CAMP DARLEY
WEST OF MELBOURNE, VICTORIA,
DURING WW2

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visits since 23 September 2001

 

Some groups from the 49th Fighter Group of the 5th Air Force, arrived in Melbourne on the ships USAT Mariposa and USAT Coolidge on 1 February 1942. They had been escorted to Australia by the light cruiser USS Phoenix. The 49th Fighter Group left their ships on 2 February 1942 and moved to their accommodation at Camp Darley

On 14 February 1942, the 9th Pursuit Squadron, of the 49th Fighter Group, under the command of Captain Selman, moved by train from Camp Darley, via Canberra to Williamtown airfield near Newcastle in New South Wales.

The 808th Engineer Aviation Battalion left San Francisco on 12 January 1942 on the USS President Coolidge with the heavy equipment on the freighter the " Luckenbach" in a convoy with the transports USAT Monroe and Mariposa. This was the same convoy that the 49th Fighter Group was in. They dropped anchor in Melbourne harbour at 1700 hrs on 1 February 1942. The 808th Engineer Aviation Battalion disembarked on 2 February 1942 and moved to Camp Darley. Unloading of the ships was completed by 10 February 1942. They stayed at Camp Darley until 12 February 1942 when the majority of the personnel and some equipment would be loaded on to Australian trucks headed for Bacchus Marsh to board a wide gauge rail train at 1030 hrs. The majority of the heavy equipment followed later.

Viv Martin's father was a Padre at Camp Darley during WW2.

Bob Morris told me that the house at 6 Standfield St, Bacchus Marsh, (previously owned by the Wakefield family) was once the nurses quarters at the camp. 

Bob Prewett told me that the area where Camp Darley was located is now the growing 'suburb' of Bacchus Marsh about 52km west of Melbourne about half way between Ballarat and Melbourne. The wartime camp was a few miles north of town. The Camp comprised many Dutch and American forces (as well as Aust units who trained there prior to embarkation). Many Dutch and American soldiers married local girls and families still live around Bacchus Marsh area. Regularly there are articles in local papers of families whose parents met at wartime dances. 

Even into the 1970s, the area was still listed as a military training area for CMF training. It was also a military training area for map reading and navigation exercises during Korean war period too with maps of the area being printed with Korean placename spellings eg Kweilin was one such map.

Graeme Jamieson told me that Camp Darley, located about 5ks north of Bacchus Marsh, Vic. (Melway Reference 217 H1), was also used as a POW camp during WW2.

He said there is only concrete foundations left of the buildings and some evidence of the road network. When he was a kid in the 1950's regular motor cycle races were held around the streets of the camp.

Bill Picardy of the Company "L" of the 182nd Infantry Regiment, of Task Force 6814, arrived in Melbourne on 26 February 1942. They were a New England National Guard Company, a "bunch of eager-beaver green kids" as Bill described them. They had boarded the troop ships in New York on 18 January 1942 and left New York on 23 January 1942. On arrival in Melbourne, Companies "L" and "M" boarded a troop train and arrived at Camp Darley on the afternoon of 27 February 1942. The remainder of Task Force 6814 were billeted around Melbourne and in Ballarat and Bendigo and other small communities.

Bill Picardy told me how they spread their blankets on the cement floors of the barracks at Camp Darley to sleep at night. They used their packs as pillows. The meals were filling and tasty except for the ever present "Ug Mutton". They were given a weekend pass to Melbourne, and met some beautiful girls (with bad teeth!!), drank good warm beer and had some snacks form the food vendors downtown.

Bill Picardy told me that they began their jungle training under the direction of some expert Australian scouts and Army personnel. When they arrived in Melbourne they still had their winter woollens, overcoats and ear-muffed hats. They handed these in and trained in their summer dress as their fatigue dungarees were left on board the ship.

Bill advised that the Australian people were most courteous, kind and generous and they thought that they were more like the New Englanders than they had expected.

On 6 March 1942 they broke camp, boarded some trains for the docks in Melbourne and left for an unknown destination which turned out to be New Caledonia.

Bill Picardy smuggled a Brownie camera in his barracks bag. The camera was cracked due to rough handling of their baggage in transit. This is the reason for some white patches on some of the photographs.

William D. Picardy Identification Card produced at Camp Edwards, taken
at 2am just before they embarked. To be used for identification overseas.

 

The following photographs were supplied to me by Bill Picardy.

Camp Darley February 1942

 

Australian Quarter-Master bringing some more mutton to Camp Darley

 

Typical wandering sheep herder, who lives and dies in his wagon
and travels about the country with his herd following him.

 

"Porky" Grant, who took a bullet at Bougainville.
A fine guy, from Melrose. Seems the good and best went first.

 

Waterhouse and Bill Picardy swimming near Ballarat, Australia.

 

Rolling Scenery around Camp Darley, Australia

 

Bill Picardy in front of his barracks at Camp Darley

 

Australian Barracks at Camp Darley, Australia

 

Camp Darley street scene. Latrines across the street.

 

Resting while training for the Islands. "Porky", Larry Lacau, Waterhouse and Al Comeau.

 

A soft-ball game in a clearing they made in the jungles on Efate Island

 

Grayzkc and Bill Picardy, New Hebrides

 

HMS Leander made the run from "Efate" to Espiritu Santo
to establish a "point" and patrols on this cruiser.

HMS Leander and HMS Westralia took the 182nd Infantry Regiment for landings and beach-head assaults on many Islands.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I'd like to thank Bill Picardy, Bob Prewett, Bob Morris, Graeme Jamieson, Melvin Haba, Tony Lacau and Viv Martin for their assistance with this home page.

 

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Copyright

 Peter Dunn 2003

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This page first produced 16 April 2001

This page last updated 10 August 2008