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War Years Drive Trail, Geraldton to Mullewa

  • Full day
  • 200 km

This 200 kilometre drive trail explores places and stories associated with the military in the City of Greater Geraldton.  Some sites have signage to further illuminate the past.  On others, no trace remains.  Each stopping point on the trail may acknowledge one or more places of significance. ​

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Trail Start

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WWI Memorial, Olive Street, Geraldton which is 415km (4.5 hours) north of Perth.

Trail End

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WWI Fallen Soldiers' Memorial, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Mullewa

The World War I Memorial recognises Private Leonard T. Green and other citizens of the Geraldton district who lost their lives in active service during the Great War.
Private Green passed away in 1918, aged 19, at the 8th Australian General Hospital in Fremantle.
His father, local businessman Frank Green, gifted land to the City of Geraldton in 1960 to be used for recreational purposes and as the site for a memorial.

At a later date, the gifted land was required for development purposes to facilitate traffic management and agreement was reached to exchange the land with the Olive Street Reserve.

The Park was completed in 2018 by the City - 100 years following Leonard’s death - and so a father’s wish to recognise his son was realised.

Image: The interpretive sculpture at this site was inspired by this striking image showing members of a field artillery brigade in Chateau Wood, a portion of one of the battlegrounds
in the Ypres Salient, Belgium, 1916. (Courtesy Australian War Memorial - AWM, EO1220).

The hill at Separation Point was used as the target area by the Geraldton Rifle Volunteer Corps. Established in 1877, the Corps served in the Boer War in 1899 as ‘A’ Company 16th Battalion and was one of the most active in the State. The Corps, later renamed the Geraldton Rifle Club, continued to use the Army rifle range at Separation Point until the late 1940s. During World War II the Army called on local members of the Rifle Club to perform voluntary military roles in the town.

From this site, look south-east to view Back Beach and further in the distance, Mahomets Beach.
Back Beach/Mahomets Beach.

During World War II, Back Beach was covered with barbed wire entanglements, while three timber-lined underground bunkers constructed on the beach were mounted with Vickers machine guns. These bunkers were guarded by sentries, who covered the beach from the southern end of Francis Street to the Surf Club area at Back Beach.

The Geraldton Rifle Volunteers Band was established in 1877, soon after the forming of the Corps. The band was very active, often performing at dances and other social events across the district.

Image: Here the band is present at a blessing of the Corps, most likely at the Fitzgerald Street Rifle Range, c1890s (Courtesy Geraldton Regional Library - GRL, P 851). played an

Point Moore was the location of the Combined Operations Training Centre in 1943 during which time the 30th Infantry Battalion, 44th Infantry Battalion, 18th Forward Regiment, 5th Forward Company, and 101st Mortar Regiment camped and trained here.

It was a restricted area which required a permit for access.
Most of the infantry later saw active service in New Guinea and the training at specialist schools, such as the Geraldton Combined Operations Training Centre, made these units some of the best prepared to be sent overseas.

The Point Moore Lighthouse has been a prominent landmark and important navigation aid on the local coastline since its construction in 1878. Its beam can be seen 26 kilometres out to sea.

Image: This view (c1940) shows the original limestone lighthouse keepers cottages to the left (Courtesy H. Potter, P 650).
I

There were a number of ammunition dumps established around Geraldton during World War II. One was believed to have been located slightly north of the Point Moore Lighthouse, which is how the nearby beach,
called Explosives, was named.

Across the Point, towards the Harbour where the Fishermen’s Wharf is now located was once a popular holiday destination known as the West End Beach. About 40
holiday cottages were constructed at this site from 1937 onwards by Geraldton Beach Camps Ltd.
During World War II many of these
cottages were commandeered for use as accommodation by the Australian Army.

This followed a pattern of commandeering property throughout the town whereby the influx of defence personnel made
accommodation extremely scarce.
Nothing remains of the beach cottages which were demolished after the war, however there are several Norfolk Pines from the camp still located on Marine Terrace near
the silos, despite most of the trees in this area sadly dying from salt inundation when the land was reclaimed.

Image: West End Beach Cottages, 1941 (Courtesy H. Potter, P 655).

During World War II the wharf was a restricted area and was guarded by ‘D’ Company of 19th Garrison Battalion and 7th (Geraldton) Battalion (VDC), with a permit required to access it. Many merchant and war ships used the wharf during this period. One visitor was the schooner USS Lanikai, which in 1941
assisted in the evacuation of Manila after the Japanese air raid, then dodged Japanese forces in the Indian Ocean to reach Fremantle
in 82 days.

Look east towards town.

The 5th Field Company Royal Australian Engineers partially demolished the Durlacher
Street Jetty and the old Esplanade Jetty as part of the west coast defence against an anticipated Japanese invasion. Some of the
wood from the jetties was recycled for use in the construction of gun emplacements and bunkers.

Both the Front and Back Beaches were popular swimming locations for service men and women. Cautionary warnings were circulated amongst the personnel about getting badly sunburned, with it being claimed to be a punishable offence under Air
Force law. Service personnel also ventured out of town to Drummonds Cove and the mouth of the Greenough River to gather crayfish, which were considered a local treat.

Image: West End Beach, 1941 (Courtesy of Buchan Family, P 679).

