Goolwa in April 1941

APRIL 1941 - Goolwa goes to war again 1939-1945

The 1941 Easter long weekend in Goolwa is still popular with visitors despite petrol rationing and numbers of men now entering the armed services.  The main water sports event of the holidays was the annual Easter Regatta arranged by the Goolwa Sailing Club. The Glenelg Sailing Club are frequent visitors to the river town and hold their annual Easter club picnic here. Goolwa riverside is highly praised by Glenelg officials who consider the river here as a splendid sailing course.

     Among the Glenelg party were the regular visiting sailors with their boats keen to participate in the races.  L. Le Cornu (Noon), Bill Appleby (Amarina) and J.L. Parkyn (Flash 2) are well-known frequent visitors among about twenty to thirty Glenelg members who made the trip. They face a strong local fleet made up of 20 footers, Sharpies, 10 footers and other classes.

     On Friday’s main race, Bill Appleby in Amarina won from Hookie sailed by Bert Armfield.  On Saturday, Le Cornu’s Noon took out top honours from Hookie in second place and Helles coming in third.  The main race on Sunday afternoon was won by local Sharpie, Highland Lassie from Helles, followed by Noon, Hookie, Penguin and Amarina.  All races were handicap events.  It was evident that the Glenelg Club enjoyed the whole weekend and made their intentions known that they would be back to Goolwa during Christmas-New Year week with their boats again.



The river has been at a high level of late with logs being removed from the Goolwa, Mundoo and Boundary Creek barrages to allow a big flow out to sea. A large flow in volume is coming down the Darling which will mean the river here will run high for some considerable time. Local fishermen complain about the release of so much freshwater because of the amount of water allowed to accumulate in the lakes instead of short occasional flows to keep an even constant level.  Due to this river flush the fish catch is now scarce, but butterfish and mullet prices are high. Recent fish in small lots sent from Goolwa brought 18 pence a pound for butterfish on the Adelaide market where a few months ago butterfish had to be sold locally for just two pence a pound when a glut closed the city market. 



Captain Jack Ritchie’s health continues to decline, and he has recently sold the PS Captain Sturt.  Jack purchased the steamer at the Goolwa Barrages post-construction equipment sales in April last year. He planned to overhaul the vessel and fit it up for day cruises around local waters, but time has slipped away, and his health has begun to give him problems in achieving his original plans for the vessel.  It is rumoured that the new owner plans to take the steamer to a mooring position near the Murray Mouth, then fit it out as accommodation place for visiting fishers, hunters and tourists to the area.



The Goolwa sports scene is not producing players this season.  So many young men have joined up in the regular armed services, while others are involved in the militia where compulsory training requirements take all or at least part of the weekends for field training exercises.  Such is the case of football where this branch of sport is most heavily hit to the degree that there is no Goolwa team formed this year.

     Women’s Hockey is a goer as the southern association decided when it was called together for this season earlier this month, Goolwa girls did not have a brilliant start at the opening of the season as it lost its match to Port Elliot, but at least they could field a full team. Because of the wide range of age for players, the Goolwa Golf Club has managed to keep their course open and have a respectable number of players that are hitting off regularly, and at their April club business meeting they re-elected Wilf Harris as president and Mrs A. Laidlaw replaced Mr Erry as secretary, as he was unsure of the future movements in his school teaching appointments. For the Goolwa Golf Club, settling down on its recently established course, all is going well in its new location on the Goolwa-Pt Elliot Road.



Anzac service was observed in Goolwa on Sunday 20th.  As it has been every year since 1919, this service is held every year on the Sunday before Anzac Day to allow local ex-diggers to catch the early train from Goolwa to Adelaide to march with their mates in the unit they served in during the last war.

     The marchers formed up in front of the Institute Hall in Cadell Street with the Victor Harbor Town Band at the head to provide martial music, next came Goolwa RSL members in the lead contingent, followed by the local militia unit and then the VDC members. Altogether about 150 members of the various groups took part in the march which arrived at the eastern entrance of the Soldiers Memorial Gardens.

