Strathfield Top Stories Wartime

Wartime in Strathfield

Strathfield-Homebush Rifle Club 1915

Strathfield was an important location for war efforts in Sydney. Many servicemen enlisted at Strathfield.  Strathfield Rail Station was the site of many departures and arrivals during  both the first and second World Wars.

Strathfield War MemorialDuring World War II, property was sought and hired by the Commonwealth Government to assist in both Australia’s defence and general war effort. Properties were acquired under Regulation 54 of the National Security [General Regulations] which stated:

‘if it appears to a Minister to be necessary or expedient to do so in the interests of public safety, the defence of the Commonwealth or the efficient prosecution of the war, or for maintaining supplies and service essential to the life of the community he may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, take possession of any land’….

Under this regulation, sports ovals and parks were acquired as troop accommodation sites and many private properties were hired to accommodate training sites, living quarters, office areas and storage sites.

The Australian Army used Strathfield Park as a military training area during World War II. Freshwater Park was used as an anti-aircraft searchlight station, with service personnel accommodated in a private home in Myee Avenue Strathfield.  On occasion, the Strathfield Town Hall was used to billet soldiers.

The US Army requisitioned land in Madeline Street Belfield and camps were set up during WWII.

According to records held by the National Archives of Australia, many private homes were commissioned by the Army, ‘Springfort’ 108 Redmyre Road Strathfield were commissioned for 1st Division Army headquarters and living quarters. 18 Kingsland Road Strathfield was used by the Bomb Disposal Company as offices and training centre. The house ‘Inveresk’ Coventry Road Strathfield was used as administrative offices for 1 Division Headquarters. The house ‘Avoca’ in Albert Road was used as a camp site for 1st Division Signals. ‘Waitakerei’ Chalmers Road Strathfield was used as troop accommodation for the 104th Anti-Tank Regiment.

It appears that Todman Reserve in Barker Road was used as a parking area for Anti-Tank Regiment.

Jackett’s Flour Mills in Beresford Road Strathfield [now demolished] were hired as an Army Depot for the American Army. The Catholic Institute of Sydney in Albert Road Strathfield was also used by the Army during WWII.

Presbyterian Ladies College [PLC] Croydon was requisitioned by the Australian Army and the school relocated to ‘Lauriston’ The Boulevarde Strathfield during the World War II. ‘Lauriston’ is now part of Santa Maria Del Monte.

Frank Forde

Australian Prime Minister Frank Forde lived at ‘Virginia’ 81 Redmyre Road Strathfield from 1937 to 1946. Though Forde served for only a short time as Prime Minister after the death of John Curtin in 1945, he played a critical role in Australia’s defence during World War II.

He was a member of the Advisory War Council from 1940-1945. After the Australian Labor Party assumed Government in 1941, Forde was appointed Minister for Army. He served as Minister for Army from October 1941 to November 1946 and Minister for Defence from August to November 1946. In 1945, Forde led Australia’s delegation to the conference in San Francisco to set up the United Nations.

Memories of War in Strathfield [from oral histories]

In 2001, Mrs Madeline Knizer’s recollections of her memories of the war effort in Strathfield during World War II were recorded.

When war was declared in 1939 all the women of Strathfield joined the various groups to help the Red Cross, the Canteen Fund, the group making camouflage nets. We also formed a committee to raise £10,000 or £5,000 to forward to Mr Churchill to buy a Spitfire aeroplane.

A short time after the war was declared, a meeting was called in the Strathfield Town Hall by Miss Wythes, the President of Strathfield Red Cross. My sister and I attended this meeting. The Town Hall was full. After Miss Wythes spoke of the great need that would come as a result of the war and how long it may last, a flag was placed on the floor and everyone was asked to place donations on the flag.

Plans were made of what committees could be formed. One of the early ones I remember in which I had a hand was serving in a canteen at the site of the 113th A.G.H. before the hospital was built. Huts were built and across the road where the carpark is now, some army tents were erected. Men were having a medical examination for those who were joining the forces. We served Morning and Afternoon Teas, probably assisted by other Red Cross branches involved.

We were given donations of scones and cakes from the local shops. I remember Mrs Percy Arnott, Mrs Wally Arnott, Mrs Harold Arnott and Mrs Beale amongst the women who helped. I buttered many dozens of scones! I do not remember when they commenced building the Concord Hospital. The local Red Cross made all the various comforts that Red Cross gave to the men and women.

By about 1940, I think they had started a branch collection for the ‘Canteen Fund’. My mother Mrs Miriam Drayton and Mrs Henry Herron who lived two doors from us, used to be down at 7.30 a.m. sitting at a table in The Village collecting goods and money for the Canteen Fund. We were also involved in serving meals.