The Overseas Telecommunications
Commission (OTC) Radio Base Station commenced operations in 1913 as a vital 24-hour communications link with Indian
Ocean shipping. Soon after the outbreak of World War I in 1914, members of the local Citizens Force Guard had moved onto the site to secure the area. They camped in bell style tents near the base of the steel radio mast and maintained an armed guard at the entrances to the OTC Station, which had large aerials located on an adjacent block.

Customs House was constructed by the Commonwealth Government in 1935 to provide improved customs facilities at the port of Geraldton and reflects the growth of both primary and secondary industries in and around Geraldton in the 1920s and
1930s. The place represents ongoing customs facilities in Geraldton since 1865, when the first Customs House was built in Gregory Street.

During World War II, the long-demolished Protestant’s Girls Home in Francis Street, known as “Proddy House” accommodated military personnel. Proddy House was
established in 1921 to provide boarding facilities for country students. With the onset
of World War II, the Home was considered precariously situated between the wharf and the OTC Station and serious consideration
was given to closing it down. Instead the buildings were leased to the Navy and the 40 boarders were relocated to private homes around Geraldton, as well as to Colston House in Augustus Street. The United States Navy headquarters was based in a large commandeered house near the corner of Marine Terrace and Cunningham Street.

Image: Off duty members of the Citizen Force Guard and their army bell tents at the OTC Station, 1914 (Courtesy J.S. Battye Library of WA History, 012668D).

During World War II the Recreation Ground was used occasionally as a campground for the soldiers of the Australian Army and was also the setting for Peace Day celebrations in
1945. Use of this site as a sporting ground during the war varied depending on troop movements in the region. In April 1942 the Geraldton Guardian reported that because so many young men
had been called up for service, Geraldton would have no association football that year. However, the following year, after a huge number of soldiers had moved into the area,
Geraldton boasted 18 teams of some of the fittest young men in Australia.
The player numbers were so great that there were insufficient ovals to hold the teams and many games were directed to outlying areas. Use of this popular sporting ground actually dates back to the early 1860s. Originally constructed in 1938, the old Grandstand
was fully refurbished by the City of Greater Geraldton in 2014.

Image: Cycling race at the
Recreation Ground, c1940 (Courtesy GRL, P 10522).

In early 1931, North-West Fisheries opened Western Australia’s first crayfish cannery at Port Gregory. After about three months, owners Smith and Weedon decided it would
be beneficial to transfer their operations to Geraldton, and by September the business was up and running, in premises previously
known as the “Old Cordial and Cool Drink Factory” on the corner of Gregory and Augustus Streets.
Weedon and Smith’s cannery only operated for perhaps 12 months at the Gregory Street premises before a new cannery was built on the corner of Marine Terrace and Cream Street.

Later named The Redtail Canning and Packing Co Ltd (1933), Sea Coast Canneries of Australia Ltd (1941) and Geraldton Canneries
Ltd (1942-48) the business supplied Army canteens with canned crayfish throughout World War II. This served to increase prices and expose American servicemen stationed in Geraldton and Perth to the product with long-term, positive consequences for the industry.

Over the decade leading up to 1945, the number of licenced fishermen in
the district had increased 148%.
Internment of Italian Fishermen
Australia’s declaration of war on Italy in 1940 had a profound effect on many local fishermen, particularly those of Italian descent. It is recorded that by July the Geraldton Police Office had “arrested and handed over to Military Authorities a total of 136 Italian aliens”. Italians from the Midwest were interned in camps at Harvey and Rottnest Island, and some were sent as far away as Darwin and South Australia. For the Italian fishermen who remained in
Geraldton, many had their fishing boats confiscated and their licences suspended.

Image: Originally built in the 1870’s, the old Trefusis, Chapman & Jose Factory became the premises for Geraldton’s first crayfish cannery in 1931 (Courtesy Trish Parker).

The Geraldton Scout Hall was originally a hospital building within the No. 4 Service Flying Training School at the aerodrome during World War II. At the end of the war
the majority of the 180 buildings were sold at auction, with many of the huts ending up as storage sheds on properties throughout the district.
This building was purchased by the Geraldton Scout Committee for £60. To relocate the building, it was cut in half, transported to this site on a low loader which was temporarily mobilised in Geraldton, placed on stumps, and then rejoined.

Look across road to the Geraldton Primary School.

In early 1942, community volunteers
constructed a public air raid shelter in the grounds of the school in response to a Government directive. There were several public shelters around town and local residents were instructed which shelter they should attend in case of an air attack. In
addition, many people built and equipped air raid shelters at their own properties. During the war, school students dug metre deep
slit trenches around the school yard
perimeter with shovels they had brought from home. The trenches were dug in zig zag patterns to minimize potential damage from blasts. The students were advised that in the event of a blast, they should put a peg between their teeth to prevent teeth breaking and to equalise the pressure in their eardrums.

Image: Graduation Parade at No. 4
Service Flying Training School RAAF, showing relatives and friends in the foreground, 20 August 1943. Many of the buildings in the background were relocated and repurposed after the war concluded (Courtesy AWM, 056107).

St Francis Xavier Cathedral was designed by the priest and architect Monsignor John Hawes, and is generally regarded as one of his finest works. Monsignor Hawes and his volunteer parishioners commenced work on the Cathedral in June 1916, under very constrained financial circumstances brought
about by World War I. The first stage of the Cathedral, consisting of
the west towers and the nave, was officially blessed in August 1918. However, the Cathedral was not finally completed until 1938.

The Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows is located in the subterranean crypt below the High Altar. Monsignor Hawes designed it to be: “A Special Votive Offering in reparation to Our
Lady of Sorrows and a Perpetual Memorial of our Catholic Soldiers of Australia who have fallen in the Great War”. Monsignor Hawes raised funds by entitling
the donors of not less than ten shillings to nominate the name of a fallen soldier to be inscribed on memorial tablets in the crypt.
Tours of the St Francis Xavier Cathedral are available. Tickets can be purchased at the Monsignor Hawes Heritage Centre. For more
information, contact 9937 9504.

Image: The Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, 2018 (Courtesy Father Robert Cross).

The Geraldton Drill Hall Complex, comprising the Drill Hall, Q-Store and former Parade Ground, is very significant for its association
with the establishment of Colonial militia forces in the district following the departure of Imperial British forces from the Australian colonies in 1870. The original limestone
building was constructed for the Geraldton Rifle Volunteer Corps in 1892. At this time the building was much larger, with stables adjoining the west elevation. Stone foundations of this structure are still evident at the rear of the building.

On the 4th August 1914, just six days
after the British declaration of war against Germany, young men from across the district eagerly queued at the Drill Hall to join the First Geraldton Contingent of the Overseas Expeditionary Force. Some 28 young men were selected. Included in the First Geraldton
Contingent was Roy Thompson and his brother, Claude. Roy enlisted on 15th August 1914 aged 19 years, embarking from Fremantle with Roy,
on the 2nd November 1914 aboard the HMAT Ascanius (HMAT - His Majesty’s Australian Transport).

Both Roy and Claude were photographed along with the 11th Battalion at the Great Pyramid of Giza. Roy survived the original landing at Anzac Cove only to lose his life just a few short days later, when he was killed in action on 2nd May 1915. Sgt. Roy Thompson is commemorated on the Lone
Pine Memorial located at Gallipoli. Private Claude Thompson returned to Australia on 5th February 1918.
Roy had been a keen musician before the War and his bugle had travelled with him. His bugle returned to Australia with Claude and
incredibly many years later, made it’s way back to Geraldton where it is now played each year at the Anzac Day Dawn Service.

Image: Studio photograph of Sgt.
Roy Thompson (Courtesy AWM, H06587).

Now home to the Geraldton Regional Art Gallery, the Town Hall was an important venue where many civic functions were held including ‘Farewell’ and ‘Welcome Home’ celebrations as well as fundraising events, particularly during World War I. The town’s
first Anzac Day Service was held at the Town Hall on Tuesday 25th April 1916. A Krupp Field gun and trench mortar, both probably captured by Geraldton men of the 10th Light Horse in Palestine during
World War I, were allocated to the Geraldton Town Council in 1922 by the State Trophy Committee. These trophy guns were displayed
on the lawn outside the Town Hall for many years, until they were removed around 1960 when Anzac Terrace was being developed.

During World War II, the Town Hall was known as the ‘Returning Place’ because soldiers and airmen sometimes ‘borrowed’ bikes from
locals if they had missed the bus back to the airport base at the weekend. Military trucks
subsequently returned the bikes here. Dances and other major social events, such as the Air Force Concert, continued to be held at the
Town Hall during World War II.

Across the road is the facade of the old Druid's Hall.

Image opposite: American Navy personnel and local residents at the Geraldton Town Hall during World War II, c1942 (Courtesy C.R.
Smitty (U.S. Army) and Stan Gratte, P 1144).

With the large number of defence personnel based in the area, Geraldton’s town centre boomed.
The eight hotels in Geraldton
flourished, while the many military bands in town produced a gala atmosphere with their afternoon practice sessions. Occasionally huge military parades would march through the town; one parade
comprised 2000 military vehicles.
The Strand Café, which is now Champion House was a coffee lounge which was very popular with soldiers, and was noted for its
steak and eggs.

An Army wet canteen operated from the shop that is now a pharmacy on Marine Terrace. At one stage it only sold the locally brewed Globe Beer, which was not at all popular with
the visiting servicemen, causing them to flock to the pubs that sold Swan Beer. The building was sandbagged to prevent bomb damage. Brady and Cobley’s Garage, which operated on the site of the present Batavia Park on the
corner of Marine Terrace and Durlacher Street, was forced to close in 1942 when all the employees enlisted. During the period of the war the building was occupied by the Military Police. The business reopened at the end of the war
and operated for another 50 years.

Image: Troops of the 25th Australian
Cavalry Regiment (AIF) approach the saluting base during a march past, Marine Terrace, 1943 (Courtesy AWM, 051529).

The Courthouse building became the central hub for plane spotting by the Volunteer Air Observer Corps during World War II. The Corps was based on a system used in Britain and
incorporated a telephone network linking observation and control posts. An observer post was first established in the foyer of Birdwood House where observers, recruited
from all walks of life, provided 24-hour coverage.

