MIOWERA ARMY CAMP
NEAR BOWEN, QLD
DURING WW2

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visits since 6 May 2007

 


Photo:- Peter Avcin

 

The 26th, 31st and 51st Militia Battalions moved to Miowera near Funnel Creek, about 20kms south of Bowen on 23 March 1940. They were in camp there until about mid June 1940. The troops then returned to their civilian occupations. The members of the 31st Battalion had travelled to Bowen from Townsville by the steamer S.S. Orungal because the bridge over the Burdekin River was cut by flooding.

My father-in-law Jan Goulevitch joined the Army initially during the Second World War, but then joined the RAAF. He was initially in the 31st Battalion. He started in Ayr in north Queensland in 'C' Company and then went to 'A' Company. They camped once at Miowera Camp south of Bowen between Bowen and Proserpine. He was in the tent lines with the cannon group with their horses that used to pull the cannons. A few horses bolted one day and ended up running through the Mess. On another day a young fellow called Flynn was killed when some more horses bolted.

"Glencoe" and Mookarra Pastoral holdings lodged a claim for damages against the Australian Amy as a result of activities at the Miowera Army Camp.

 


 

WHO COULD WANT FOR MORE?
by Loftus Dun

 

In the first half of 1940, our battalion (the 31st, with a brown and gold oblong colour patch, standing on end) was ordered to go into camp at Miowera, just south of Bowen, with the rest of the 11th Brigade. The Burdekin River was in flood when we were due to go, and they loaded us onto a passenger ship (maybe the ‘Orungal’) at Townsville, with a cut lunch and our water-bottles.  We were ordered to stay in the general area to which each of our companies were allotted throughout the voyage, as the ship was over-loaded, and excess movement was to be avoided. The journey to Bowen took about six hours during the daytime, and we then went by train to the area of the camp.

The camp was set up in an open, slightly hilly area, with the tents in each of the three battalion groupings arranged in ‘lines’, each Company line in its order, from H.Q. through A, B etc,. At one end of each of the lines was the cookhouse and mess for that Company, and on the other ends, were the common, dug-out latrines (toilets), showers and wash-basins. It took some time to become accustomed to the serious, strained faces across the latrine each morning!

We were there for three months, six to a tent, sleeping on palliasses (hessian bags filled with a little straw) laid on floor-boards, and although the discipline was strict, we had a good time. The weather was pleasant, the food was plentiful, we had a picture show in the camp, and we were granted leave to either Bowen or Proserpine at week-ends; once we were given home leave, probably for three days. Apart from that, there was a plentiful supply of Arnott’s cream biscuits, iced Vo-Vos with our early morning tea and at supper, and the food at meal times, although plain, was in good supply.

My twenty-first birthday occurred during the Miowera camp, and on that very day, I was given the job as one of the company pioneers for the day. The work of the pioneers tended to be the dirtiest and least-acceptable of all jobs, including things like cleaning out the grease traps. One of my tasks was to set up a company latrine at a spot, a little beyond the outskirts of the camp, where we were engaged that day in some sort of special training. It required the digging of a shallow slit trench for squatting purposes, so that it was important that the sides be not too far apart. Further, it had to be dug with a right-angled design, so that if there were more than two users at once, neither would need to be embarrassed by watching the proceedings ahead too closely. Of course, I had to surround the area with a length of hessian to give some privacy from outside, and there was a roll of toilet paper to place on the prong of a pick to be left sticking in a convenient position -  probably there were two rolls of toilet paper. In fact, I am surprised now to think that there was toilet paper then in rolls — the common practice in homes was to tear up newspapers; actually, we were very advanced in those days without knowing it, realising, as we did, the true `value` of a newspaper! From time to time during the day, it was my job to do the necessary cover-up in the slit trench, and at the end of the day, to ‘make-good’ the ground, and recover the equipment for return to the store. As you would imagine, it wasn’t very difficult, but still not a job which I would have chosen for my 21st. At least, during the day, I did receive a telegram from home with the usual congratulations.

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The grand finale of our Miowera camp was a four day manoeuvre, with the whole brigade scattered through the bushland and hills south of Bowen, involved in some war game, and aided by the attendance of an RAAF Wirraway. The Wirraway was our own Australian—built, single engined aircraft which was later to prove so ineffective against the Japanese Zero. But to us, it brought atmosphere, and before the exercise was over, I was to be one of those who had a close encounter with it – but not close enough!

Initially, we marched out with a cut-lunch, which turned out to be two thick slices of ageing bread, covering a double-thick slice of old, dry block cheese - the sort of cheese which we don’t see these days. The water in a water bottle was not really enough to maintain sufficient moisture in one’s mouth in order to chew and swallow each mouthful. But, this was war! Fortunately, I enjoyed almost all food, and managed it - some others wanted to surrender.

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The Army medical regulations required that all troops would be given injections to guard against tetanus and typhoid, and to be vaccinated against smallpox; careful records being kept for each person. We had our orginal injections at Miowera; in fact, I remember one interesting day at Miowera when the medical officer arranged for the corporal to move along a line of men, standing with their sleeves rolled up and hands on hips, pushing a needle (attached to the bottom half of a syringe) into each arm.   Then, leaving it there until the doctor came along to each man to screw in the rest of the syringe containing the vaccine, and inject it. The ‘butcher’ would then take out the needle, unscrew the top of the syringe, and move on to the next man, who was waiting nervously, and maybe in some pain, with another needle in his arm. That led to a lot of very sore arms for some days; mine was one of them.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Loftus Dun and Peter Avcin for their assistance with this web page.

 

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This page first produced 6 May 2007

This page last updated 06 May 2007