     The service in the Gardens was presided over by the Chairman of the Pt Elliot District Council (Cr Melford Jacobs).  Rev. Cornish (Anglican) and Pastor Bart Manning (Churches of Christ) read the responses and RAAF Padre Thrush (Mt Breckan RAAF No.4 Initial Training School) gave the address. The Last Post and Reveille was sounded. During the laying of the wreaths which followed, there was a moving moment when Sister Jessie Wakefield (Mrs Woods) wearing her former WW1 Australian Army Nursing Service uniform, gently laid a wreath on the memorial. On conclusion of the service, the marching contingent was reformed and Lieut. Col. Parsons, of 27s Southern District Area took the salute on their dismissal from parade.



On the warfront, the free world is watching anxiously as the tide of war in Europe and North Africa is presently running favourably for the Nazis.  On the 6th they launch their invasion into Greece and Yugoslavia, forcing both nations to surrender and occupation by the end of the month.

     In the first week of April the 18th Brigade, including the Goolwa men of the 2/10th Battalion, moved into Tobruk. The 24th Brigade was placed beside them to take up a fixed position and to patrol the areas of no man’s land beyond the outer defences. Within the 24th Brigade is another Goolwa man, Pte Ron Reed, who is serving as a member of the 2/28th Battalion (principally a Western Australian unit which he had joined whist working in that state).

     Rommel began probing the defences of the city from the 10th of the month by direct attack. In this action the 15th Panzer Division commanded by General Heinrich von Prittwitz, failed to penetrate the defences and finally Rommel called off the attack after Prittwitz was killed in the action.

     By April 11, Rommel’s forces succeeded in 1surrounding Tobruk, and in the afternoon launched an attack with the 5th Panzer Regiment supported by Italian and German infantry and tanks on the frontal defence outposts of the city against the defensive line of the Australian 20th Brigade.  This attack was finally driven off but not before the Australian forces suffered significant casualties.

     Attacks were continually launched against besieged Tobruk as Rommel seeks to take the city, but the Australian force’s stubborn resistance has become a thorn in the German’s side.  This has come as a shock to General Rommel as for the first time the might of the German forces has been halted and repelled. For this action Rommel has come to respect and admire the Australian soldier and wrote in a 2letter dated, 25th April 1941 (ironically, Anzac Day):

“I was extremely annoyed and charged Major Appel with the task of getting the Italians forward, he made great effort, but did not achieve much, with British artillery fire sweeping the whole area the Italians crept under their vehicles and resisted all their officer’s attempts to get them out again”.

“Shortly afterwards a batch of some 50 or 60 Australian prisoners were marched off close beside us – immensely big and powerful men, who without question represented an elite formation of the British Empire, a fact that was also evident in battle”.

     Members of the 2/10th Battalion who hold their position on this Tobruk defence perimeter expect to be constantly tested in their position at any time day and night.



The 2/4th Motor Transport Company has arrived in Singapore from Australia as a part of the 8th Division forces based there.  Lance Corporal Colin (C.F.) Smith (shown above), who enlisted from Goolwa is a member of this unit.  3Colin aged 40, is a foundation member of the Goolwa Sailing Club and is popular amongst the yachtsmen members.  He was a consistent starter throughout the seasons in his boat “Miss Adrian”. Colin noticed that the company has been reinforced by 50 impressed trucks with Chinese drivers as part of the total 2/4th pool.

     The 2/4th is operating as a part of the overall theatre transport pool for Singapore and the Malayan peninsula. Their job will be hard as it will include delivering supplies to forward dumps in Kuala Lumpur, as well as lifting troops and gear to the front positions and evacuating relieved personnel.  They will secure and salvage ammunition on any withdrawal.



All units of the 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion have come together for the first time as they boarded the ship taking them to the Middle East this month. The battalion (including Goolwa men) is made up of four companies, A (SA), B (Vic.), C (Tas.), D (WA).




1   Although encircled, Tobruk harbour remains inside the defence perimeter             

     which although under constant air attack, allows the defended city to receive supplies and the

     evacuation of wounded personnel by warship during the hours of darkness.

2   ROMMEL PAPERS, Hart E.L.   London, Collins, 1953 (page 132)

3   Colin Francis Smith was born in Yankalilla SA, 9-10-1901. At the fall of Singapore, Colin became a POW    

      of the Japanese to labour on the Burma railway. Selected for labour on wharves and mines in Japan, he was sent by “hell” ship from Singapore. Ship was torpedoed, sunk and 3 days later Colin with others   were rescued by US submarine “Pampanito”. After release from hospital, he was discharged 2-6-1945.  Colin died in Heidelberg Vic. 6-7-1973.