The Reporting Centre was later moved to the upper storey of the Mechanics Institute Library. When it was decided to separate the Control
Room, it was relocated to the Courthouse building, initially on the ground floor and then on the upper
floor. The room was equipped
with a large plotting table covered in an area map while models of various aircraft hung from the roof to aid in identification. Tracking boards and blackboards were used to record
actual and projected movements of aircraft. As activities increased two RAAF officers were appointed; one full time at the control room and the other travelling through the region
encouraging and training observers.

In 1942, the RAAF established No.1 Spotting Station WT Post near Turtle Bay on East Wallabi in the Abrolhos Islands, including the first airstrip. This was manned constantly by
staff and cadets from the No. 4 Service Flying Training School until March 1943. The RAAF
also established spotting stations at Port Gregory, South Greenough and Yuna. Duties included coast watching and patrolling, while
radio contact with Geraldton twice a day.

Image: View of Geraldton looking
down Durlacher Street, 18th October 1941, with HMAS Sydney II believed to be at anchor in Champion Bay on her last visit to Geraldton.
(Courtesy Willock family, P 829).

Birdwood House, built in 1935, was one of the earliest known purpose-built Returned and Services League (RSL) halls in Western Australia. It is still used as the headquarters for Geraldton’s RSL and houses a
significant collection of military memorabilia. For more
information, contact 9964 1520.

Spotting of planes and boats by the Volunteer Air Observers Corp was
first conducted here in 1942 when a military observation post was
established in the foyer. From sunset to sunrise three or four people
would pace the lawns watching for aircraft. The observation posts later moved to the Mechanics’ Institute, the Soldier’s Institute, and finally the Courthouse building. Birdwood House was also used as an
entertainment and meals centre for the army, where local women volunteered in the kitchen
to provide meals for defence personnel.

The unveiling of the War Memorial and opening of Birdwood House on the corner of Eleanor (Chapman Rd) and Forrest Streets was held on the 1st September 1935. A commemorative plaque installed on the Wall of Remembrance in 2004 recognises the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander servicemen and women.

Image: Field Marshall Sir William
Birdwood (holding hat and coat), who
commanded the ANZAC Corps at Gallipoli and after whom the building was named, visited in 1937 and was presented with a gold key and Freedom of Birdwood House. He is
seen here with the RSL Committee (Courtesy Geraldton RSL).

Geraldton’s third Railway Station was opened for traffic on the 13th June 1915. This new building replaced Geraldton’s second Railway Station - a timber station and infrastructure which had opened in 1894 and was located on Marine Terrace (opposite the Government Buildings, present day Courthouse). Always a place for greetings and goodbyes, recruitment piper, John Wayland, was known to ceremoniously pipe-off locals as they left town to join the armed forces throughout the course of World War I.

During World War II, the railway station was the centre of a constant stream of trucks, troops and supplies, with military police directing traffic. At this time the privately owned Midland Railway Company of WA (MRWA) operated three categories of military trains: RAAF leave trains, army pack trains and army leave trains. The trains were notoriously slow, sometimes taking 24 hours to travel the 400km between Perth and Geraldton, and were so uncomfortable they had a reputation as having square wheels.

Doug Brenkley recalls: “Late August 1937, Christian Brothers College kids were waiting at the Geraldton Railway Station to catch the train to go home for the school holidays. Field Marshall Sir William Birdwood was visiting. He came over to the school truck asking who was the youngest boy on the truck. It happened to be me, so he gave me a box of chocolate frogs - these were quickly devoured with one for everyone on the truck”.

Image: Geraldton Railway Station, not dated (Courtesy Tracy Budd, P 707).

The loss of HMAS Sydney II was Australia’s greatest naval tragedy. The HMAS Sydney II Memorial is a Military Memorial of National Significance dedicated to the memory of 645 men who lost their lives during the engagement with HSK Kormoran off the WA coast on 19th November 1941.

The Memorial was dedicated on 18th November 2001, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the sinking. It overlooks the Indian Ocean in which HMAS Sydney II was lost. The wreck was located in March 2008 off the coast of Shark Bay. The Memorial is a special place of contemplation and reflection, consisting of six symbolic concepts: The Dome of Souls, The Waiting Woman, The Wall of Remembrance, The Stele, The Pool of Remembrance and The Eternal Flame.

The Memorial project was originally initiated by the Rotary Club of Geraldton in 1998, with many other community groups contributing to it’s progress over the years. Design of the Memorial and all it’s elements was by Smith Sculptors. The Geraldton Volunteer Tour Guides provide a tour of the Memorial every day. More information is available from the Geraldton Visitor Centre. Also visit Museum of Geraldton for HMAS Sydney II and HSK Kormoran displays. To contact the Museum of Geraldton, phone 9431 8393.

Image: HMAS Sydney II berthed at the Geraldton wharf, 1937, with crew on deck (Courtesy Dennis Jarvis, P 7136).

The 19th Garrison Battalion was composed of companies from Albany, Busselton, Bunbury and Geraldton. In 1942 they were camped in tents on Eastern Road and at Moonyoonooka, and in the hollow behind George Road, where there was a Field Kitchen, mess and other army facilities. Caterpillar itch caused by the prickle bush and wattle growing in the area was a common problem.

At the top of Snowden Street the 19th Garrison Battalion Signals Group operated an underground telephone exchange from a room dug into Mt Scott. The room was completely lined with sleepers and connected to the outside of the hill by a sleeper-lined tunnel. The exchange was linked to all units, battalion headquarters and also to the Geraldton Post Office located in Marine Terrace.

