What was happening in Goolwa in July 1940?

Goolwa goes to war again 1939-1945 - by Frank Tuckwell

July 1940

With Italy throwing its lot in with Germany last month, the war in Europe and Africa has now considerably widened with the British clashing with Italian forces in north African territories.The Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney attached to the British Mediterranean fleet during this month, has been in action shelling onshore Italian military targets at Bardia and in clashes with Italian naval vessels at sea, inflicting considerable damage and receiving some light damage itself after two Italian light cruisers were engaged and sunk. The cruiser is currently undergoing a refit at Alexandria.

The Sydney made a visit to Victor Harbor in March last year. The warship lay at anchor in the bay north of Granite Island from Wednesday March 29 to Friday afternoon March 31. During its stay, a party of ship’s officers visiting Goolwa were taken on an inspection tour over the barrage construction site.

Britain has been strongly criticised for signing an agreement recently with Japan to close the Burma Road to traffic carrying munitions for the Chinese forces fighting against invading Japanese. The U.S. Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, strongly opposed the British decision. In what may be a warning to the United States in reply, a message from Tokyo was issued stating that the Japanese government is of the opinion that friction with the USA is inevitable, and that it favours an alliance with Germany and Italy.

The Luftwaffe is continuing its bombing of some coastal and military targets in England and now Germans control the British Channel Islands. Britain has recognised General Charles de Gaulle as the Free French leader resulting in a week later July 5, the German-controlled French Vichy government breaking off relations with Britain. On July 10, the ‘Battle of Britain’ begins with Luftwaffe attacks on airfields, Channel shipping and two days later, targets in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.It now appears that a German invasion attempt on Britain is imminent.

Back on the home-front, Lloyd Bedford of north Goolwa married Miss Silva Rothe in the local Anglican Church on the 20th of this month. He then enlisted in the 2/AIF on the 30th and rushed off to war, while his wife Silva went back to her job as Chef at the Hotel Adelaide in the city. Jack Green, member of the RAAF in training at the Exhibition Camp in Adelaide, has paid a brief visit to his hometown staying with his parents, Frank and Alice Green at their Goolwa Hotel.

The Australian federal Government back in September 1939 had planned two major changes to the nation’s military forces. The regular army and the volunteer militia at that time were prohibited under the federal constitution from being committed into action outside of Australia or its territories, unless it was a regular army unit comprising entirely of volunteers. The federal government passed a bill to set up such a unit with Prime Minister Robert Menzies on September 15, 1939, announcing the formation of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) with an opening call for volunteers to join it for overseas active service. This unit was modelled on the AIF volunteer force by which Australians fought during WW1, now to become known as the 2/AIF. The other change would be made to the defence act by re-introducing conscription for home-land defence militia for all medically fit adults of military age. The newly conscripted unit which came into being from January 1st of this year, replaces the former volunteer militia, which is now redundant and will use the former unit’s training depot in the old Australasian Hotel.

There would now be a need for another volunteer force, apart from the other regular and part-time conscript militia units, but formed for the local defence needs and to provide an opportunity for men to serve in some way who were beyond military service age, in reserved occupations or medically rejected for active service. This force is for local home defence to be generally known as the volunteer defence corps or home guard. At this time this unit is being organised by any of the local RSL clubs around the nation. These are to be called the RSL Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) in the various towns or districts from whence they are formed.

In a statement released on July 20, the State secretary of the RSL stated that with more than 1200 enrolments in the RSL VDC force this week, the total membership in SA has risen to 6,200. Other enrolments in hand would probably bring the total to 6,500. The allotment of officers to this command of various area battalions of the Defence Corps was announced on July 20, with Lieutenant-Colonel H.M. Parsons, 27th Battalion area commander covering Goolwa, Victor Harbor, Yankalilla, Strathalbyn, McLaren Vale, Meadows and Mt Barker.

The Goolwa sub-Branch in concert with the other RSL clubs have made all arrangements for regular weekly parades as a unit of the RSL VDC. Leaders have been appointed and a tentative program has been mapped out.Indoor night-time assemblies will be held in the Institute hall with week-end parades and drills etc., being held on the Goolwa Primary School assembly and sports area in the school grounds. Other active field training activities will be carried out elsewhere in the district.