Another active group made camouflage nets. My mother, Mrs Lea, Mrs Marjorie Hornbrook …met with many Strathfield women at the Hudson’s home in Wakeford Road to make nets. My mother had her own stand and worked on the nets every spare moment. The Women of Strathfield made a record number of nets and received a special visit from officers of the Army.

The Physiotherapy Association commenced in 1940-1 and established the first training course of Occupational Therapy at Sydney University. I became one of the first students and continued to take an active role in Red Cross Activities where possible.

About the time of the ‘Battle for Britain’ Mrs Henry Herron suggested that the women of Strathfield collect money to buy a ‘Spitfire’ and send the money to Mr Churchill. My sister and I attended the meeting and as we had attended an Art School we came up with the idea of making large posters of a Spitfire and place them at strategic areas in The Village with a request the public cover them with ‘silver’. In addition Mrs Herron and others wrote appeal letters for assistance. Finally we collected £5,000 and this money was sent to Mr Churchill from the ‘women of Strathfield’. I remember sitting on the floor of a bank near the station counting the silver.

Many of the young folk in those days actively supported the NSW Society of Crippled Children or the Royal Alexandra Hospital and we raised funds with tennis parties and fetes at the different homes of our members, such as Tiptree with its extensive grounds from Wakeford, Kingsland and Llandilo borders. This property was later used by the Red Cross for TB patients. Mrs. Beale was another generous lady who had a croquet green in her garden, later this became the first bowling green of the Strathfield South Bowling Club.

At war’s end and with the return of the service men and women, many of whom had been injured or prisoners of war and were in our General or Convalescent Hospitals in need of further care, the Red Cross decided to develop Rehabilitation Departments with various forms of crafts and other activities that would help to develop confidence to return to normal life.

Sydney War Cemetery at Rookwood Necropolis

Sydney War Cemetery is located at Rookwood Necropolis. It is Australia’s largest war cemetery containing 734 war graves, made up of 122 casualties of the UK Forces; 608 Australian Forces; 2 New Zealand Forces; one French sailor and one civilian (employed by the Admiralty). The Memorial to the Missing honours 741 dead and a further 199 names of men and women of the Armed Forces whose remains were cremated and appear on the Cremation Memorial.

Many of those contained within the cemetery died at Concord Hospital [formerly a Military and then Repatriation Hospital] of wounds received in operational areas, sickness or accident. The United Kingdom Forces casualties died, while prisoners-of war under the Japanese, and were cremated. After the war the Army Graves Service arranged for their ashes to be brought by HMAS Newfoundland to Sydney for interment.

In 1942 the military authorities established the cemetery as the last resting-place of Servicemen and Servicewomen who gave their lives during World War II. The cemetery was taken over by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in December 1946. It was entered on the Register of the National Estate on 21 October 1986.

National Days of Remembrance

ANZAC Day [25 April] and Remembrance Day [11 November] are the two major days of commemoration of war in Australia.

ANZAC Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War at Gallipoli in 1915. Over 8000 Australian soldiers were killed and 25 April became the day on which Australians commemorated the sacrifice of those who died in war. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. 25 April was officially named ANZAC Day in 1916 and in 1927 all the States observed a public holiday. With subsequent wars, ANZAC Day became a day on which to commemorate the lives of Australians lost in war.

Remembrance Day on the 11 November is set aside as a day to remember the sacrifice of those who have died for Australia in wars and conflicts. It was originally known as Armistice Day as at 11 am on 11 November 1918 the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years continuous warfare.

‘We will remember them……’

One traditional recitation on ANZAC Day is The Ode, which is the fourth stanza of the poem ‘For the fallen’ by Laurence Binyon (1869–1943). The most well-known lines are:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

References

‘Australian War Graves’, Department of Veteran’s Affairs, information obtained from http://www.dva.gov.au/commem/oawg/cemeteries.htm on 15 April 2006.

Frank Forde biographical information obtained from Australian Prime Ministers at http://www.naa.gov.au. Residency at Redmyre Road Strathfield confirmed from land title searches.

Fox & Associates, Strathfield Heritage Study, 1986.

National Archives of Australia Fact Sheets.

Jones, C ‘War Memorials in Strathfield’, Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletter, December 2005.

Strathfield War Memorial opening ceremony booklet, 11 October 1925, Strathfield Council.

Stone, L., Reminiscing War Time Strathfield, Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletter Vol. 24 No. 7 July 2001.

Survey of Sculpture, Monuments and Outdoor Cultural Material, Strathfield Council, 1999.

Information on St Anne’s Anglican Church, St Patrick’s College Memorial obtained from War Memorials in Australia website at http://www.skp.com.au/memorials.

Information on Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and the Ode to the Fallen from Australian War Memorial website at http://www.awm.gov.au.

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