In February 1943, operations commenced at the No. 47 RDF (Radar Station) near Boronia Avenue, south of Waverly Heights. The radar had the ability to monitor 160 nautical miles for signs of enemy aircraft or shipping, and also monitored trainees to ensure safe flying practice. The operations complex on top of the hill were camouflaged, fenced and guarded, and comprised of the Operations Room and radar equipment, which was called ‘The Doover’. Some of the houses along Queen, Durlacher and Gertrude Streets which were commandeered for personnel are still used as residences. A full account of the history of the 47 RDF (Radar) has been compiled by Doug Brenkley.

Image: ‘The Doover’ (Courtesy of Doug Brenkley)

Early in 1942 two United States 6 inch naval guns were emplaced on the hillside between George Road and Eve Street. The Geraldton Fortress Engineer Section was given the task of siting and emplacing two Aust. 90 cm searchlights on the seafront between the guns and the beach. Two timber buildings were erected as fettler sheds next to the railway line in order to disguise the light. The firing of the guns in practice caused considerable damage to nearby commandeered houses, most of which needed extensive repair before being returned to the owners in 1945.

The Geraldton Coast Battery was manned by Gunners and Fortress Engineers until early 1943 when it was handed over to trained Volunteer Defence Corps personnel. The Fortress was dismantled in 1944, when the guns were returned to the US Navy.

First Bluff Point Scout Hall - This building was originally used at the Geraldton Aerodrome during World War II as accommodation for the No. 4 Service Flying Training School. After the base was no longer required, the majority of the buildings were sold at auction in mid 1947 dismantled and then began a new life as work and storage sheds on many properties in the district.

Bluff Point Lighthouse Keepers Cottage - Built in 1876, the Bluff Point Lighthouse played an important role in the early days of shipping in and out of Champion Bay. Enrolled Pensioner Guard, John Kelly (pictured with his wife Anna Fox) was appointed Lighthouse Keeper on 1st May 1876, at a salary of £70 per year. Now home to the Geraldton Historical Society, the Museum holds many photographs, stories and ephemera relating to the history of the war years in Geraldton. For more information phone 9923 1837.

Image: John and Anna Kelly (nee Fox) (Courtesy Geraldton Historical Society).

Run by the Congregation of the Sisters of Nazareth, Nazareth House was designed by the Priest Architect Monsignor John Hawes and completed in 1941 with the intention of housing child migrants sent from Britain. However, during the War it became unsafe to transport children and Nazareth House opened its doors to destitute and orphaned local children, as well as aged and infirm people. From 1947 it housed children from Britain and Malta, many of whom had been uprooted by the war in Europe.

A number of these child migrants were also sent out to the Tardun Farm School. Tardun Farm School was run by the Christian Brothers from 1928 as a Home where boys would learn farm skills. Tardun Farm School closed in 1967 but remained open as an agricultural boarding school where some children were placed by the departments responsible for child welfare. Tardun closed at the end of 2008.

Image: Nazareth House, c1950 (Courtesy Lesley Blakeney, P 793).

In early 1942 the Army set up tents on two acres of farmland surrounding this site and as many as 500 men were accommodated here. This small camp also contained Bren gun carriers which were used in a mock war called the Robber Baron Exercise involving the 2nd and 4th Infantry divisions defending Geraldton. The mock war, which lasted six days and aimed to teach survival skills was one of several large training exercises held in the early years of the war.

Look towards the coast and north.

Army Training areas, Drummond Cove and Glenfield Sandhills located to the immediate north of Drummond Cove were used as a live firing range for small arms, while Glenfield was one of the most utilised anti-tank, artillery and mortar training areas in the Geraldton region during World War II. A large amount of exploded ordnance across several impact areas has been found in the area over the years.

Image: Manoeuvres carried out by the 2nd and 4th Australian Divisions included the defending forces capturing an enemy tank (represented by Bren Gun Carrier), 1942 (Courtesy Australian War Memorial, 028679).

This building was constructed in 1960 by the Wonthella Progress Association with funds raised by the local community as well as from the Airforce Association. It is known as a memorial hall in memory of the RAAF members who lost their lives during World War II.

The hall became the social centre for the Wonthella community, which used it for social occasions, meetings and sports such as badminton and squash. Later the building housed Geraldton’s first television station (GTW 11) and in 2001 was converted into a furniture store.

Image: Wonthella Memorial Hall (c1960)

A dedicated Indigenous War Memorial Wall and Fountain at Bundiyarra Aboriginal Corporation honours the Indigenous men and women who served their country in wars throughout the past 100 years. One family of particular significance is the Mallard family, of which ten of its members have served in the Australian forces since World War I. Five Aboriginal women from the Mid West served time in the defence forces.

Geraldton man David Burns was so inspired by the war
service of local Aboriginal people that he handcrafted re-creations of each medal and award won by the servicemen, and inscribed more than 150 names in a glass-framed memorial plaque. The plaque was unveiled in 2015 at Bundiyarra’s Camp Gallipoli event by Burns, RSL President Ross Davies, and Vietnam Veteran and Wilunyu Elder Graham Taylor.

To organise a visit or for more information, contact Bundiyarra Aboriginal Corporation, Eastward Road, Geraldton: 9920 7900.

