Life in Goolwa June 1941

Goolwa goes to war again 1939-1945

JUNE 1941

British troops who were fighting in the failed Crete campaign have now been successfully evacuated from the island by June 1. Among these troops were around 6,500 Australians who were taken off by the Royal Navy. In the 27-day Crete action, 274 Diggers were killed, 507 wounded and 3000 taken prisoners by the Germans. The 2/18th Brigade containing the Goolwa men were to be sent to Crete, however it was decided not to commit them but to retain them to stay in the vitally needed defence of Tobruk.  Elsewhere on June 8, other Australian, British, Free French and Indian forces invaded the Vichy French-controlled Syria and Lebanon to strategically prevent German intrusion into the Middle East through the Turkish border. Australian forces press through the Vichy French lines, winning the battle for Jezzine, a mountain valley town in advancing on Beirut.

The 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion took part at the opening of this campaign as their first time in action. They had arrived from Australia in Egypt in May and were moved up through Palestine last month to be in their ready position for the launch of the Syria – Lebanon invasion. Goolwa diggers, Tommy Atkins and Arthur Taylor have now taken part in their first experience of action in warfare. These two young men in A Company were inspired to join up in the 2/3rd after witnessing Lt. Colonel Arthur Blackburn (see graphic) marching his troops into Goolwa earlier this year. Both men were doing their part time compulsory national service training in the local militia troop of the 18th Machine Gun Regiment, so took the opportunity to enlist in the AIF and after making the request, were posted straight into the 2/3rd M.G. Battalion.



Hitler launches an all-out attack on June 22, code name ‘Operation Barbarossa’ on his Axis alliance partner, Russia, by starting the Nazi invasion toward the Soviet Union. German forces capture the Belarus city of Minsk in the first six days

On June 23, Hitler moves to his “Wolf’s Lair” at Rastenburg, East Prussia where he intends to spend much of his time until his planned invasion of Russia is accomplished. Whatever remains of USA neutrality is shredding, as it announces it is freezing German and Italian assets in America.

The war between Russia and Finland flares again, bringing an end to the March 1940 treaty that halted a Russian invasion when Finland ceded some territory to the Soviets to end their intrusion. On June,9 this month (1941), Finland began to mobilise its defences in preparations against any new Russian attack. On the 25th the Soviet Union makes a bombing raid over Helsinki, triggering a state of war between the two countries to resume once more.                     



While working hard on the home-front, the Red Cross circle of Goolwa found ways to raise the spirits of the community while at the same time raising funds in support of the war effort. Such was the case of putting together a show around a mock wedding ceremony and wedding feast, followed by a dance and the departure of newly “married” couple as the grand finale. Local well-known personalities were willingly persuaded to participate in the show which was held in the Goolwa Institute hall on Monday evening, June 3.

The storyline of this mirth-inducing show begins with the groom played by Albert (Dick) Lundstrom, joining into a ceremony of marriage with the blushing ‘bride’, billed as “Miss Regina Georgina Graham” played by Corio Hotel proprietor Reg Graham. The groomsmen were Arnold Minns, Jack (snr.)  Spencer and John Croucher.  “Regina’s” bridesmaids were Bill (W.J.) Armfield, Walter Smith and Arthur Neighbour.  The bride’s parents were Cr. Walter (Watty) Newell and Bert (Hooky) Armfield.  The groom’s parents were Methodist Rev. Kuntz and Dan Merrett.  Other members of the wedding party were Dave Ritchie, Charlie Goode, Len Bradfield and Bill Reed. The choir was made up of 14 real girls.  The show packed then in a capacity house and was rounded off with a magnificent supper, then the send-off for the bride and groom - who slipped back in supposedly incognito for the dancing which followed. It was a Goolwa hit, so with a little Red Cross pressure, it has just been repeated in the Currency Creek Hall with equal rave reviews.

Red Cross main street activities regularly held are the Paddy’s Market, being strongly supported by the community on Saturday mornings under the Goolwa Hotel veranda serving also as a great opportunity for friends and relatives to gather and shop and exchange news, views and local gossip.  Generous donations of goods and produce greatly assist the fundraising efforts, as witnessed last Saturday morning when Arthur Maidment of Hindmarsh Island donated a dressed lamb and three large bags of melons and pumpkins to the trading table.

