain, the situation is hard indeed.  Many thousands of pounds worth of gear has been thrown out of use since the advent of the locks, and some of the nets may never be used again.  For this heavy loss there is no compensation.  On the other hand, the nets which we need to buy are now very dear – sometimes two or three times the price of those which we could get before the war, although the price of fish has not risen in proportion”.

     “We at Goolwa have formed a Fishermen’s Association so as to control the glut period and place a better class of fish on the mark


Dan Cremer, junior, a Milang fisherman supports Semaschko’s statement with his approach to the barrage flow management:

     “Could not the conditions be improved if the River Murray Commission would do what the fishermen have been vainly asking for ever since the gates have been opened – that is, open the Pelican Point Barrage to scour out the channels?  At the same time it would lower the lakes more quickly and allow fishermen to get back to the fishing, which for the last few weeks we have been forced to give up on account of the lake taking too long to fill, owing to only a few gates being open.  Could not the Fisheries Department help the butterfish industry by having these enforced spells shortened by a better working of the gates or are we to lose this valuable industry?”

     The new Fishermen’s Association has accomplished much since it was formed.  It had sought to even out fish sales over local, metro and the Melbourne outlets with some success to avoid glutting the market during periods of heavy catches.  Now it faces another problem in keeping the local fleet at work by pursuing talks with the barrage authorities to find ways to work together effectively in future local water flow management.

     The Engineering and Water Supply Department and the River Murray Commission would now have to find a careful balancing act between the needs of dairy farmers and irrigators on one side of the barrages, and the commercial fishing industry on the other.