The Geraldton War Cemetery is a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery which honours those who lost their lives in Western Australia while serving with the Australian Armed Services during World War II. It contains 83 burials, comprising 41 Australian Army and 42 RAAF personnel. Many of the RAAF died in air training accidents. The deceased include 22 airmen who were killed in four separate accidents near Geraldton in 1943; in one of the accidents, eight men were killed when their Beaufort A9/173 crashed east of Yetna.

The Cemetery also contains the grave of the unknown sailor from the HMAS Sydney II. The cemetery was officially opened in October 1950, although the first burial occurred in December 1942. The cemetery is the final resting place of Private (Pte.) John Adams, who is believed to have been the only man born and enlisted in WA to be killed by enemy action in the state during World War II. Pte. Adams was a dairy farmer from the Swan Valley who was only 19 years old when he died during the fi rst of three Japanese attacks on Port Hedland in 1942. He was deployed with the 29th Garrison Battalion, which were stationed in tents near the Port Hedland airfield.

Early on the morning of July 30th, when the first bombs fell, Pte Adams sought shelter under his bunk bed. A 60kg daisy cutter bomb exploded about 10m from the tent, sending up a mountain of earth and red-hot metal, including a piece of shrapnel that ripped through the tent, hitting Pte. Adams in the head and killing him instantly. A military funeral was held on the same afternoon. Pte. Adams was buried in the Port Hedland Cemetery, but was re-interred to the Geraldton War Cemetery after the war.

Image: Geraldton War Cemetery

Early in World War II, 65 local residents, mostly of Italian descent, were taken into custody after Australia declared war on Italy in June 1940. Western Command pointed out that the Italians in Geraldton produced most of the tomatoes in the state and recommended that 30 of the internees be released immediately - advice that was accepted. Despite the release of the internees, tomato and vegetable farmers faced shortages of labour.

The Department of the Army insisted that 50% of the grower’s consignment be sold to the military. This was an advantage to the growers as the fruit did not have to be sun ripened and the tomatoes did not have to be packed according to size. About this time a pulp factory was established at Bluff Point, but labour was so scarce the Australian National League despatched a number of young women to the district to pick and pack tomatoes. Local children were also requested to volunteer at tomato gardens in the Woorree area as part of the war eff ort. By June 1943 the lucrative factory had closed due to shortages of labour.

Image: Workers on George Allen’s tomato farm, c1935. George Allen was one of the largest tomato growers in the district during World War II. The majority of his sharegardeners were Italians, Macedonians, Greeks and Yugoslavs (Courtesy Allen family, P 1184).

The No. 4 Service Flying Training School was based at the Geraldton Aerodrome from 1940 to 1944. The school provided intermediate and advanced pilot training on the twin-engined Avro Ansons over a 16 week period. At one stage there were 1,572 personnel at the school, housed in rows of huts, including 178 WAAAF and four nurses. Personnel included radio operators, flight mechanics, clerks, cooks, motor transport drivers, storekeepers, wireless and telegraph operators, and sick quarter attendants.

Group Captain Norman Brearley came out of aviation retirement to assume the role of Commanding Officer of the school. He was later knighted for his contribution to aviation and the Geraldton Air Terminal, from where Australia’s first air service was flown, recognises Brearley, being renamed Brearley Terminal in 1979. By the time the school closed in 1944, over 2,000 trainees had completed an integral part of their training at the base. At the end of the War there was a large pile of decommissioned Avro Ansons stacked upon each other near Narngulu.

Image: Group Captain Brearley inspecting air crew trainees at No. 4 Service Flying Training School, Geraldton, 1943 (Courtesy Australian War Memorial, 056118).

The Greenough Museum and Gardens holds many stories about the area and the people who have lived in the district. This beautifully restored homestead was built between 1862 and 1880 for John and Elizabeth Maley. One such person with a special connection to the old Maley homestead was Fanny Isabella Hamersley. Fanny served with the Australian Army Nursing Service during World War I. Born in Guildford in 1884, Fanny grew up at “Fairfield” in Walkaway.

Fanny enlisted in 1915 and served in England and France, not returning home until 1919. Fanny married Septimus Frank Maley (youngest son of John and Elizabeth Maley) and they went to live in a war service home at Three Springs. Frank Maley was also a World War I veteran, having enlisted in October 1914. Frank served with the 10th Regiment 3rd Light Horse Brigade across many sites of conflict, including Gallipoli.

More information can be obtained by contacting the Greenough Museum and Gardens: 9926 1890.

Drive east along Georgina Road

During World War II, in an attempt to alleviate the dust problem at the main airfield and to give No. 4 Service Flying Training School trainees experience at other fields, a series of landing strips was established in the region. The Georgina landing strip was bounded by Georgina Road and Edward Road, and supported 20 Avro Ansons with ground and air crew billeted in nearby tents.

Image: Greenough Museum and Gardens

Image: Greenough Museum and Gardens (Courtesy GRL).

In World War II the platform of the Walkaway Railway Station was used as an observation post for Voluntary Air Observation Corps, as part of a regional observation network. At the peak of operations there were 150 observation posts in the region using a wide variety of observers, including station and farm owners, country storekeepers and post masters. This provided for 24-hour coverage using telephone facilities which in many cases were a party line. Each post was equipped with binoculars which were used as night glasses after sunset. RAAF officers trained observers in aircraft recognition, cloud identification, weather
reporting, use of telephones, radios, plotting tables and emergency procedures for planes experiencing navigational problems.

