Goolwa in January 1941

Goolwa goes to war again 1939-1945


Dawn of New Year’s Day, 1941, is greeted by Londoners as they arose from their air-raid shelters to a city wreathed in smoke, soot and ash with piles of shattered masonry, timber and steel from the bombed-out buildings that now lined their wreckage strewn streets. The Luftwaffe had switched from daylight bombing raids because of a high loss of aircraft, to almost continuous night bombing missions of major British cities. During the past night as London’s old year gave way to the new, the German bombers had inflicted enormous domestic, commercial and industrial ruin to the city’s structures as well as damage or destruction to the Old Bailey, the Guildhall, and eight of the churches designed by Christopher Wren. The RAF bombers are now carrying their war into the heart of Germany blasting aircraft manufacturing facilities in Bremen, among other key centres elsewhere connected to the Nazi war-making efforts.

The Goolwa men who are part of the 18th Brigade of the 2/AIF 6th Division, spent New Year’s-eve and day in Egypt after being landed the day before by ship from England. They are to immediately receive their equipment and training ready to join the main force of the 6th Division. The Division will join into Operation Compass which has begun the big push by combined British forces against the Italian forces in the western desert.

The role of the Australians will be to take the Italian strongholds left behind as the main force by-passed them on their push west. On the 3rd January battalions of the 6th Division went into action in the first Australian battle of WW2 at Bardia, Libya when they penetrated the perimeter of the Italian stronghold. They met and overcome some heavy resistance in the fighting, and they took the town on the surrender to the Australians from the Italian defenders after the two-day battle.

Although our Goolwa servicemen’s unit was not involved, reflection on the Australian forces were observed with wide acclaim. Churchill in a message to Canberra cabled:

“I send you heartiest congratulations from all here on the magnificent manner in which the Australian offensive against Bardia has opened. The piercing of the Western sector constitutes a fine feat of arms and is believed to be the prelude of even greater successes”.

On January 22, Tobruk had been taken by the combined the main British and Australian forces.

In Goolwa on January 2, the mail brought messages calling three of its prominent citizens into military duty training. Harry Cochrane was officially notified that he has been promoted to Captain and is to stand ready to be called into full-time army service. The District Council is also feeling some of the effects of military manpower requirements as District Clerk Reg Bristow-Smith is to be called in for a period of training, so too was Port Elliot ward Councillor 1Lieut. Colonel Albert Lovell. Next day, January 2nd, community members Brian W. Bradford and Walter Smith enlisted in the 2/AIF.

Send-off socials and farewells were now becoming more frequent with January 1941 proving the trend. A social was held early this month in the Goolwa 2Institute Hall to give young enlistees recognition of their entry into the armed services. Captain Harry Cochrane who himself had just been advised to stand by for duty, chaired the meeting. Of those who were guests of honour at the large gathering of town and district residents, were Privates Lloyd Bedford, Jeff Harris, Bill Langmaid and Eric Lang who have all joined the 2/AIF and Aircraftsman Keith Neighbour who has joined the RAAF. (See photo above -

Improved access for Goolwa’s Secondary School students

A great movement forward in the cause of education has been made when the Goolwa parents of secondary school-aged children came together at a local meeting on the 22nd of this month to work out details of getting affordable and easy accessibility to attend the Victor Harbor High School. During this meeting, a committee was formed to be presided over by Rev. Nelson of Goolwa and includes Harold Goode, Mr Coote of Middleton, Mr Basham of Port Elliot and Mr E.A. Haese, headmaster V.H. High School. The outcome of this discussion came with the decision to approach the Director of Education to press for a subsidy to be made to assist with the solution of this long-felt need.

Jim Abbott, of Victor Harbor Tours, had been invited to the meeting and expressed his interest in the committee’s move to set up a direct service from Goolwa through Middleton and Port Elliot. Jim said he was confident that a school route as planned would be taken up by his company and was willing to enter into an agreement with the committee. His company has already negotiated in a similar scheme which was working admirably serving all secondary students along the Inman Valley and Back Valley route. Jim said the cost of return transport to and from the high school would be significantly lessened for students participating in the Goolwa to Victor Harbor scheme and parents along this route should seek advice and latest information from members of the committee or the high school headmaster.

Local man invents smallest motor scooter

25-year old Goolwa resident, Rex Tilbrook is claiming that an electric scooter he has designed and built in his Cadell Street workshop is the smallest power-driven vehicle in the world. The machine weighs in at under 200lbs, propelled by a 1/2hp. electric motor and rolling on 10-inch wheels. He says its top speed is 25 mph and carries two 12-volt batteries which can be charged at home for around 18 pence, and Rex says that the scooter will go on sale shortly at 45 Pounds. Before the war was declared, Rex had spent five years in England learning his trade after which he expanded his knowledge through experiences in Germany and Italy.

Massive local rainstorm causes district flash flooding

Tropical-style storms have swept through the district dumping huge amounts of rain throughout which has caused much damage to roads, railway and property as creeks became swollen and overflowed their banks. In one incident, on the evening down trip of Saturday 25th, Henstridge’s passenger coach running between Adelaide and Goolwa ran into deep water over a section of road near Tooperang and was brought to a stop when water covered the engine compartment causing water to enter the motor. The coach driver, popular local man, Sinclair (Bluey) Fartch, who was in the driver’s seat immersed in waist-high water was unable to open the main door through water pressure, had to extricate himself through his door window and wade through floodwater to the rear exit door. Spotted by Doug Kemp, manager of Wood’s property nearby, he arrived quickly with his truck to render aid. From the 36 Goolwa-bound passengers, men carried women and children through the water to the truck and in a couple of trips got everyone up to the homestead. The passengers were fed and bedded down for the night and were bussed to Goolwa in another coach next morning.

Also, on Saturday 25th the city bound passenger train took on passengers at Goolwa but only got as far as Currency Creek and was halted due to line washaways. The rail tracks were under water from there to Sandergrove, four miles short of Strathalbyn. The worst section was around Finniss where lengths of track were washed away. The train returned to Victor Harbor and had to wait until Tuesday morning when the line was restored to order. It is estimated that 12 inches of rain had fallen in that part of the district during several days of the storm.

Local Council election

Earlier this month, veteran Councillor 3Bert (H.A. ‘Hooky’) Armfield lost an extraordinary election in a ballot for Goolwa Ward in the District Council of Port Elliot to Arnold Minns, local fisherman and storekeeper. Bert has served this community in local government as an elected member over many years. He was first elected to represent the South Ward in the old Goolwa Town Council (Corporation) in 1917 and became Mayor of Goolwa from 1918 to 1920. He returned as Councillor for South Ward between 1923-1924, 1926-1928, and 1929 to 1932. When the Corporation of Goolwa was amalgamated into the District Council of Port Elliot, he held the seat of Goolwa Ward during the terms of 1932-39.


Foot notes

  • Lt. Col. A.S.M. Lovell had been appointed to command the volunteer 18th Machine Gun Regiment from August 1940, until it was reformed into a compulsory Universal Military Training unit later that year.
  • The Goolwa Institute Hall is part of what has become the Alexandria Council Centre complex in Cadell Street, Goolwa. The hall is now the main Alexandrina Council meeting room known as Wal Yuntu Warrin, a Ngarrindjeri phrase meaning “place of bringing together”.
Bert Armfield was re-elected Councillor to the Goolwa ward in 1943 and served in that capacity until he retired in 1953, a total of 31 years in elected local government service.