An incredible wartime effort was being performed by the women of Goolwa’s Red Cross Circle which had only been inaugurated in September last year. During the intervening months, the Circle has raised over 80 Pounds, of which 45 Pounds was contributed to state Red Cross headquarters. The purchase of wool, fabrics and other material with the remainder of the funds were put to good use by members in making up a range of vital products required for the war effort. As a result of local collections, huge parcels of clothing for refugees and old surplus linen were packed and sent to the state Red Cross depot.

To create a regular stream of funds, the Goolwa Circle set up a successful Paddy’s Market last month which has now been established as a regular event being held on the last Friday of each month. Other additional fundraisers are also planned, some will be in concert with other town organisations, including the Fighting Forces Comforts Fund group and other district Red Cross circles. The last group meeting for July was the AGM, when the election of officers for 1940-41 took place, with Mrs W. Cochrane, president; Mrs W. Harris, secretary: Miss Gladys Birchall, assistant secretary and Mrs Bristow-Smith, treasurer.

Ever since 1922, Goolwa has had its own electricity supply owned and set up by Alf (A.L.) Henley. In 1925, after an equipment accident in which Alf was seriously injured, he leased the plant off as a going concern.The plant has just met the demands on its limited output at certain hours of the day, with a battery supply after engine shut down to meet only household lighting needs. Council, as the Company’s biggest customer has found that the town’s needs could no longer be met have been negotiating with the Harbor Electricity Supply Co., to supply and arrange distribution of power and lighting to Goolwa. This month, at the first meeting of the District Council of Pt Elliot’s new term for 1940-41, an agreement was reached between Council and the Harbor Electricity Supply Co., to take over the supply of power and lighting to the towns of Middleton and Goolwa. The Company will immediately begin the process of erecting poles and wires between Victor Harbor and Goolwa, with an estimated switch over of power supply to be completed by October.

A priceless piece of month, as one of the carriages of a train from Adelaide was disconnected and run onto one of the off-line rails close to the wharf. The carriage looked strangely out of place on the old wharf precinct, standing in splendour with its gleaming coachwork, obviously just out of care and storage and awaiting its future service. This was South Australian Railway’s vice-regal Pullman sleeper coach, recently sold off as an obsolete mode of travel in this age of swift, comfortable road and air transport, recently purchased by tender by W. Brown & Sons of Hindmarsh.

The coach was built to order for *SAR by Mann Boudoir Carriage Co of New York in 1878, at a cost of over four thousand Pounds and weighing in excess of 30 tons. In its time it was eminently suitable for the accommodation and transport of royal personages in the days of horse and carriage transport over considerable distances around the colony, and later early state royal tours. During its duty tours it had carried five vice-regal personalities, who in the fullness of time became three kings and two Queens of England; George V and Queen Mary, Edward VIII (abdicated), and George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

The richly panelled mahogany and rosewood interior contains a royal apartment of three bedrooms, kitchen, and a bathroom fitted with German silver wash basins. An observation and dining section completed the whole suite.

A small crowd of locals gathered to watch W. Brown’s big crane lift the carriage off its bogies and slowly swing it over the wharf to where a 90 X 35-foot flat top wooden ex-derrick barge was moored, then lowered it squarely onto its deck. The barge had been purchased by the Brown company at the Goolwa barrage disposal sales in April. Later the complete unit was towed up to the sheltered cove, just upstream of the Goolwa ferry landing. Once connected to the nearby water mains and electricity, it will become the snug home as Mr Brown’s *floating holiday palace.


*Foot note.

The vice-regal carriage boat house was sold by W. Brown & Sons to Mr George Hoskins J.P. in 1946. On purchasing the boat house, Mr Hoskins named it after the 2,933-ton P&O liner RMS MALWA by which he travelled to Australia in March 1909 on the ship’s maiden voyage. By the 1960’s the houseboat had passed through many ownerships until the barge on which the carriage was mounted became sunken and derelict. A Council order to restore or remove the vessel resulted in the whole structure being broken up and removed.

The Mann Boudoir Carriage Co also built several sleeper cars at about the same time as the Royal carriage. These were for the SAR and VR inter-colonial express between Melbourne and Adelaide.

CONTACT frank.tuckwell5214@outlook.com