Observers were also trained how to determine the speed of an aircraft, how to estimate the potential destination of a bomb, once dropped during passage of an aircraft, and how to create and maintain log book entries and air flash procedures. The Walkaway Station Museum also displays a World War I hammered copper Roll of Honour Board 1914 - Irwin and Greenough Districts, which was funded by the community and installed in 1918 before the cessation of the War. For more information about the Museum, contact: 9926 1976.

Image: Farming country near Walkaway (Courtesy Trish Parker).

The Walkaway Hall was opened by the Hon R.W. Pennefather, attended by the Geraldton Temperance Brass Band, on 22nd October 1901. It served as a centre for social functions for many years and was the venue for dances, concerts, flower shows, weekly Catholic Mass, Anglican services, the Oddfellows Lodge, Police and Citizens, and Country Women’s Association meetings. In 1920 the front porch section of the hall was added in memory of those who fought in World War I. A memorial plaque on the building reads: “This stone was laid by Mrs M.J. Logue on 3rd day of January 1920 to commemorate the termination of the Great War 1914-18.” In 1983 the Walkaway Recreation Hall was opened and the old hall fell into disuse until 1991 when a small group of volunteers restored the building for the benefit of the local community.

Image: Walkaway Memorial Hall and Plaque (Courtesy Tanya Henkel).

Early in World War II many families evacuated Geraldton to avoid the danger of a Japanese air raid, with some making their way to inland farming properties. They often encountered food shortages, overcrowding and the lack of the comforts of home; some families having to make their temporary homes in farm sheds. Most evacuees returned to Geraldton within a couple of months. The pastoral and agricultural sectors suffered severe shortages of manpower when farmers were occupied in the services or Volunteer Defence Corps, and women, youths and older men often ran the farms in their absence.

Others, keen to enlist, were turned away due to labour controls or manpower regulations put in place by the Government. Soldiers undertook field exercises throughout the district, and it was commonplace to see long caterpillar lines of soldiers appearing in farm paddocks as they trained.

Image: Randolph Stow’s experiences in the Midwest during World War II, including evacuating to inland stations for periods of time with his family, form the basis of his famous novel The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea (Courtesy GRL, P 9597).


Italian stonemason Enrico Boschetti (shown left in image) worked for many years with Monsignor John Hawes. Boschetti had emigrated from Italy in 1929, and despite living an exemplary life in Australia, he was twice interned during World War II. Father Gallagher unsuccessfully petitioned the government to release Boschetti from internment to allow him to continue working as a builder. When the war ended, Boschetti went on to be a highly respected stone mason and builder in the Midwest. During World War II, the 104 Tank-attack Regiment was based throughout the Kojarena area.

The four batteries that were stationed at Kojarena in 1943 were withdrawn the following year and returned to Sydney. A satellite landing strip was built to the north near Yanget Homestead for the No 4. Service Flying Training School, and proved successful because it was not as dusty as Geraldton or Georgina. Squadrons based at Kojarena were involved in the sea patrols trying to locate the missing HMAS Sydney II in November 1941. The following March, a damaged American B17 bomber from Netherlands East Indies landed on the airstrip. United States technicians were flown in to repair the aircraft, and 10 days later it flew on to Victoria via Ceduna. The remains of three Splinter Proof Shelters, or protected bays for planes, on the western side of the field site, can still be seen from the Geraldton/Mullewa Road.

Rita Stinson (nee Patten) recalls: “There was a military camp on the small farm owned by George and Edith Patten and at the time Edith was on her own as George was in Broome on Army duty. Soldiers would visit the farmhouse but never go beyond the yard gate. Edith gave them fresh eggs and they loved talking to the couple’s four small children. They also utilised a large Xanthorrhoea (grass tree) for bayonet practice and this tree was still on the farm many years later”.

The 11th Battalion Living History Unit recreated a living Gallipoli Trench, which was opened in November 2016. Leane’s Trench is a replica of a captured Turkish trench as taken by the 11th Battalion AIF in 1915, and is named for the commander who led the attack, Captain R.L. Leane. It is complete with authentic paraphernalia of war and is used for re-enactments, including sound systems to help create an authentic atmosphere. Information on Open Days is available on the 11th Battalion AIF Living History Unit webpage.

Image: Re-enactments on site at Leane’s Trench (Courtesy 11th Battalion Living History Unit)

The Eradu Bridge provides rare existing evidence of World War II army activities in the region. Two of the bridge’s concrete pillars still contain holes drilled by Army engineers in which charges could be laid for bridge demolition in the case of a Japanese invasion.

Image: Eradu Railway Bridge

The 25th Machine Gun Regiment was based at the Woolya Reserve and used the Tenindewa School building, which had recently closed, as a canteen for the soldiers camped there. In the far north east corner of the reserve, at the base of a steep hill, the remnants of a small rifle range are still evident, while formations of stone have been made on the ground to mark the officers’ camps. Also in the area, the RAAF built a landing strip for the No. 4 Service Flying Training School on Norman Fry’s farm, and air raid shelters were dug out beside the railway line with railway sleepers forming the roof, although the shelters were never used.