Opportunity also for novelty fundraising like little Miss Heather Cochrane looking smart in her Red Cross uniform decorated in red, white and blue trimmings, accompanied with her small white Pomeranian dog “Chum” wearing a little coat on its back which carried a money collection tin on the side. Heather and “Chum” are making regular appearances in the Cadell Street business centre doing their patriotic duty in raising money for the Red Cross war effort.  

While Goolwa citizens are going about making their contribution to the war effort at home, two more young men have enlisted for active service overseas.  27-year-old Cecil (C.F.) Welsh, who came to work in the local area, hails from Pt. Pirie.  Arthur (A.R.V.) Tuckwell is 20 years of age and a fifth generation of his family to live in the Goolwa area.  Both have chosen to join the 2/AIF.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    



Down at the waterfront, the Highways Department have been carrying out new approach works at the ferry landings on each side of the river and now are cleaning up the sites ready to receive the refitted punt due to return shortly from Morgan. It had been taken away in February last year by the PS WILLIAM RANDELL which brought down a temporary punt to keep the service going in the meantime.

Lying upstream and berthed alongside paddle steamer CAPTAIN STURT, is another steamer recently added to the Goolwa steam fleet.    This is the PS OSCAR W, recently purchased from Murray Shipping Ltd, by Captain Jack Ritchie. Jack had sold the CAPTAIN STURT a few weeks earlier owing to his state of health which would not allow him to undertake the huge job of putting the big steamer into shape.  The OSCAR W is a smaller but powerful craft and is almost ready to go.

Further downstream at the Goolwa barrage, the maintenance staff have been busy removing about a hundred more stop logs from the bays to allow a greater flow of water through to the Mouth. It is hoped that the big steel gantry planned for the Goolwa works to aid quicker, safer and easier log removal and replacement will not be long before it will be delivered. Priorities and shortages have delayed the delivery up till now, but it should not be much longer before we see the big crane on the barrage skyline.



The Goolwa VDC (Home Guard) troop continues to grow in numbers and training under the auspices of the local RSL and Rifle clubs, with Captain Eric Mayne taking care of head office, which is a front room of the old Australasian Hotel.  Eric is in the office daily during business hours and has also recently been formally appointed the Goolwa military recruiting officer.  Eric is a trained, efficient former army officer who runs his office “by the book”. He considered that his work at the office was an extension of his role as an officer of the VDC as well.  To improve the importance of the office he reasoned, it warranted an armed uniformed sentry from the Goolwa VDC who would be rostered to stand guard on the footpath under the veranda at the front entrance.

Quickly, troop members found that a spare couple of hours during the week getting rostered on uniform sentry duty would be credited off the hours required on weekend training parades and so many applied for the duty.  One such VDC member who volunteered for guard duty was the well-known jovial town butcher, a free-wheeling character whose shop was located a few doors down from the office alongside the Corio Hotel.

“Butch” the butcher turned up for his first guard duty. After drawing his rifle from the store, Captain Mayne detailed the military etiquette and style required of him during his watch, then returned to his office. He left Butch standing in the ‘at ease’ position, holding his rifle in the correct manner. All went well for a few minutes for the butcher until he began to warm up in his heavy tunic. He did not give a hoot for spit and polish style in little old sleepy Goolwa village, so he unbuttoned his tunic and leaned his rifle against the old pub’s wall. Pulling out a cigarette packet he lit up a smoke, then leaned against the wall alongside his rifle.  

Getting close to time for the changing of the guard, Captain Mayne came out of his office to be confronted with the scene of Butch, by now squatting alongside his rifle with a cigarette between his fingers and a couple of squashed butts around him. Mayne almost screamed at the butcher to stand and pick up his rifle, then began to lecture him on the countless ways he had broken the rules. When the Captain paused to draw breath Butch picked up his rifle, then coming smartly to attention and with military precision he ‘sloped arms’, then formally presented the rifle to the stunned officer telling him, “respectfully sir – stick it up your backside” and walked away from the now speechless officer, returning to his butcher shop to serve his customers. But war or not, life will still go on in the Goolwa village and despite the occasional friction in differences of opinion, VDC volunteer Butch the butcher, and Captain Eric will still share a beer or two in the “Corio” after their daily toils are over.