As the town of Goolwa passed through the many days of joyous celebrations and thanksgiving for peace and the end of the greatest war the world had ever known, they did so to let go to four years of tension and fears for safety of those engaged in the conflict. A sixth of the entire population of the small village of Goolwa and its surrounding district had enlisted and went off to fight on Gallipoli, in the Middle East, the European western front and other places. Some bled from wounds into the soils of these places while others died and were buried beneath them.

It’s the first week of December 1918, with the guns having become silent for the past month. Now the booming noises of battle has been replaced by the sound church bells ringing out the message of peace on earth and good will to all as the Christmas season approaches. A short time before the armistice the Australian Army Corps had been withdrawn after breaking through the German lines in several places in their allotted sector of the front and pushing the enemy back to the Hindenburg Line. Having accomplished their objectives and suffering heavy losses they were pulled back to rest, recuperate and to be reinforced.


Amidst the joyful season, the war hadn’t finished with 41 years old Pte William (W.A.) Ding. He had enlisted in Perth, W.A. in May this year and had sailed from Western Australia for the front in HMAT Boonah at the end of October. The ship was recalled at sea when the armistice was signed and when it returned to Freemantle, Pte. Ding was in the vessel’s sick bay suffering from pneumonic influenza. He was immediately transferred to the quarantine station on December 12th and died there the following day.

William was born in Goolwa in 1876 to William and Mary Ding, farmers of Currency Creek and after leaving school he trained as a fitter and turner. He decided to try his fortunes in Western Australia where he met and married Wilhelmina Gramkie of the little town of Beverley in that state in 1904. When he left Goolwa his parents subsequently moved to take up property at Kerang on the Murray River in Victoria. Pte Ding was like many young servicemen born in Goolwa during this river port’s period of decline, who after leaving school set out on a quest for work wherever they could find it.

Now at close of hostilities, most of those to be repatriated will return to Goolwa but many will go back to where their pre-war jobs still exist or where they had put down permanent roots before enlistment. If all of these could ever be totalled, it will add up to a staggering contribution made by this small community to the Great War effort. The huge task now ahead of the federal government will be to return our troops home. Processing to release them into civilian life will be monumental, possibly taking up to the early part of 1920 to complete.


When Goolwa went to the polls on Saturday December 7 for the town Council election, the sole office to be decided was that of mayor. Although there were no challengers to the sitting councillors, it would seem the immensely popular mayor of Goolwa, Hain Dodd would have no trouble in seeking and winning his third term. His challenger, 30-year-old Cr. Herbert “Hooky” Armfield has been a Councillor representing South Ward since 1914. He is the owner of the well-known slipway which he operates as a qualified shipwright and is also a keen sportsman both on land and water. Originally from Mannum, he is a son of the old river skipper, Captain Sam Armfield, now retired. In a surprising upset he defeated Hain Dodd for mayor by an 82 to 39 vote result.

Captain Hain Dodd, formerly a very successful river trader and pastoralist of late, has recently purchased the house ‘Port Seton’ in Brooking Street, with its cannon on the entrance roof and at the front gate, from Captain George Ritchie the local member for Alexandria in the State parliament, when he moved from Goolwa to Hackney in 1915.


Despite a south-westerly gale blowing a large crowd gathered on Boxing Day, December 26, to witness the annual Goolwa Regatta with its renowned sailing races and other water sports on the day’s program. On this day the fleet had to exercise every skill called upon its crews in sailing their vessels throughout their race events in stiff gale force winds blowing strongly from the south-west. During the past four years of war, sailing races lacked interest due to so many who loved the sport being away on active service overseas resulting in only a small number of vessels taking part during those wartime regattas. However, in this 1918 regatta a much-enlarged fleet has taken part as several of their crews had been returned from the front in the past six months and discharged back into civilian life to resume their passion for sailing.

The government loaned their paddle steamer Industry to become the regatta flagship laying moored along the deck just downstream of the wharf shed. Under the shelter of the shed much of the crowd was catered for in food and drink while the Goolwa Band played in several sessions throughout the day.

Missing from the day’s program were hydroplane races. These spectacular high-performance craft always thrilled the crowd with their roaring engines and water displays around the buoys as they competed in the circuit close to the wharf. The speed boat’s owners, Rymill’s (Tortoise) and McFarlain brothers (Milawa) had put on a crowd pulling attraction over the past three years at the Goolwa and Milang regattas. However, the Rymill bother’s Tortoise won the championship of Australia award recently and has since been converted into a general transport craft, so now there is a hiatus until the Milawa has a challenger to race against.

The main sailing race, principally fishing boats, was won by Jack Woodrow’s Amy, with Bill Woodard’s Reliance coming in second and John Treleaven’s Hell-fire Jack, third. The motor boat 5-mile race was won by former mayor Hain Dodd’s Ventura, followed by Jack Godfrey’s Kitty. In the 10-mile motor boat race, Walter Grundy’s Tartan was first, Jack Godfrey’s Kitty second, and Hain Dodd’s Ventura third. The whole regatta program was interspersed with other water sports including the greasy pole, swimming races, water polo and rowing races which held the attention of the public while the long sailing races were continuing.

During the evening the annual regatta concert was held in the Institute hall with what is described as a record attendance. A lively program was presented by a company styled as “The Victor Harbor Seaside Sports” which included a skilled group of performers under Musical Director, Mr P.R. Field. During the interval Regatta President (Hain Dodd) distributed the prizes won during the day with the concert being followed by supper and dancing. As the evening entertainment closed and the crowd wended their way home, it was in the minds of many that they were just five days from the eve of new year 1919, and a world now in at peace and contemplating a bright new year when they would be celebrating the homecoming of those local boys who fought during four years of war.


This small series now ends as it has attempted to pay tribute to our hometown and our people who lived in Goolwa through the wasted years of the 1914-18 Great War and to record the bitter cost that was paid by this little community in the loss of so many of its sons. It continued to extract a cost in the grief of many for their lost love ones lying beneath those foreign soils, and to record the suffering of those who went to war to serve through those dark days and in coming home were to carry wounds in body and mind they were to endure throughout their lifetime.

Some of these were like Pte Ding, formerly a Goolwa boy who went to live in W.A., and was recalled at sea because of the cease-fire, only to develop an infection of the great influenza plague that was to sweep the world somewhere on the way home and was to die the second day he arrived back in-home port. Or like Pte William Egan of Hindmarsh Island who suffered and died from the effects of the dreaded trench fever just a year after he returned home. Or of Pte Ross Smith who died in January 1930, just 30 years of age suffering from chronic systemic disease contracted in his Middle East service. These were just some of those men who returned home and were to continue to fight the effects of a war that had ended. Returned Army nurse Sister Wakefield of Currency Creek, who had served just behind the western front line where she treated the diggers wounds and comforted the dying, came home to continue to fight for local returned servicemen’s rights to proper medical treatment We will remember them.



The next edition of Goolwa Newsletter will be in February 2019, and in the following months a short series of ‘From the Gallery’ will be featured in this column. It will carry some interesting stories and information arising from Alexandrina Council meetings. Also, in part of this column we will be following the history of the evolution of our local Council from 1872 to the present.

In September 2019 we will begin to trace the history of WW2, as it applies to the Goolwa district’s service men and women and supporting citizens at home from the 80th anniversary of its outbreak at September 1939 and following it monthly to its end in September 1945.

by Frank Tuckwell