Doreen Lindsey (nee Butler) recalls: “Our lives completely changed into a nightmare of convoys, aeroplanes and fear. The war had begun and our fields were nothing but aerodrome, aeroplanes and army trucks. Our peace and joy had gone. The soldiers occupied all the land behind the shop and around the school.”

Image: Old Tenindewa Store, Post Office and Telephone Exchange

The Mullewa Sub-Branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia was formed in 1922 and constructed the Memorial Hall in 1938. The Hall displays the District Honour Board with the names of over 70 soldiers from the district who enlisted during World War I. In the forecourt, the War Memorial is a simple granite obelisk; the ANZAC mural of silhouetted soldiers, created in 2009, provides a backdrop to the memorial.

Image: Mullewa RSL War Memorial and Mural

The pine poles with platinum engraved plates were produced and erected in 2015 by the Mullewa Men’s Shed to represent the 24 fallen Mullewa soldiers from World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War and are placed along the Monsignor Hawes Walk Trail.

Image: Ned Ridley's camel, with Casualty Clearing Station soldiers, Monk, Duncan and Senins.

The priest-architect Monsignor John Hawes crafted the unique World War I Memorial in 1928 in memory of those who died in the war. The Memorial sits in the grounds of the magnificent Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Image: Detail from the Fallen Soldiers' Memorial, Mullewa
Logo for Leave no Trace Initiative

Trails WA supports the seven principles recommended by Leave No Trace Australia for minimising your impacts when using the trails.

Learn more

Geraldton has had a long association with the military and war, beginning as early as 1629 when a brave group of soldiers rose against the mutineers of the shipwrecked Batavia.

“Geraldtonians” have continued to serve their country in the various theatres of war.  However, it was World War II that brought long-lasting change to the City and surrounding district. When Australia joined WW II, sections of Geraldton and a large portion of the countryside were commandeered for war purposes. At this time Geraldton only had a resident population of 5000, but a large military personnel contingent rapidly became established in the region.

The sinking of HMAS Sydney II off Shark Bay in November 1941 came as a huge shock for the entire country and today a Military Memorial of National Significance commemorates the memory of the 645 men who lost their lives during the engagement with HSK Kormoran off the WA coast.

Geraldton Visitor Centre

Other Links

  • War Years Drive Trail Booklet

    Downloadable PDF of drive trail booklet

  • Geraldton Regional Library

    Further information on the history of the Midwest is available from the Local History Collection at the Geraldton Regional Library.

  • Museum of Geraldton

    Additional information about the shipwreck of the Batavia and the sinking of the HMAS Sydney II.

  • Greenough Museum and Gardens

    Located in a beautifully restored two storey house alongside Maley's Mill 19km south of Geraldton just off the Brand Highway the Greenough Museum offers an insight into a bygone era.

  • Walkaway Station Museum

    The Walkaway Station Museum is an impressive museum which will be of great interest to any rail enthusiast or historian. Wander through the beautiful old railway station building to visualise how the station would have operated in the late 1800s.

  • Bluff Point Lighthouse Keepers Cottage

    Museum operated by the Geraldton Historical Society.

  • HMAS Sydney II Memorial Geraldton

    Information about the Memorial, how it started, who designed and built it, image galleries of the individual components that make up the Memorial including symbolism, original sketch designs,their constructed, installation on site and dedication services.

  • Bundiyarra Aboriginal Community Aboriginal Corporation

    Community organisation.

  • Tenindewa.com

    Stories and history from a small Mid West town.

  • 11th Battalion AIF Living History Unit Inc

    Based in Geraldton, Western Australia, 400kms north of Perth, 11th Battalion Living History Unit is a living history and commemorative group dedicated to researching and representing Western Australia's first and finest Battalion.

  • Monsignor John Hawes

    Discover the extraordinary life and times of Monsignor John Hawes Architect - Priest - Horseman - Sculptor - Poet - Artist - Hermit

  • Geraldton City RSL

    Headquarters of the Geraldton RSL and Museum.

  • Australia’s Coral Coast

    Comprehensive information on the Coral Coast region including destinations, things to see and do, accommodation and tours.


Be trail ready for War Years Drive Trail, Geraldton to Mullewa

Here is everything you need to know before visiting this trail.

Time / Duration

Full day

Length

200km

What To Pack

Group A (Urban trails or short trails near facilities) required.

Trail Start

WWI Memorial, Olive Street, Geraldton which is 415km (4.5 hours) north of Perth.

Get directions

Trail End

WWI Fallen Soldiers' Memorial, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Mullewa

Get directions

Facilities

Wheelchair access may be limited at some stops due to rough terrain.
Outside of Geraldton, there are rest facilities and toilets at Greenough, Ellendale Pool, Walkaway and Mullewa.
  • Access with assistance for the Disabled
  • BBQ Facilities
  • Camping
  • Car Park
  • Lookouts
  • Parking for Disabled
  • Picnic Area
  • Public Telephone
  • Public Toilet
  • Shaded Area
  • Sheltered Area
  • Shop
  • View Platform
  • Visitor Information Centre

Best time of year

April - October

Fees

Fees for camping at Ellendale Pool.

Trail Access

Air, road or bus to Geraldton

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