Local historian and author Dr Ian Willis has had a proposal accepted for an article in Media History, an international media journal published in the UK.
The article outlines the history of local newspapers in the Macarthur region and covers the towns of Campbelltown, Camden and Picton.
Local newspapers were rationalised, corporatised and consolidated from the 1950s as Sydney’s urban growth moved into the region.
By the late 20th century changes in technology and innovations set in as the local newspapers were re-shaped by the growth and arrival of Sydney’s rural-urban fringe.
The article will show that is recent times digital disruption has taken a toll, but there are green shoots with new mastheads appearing in some of the new suburbs in the region.
Media History is an international academic journal published in the UK. Its website states that:
Media Historyis an interdisciplinary journal which welcomes contributions addressing media and society from the fifteenth century to the present. Its perspective is both historical and international. It explores all forms of serial publication in manuscript, print and electronic media and encourages work which crosses the boundaries of politics, culture and communications.
Abstract for journal article in Media History (UK)
Provincial and regional newspapers have been defined by parochialism and localism. They have pandered to local sensibilities and a need to serve their community. Some have argued that local newspapers are a subset of their cultural environment, a form of structural functionalism. For others regional newspapers play a part in placemaking and community identity. The stories they carry are critical to the memory making. They act as a mirror to the values and attitudes of the local community.
This article will test these propositions and others by an examination of a number of regional newspapers that have been published in the Macarthur region of New South Wales. The discussion will analyse the historical continuity and change in the landscape of the area’s regional press and the actors who were part of it.
Colonial newspapers appeared in the late 19th century in the three market towns within the region at Campbelltown, Camden and Picton. The local press reflected the nature of the settler society and mirrored the British provincial press in these small rural outposts of the British Empire. By the early-20th century the Campbelltown News, the Camden News and the Picton Post, were the face of these thriving communities. During the Interwar period this trio were joined by the Camden Advertiser.
The forces of war and depression influenced the regional press as it did local communities. Nostalgia, the doings of local politicians, and the tension between profit making and journalism have all played a part in this story, while the inverted pyramid arrived mid-century.
Corporatisation, consolidation and rationalisation re-shaped the regional press with the arrival of Sydney’s rural-urban fringe in the 1950s. Competition from radio, new technology and innovations brought more changes and by the 21st century digital disruption was in full swing.
The owners of the Macarthur regional press were local identities and opinion leaders. Their editorial positions reflected their political allegiances. They encouraged patriotic loyalty in wartime and the war at home. Editor owners practiced a type of censorship and their silence around a number of social issues was deafening. Their publications re-enforced the status quo, and existing social divisions, cultural norms, while acting as a form of regional voice.
As technology and local demographics have changed so have the nature of Macarthur regional press. Where once black and white newspaper were sold for pennies there are now colourful free publications, and circulations which are still a guide to the sphere of influence of the local newspaper. While in recent times some of the highest rates urban growth in Australia have encouraged green shoots with the appearance of new mastheads in the form of newsletter newspapers.
In the Oran Park Gazette Lisa Finn-Powell maintains that the community newspaper does have a future. She argues that it provides a way for members of the community to support each other by celebrating local events, anniversaries and traditions. Local newspapers make people feel good about their neighbourhood.
…this post introduces PHA NSW and ACT member, Ian Willis’ blog, Camden History Notes. Camden is a town southwest of Sydney, situated on land belonging to the Dharawal (Tharawal) people.
Ian’s blog presents stories about the district’s people, its history, heritage and traditions. He draws on the memories and experiences of local families, local identities, community organisations and local institutions.
A little known military facility in the local area during the First World War was the Australian Light Horse Camp based on the Menangle Park racecourse in 1916.
Drunken riots at Liverpool
The establishment of the camp was the result of drunken unrest amongst the troops at the Casula and Liverpool military camps in February 1916 that was later called the Battle of Central Station. These events also contributed to the success of the campaign for 6.00pm closing in New South Wales that was not repealed until 1955.
After the soldier riots the Casula camp was closed and the ‘troops in training’ were distributed to other camps, including one at Menangle Park in February 1916.
Menangle race track
Military authorities leased the race track off the Menangle Racing Club.
The racetrack was first surveyed by military authorities in January 1916, although Campbelltown Showground had been inspected in September 1915.
Poor conditions in camp
The conditions of the Menangle camp in March 1916 were less than adequate. One correspondent to the Sydney press complained the camp was unprepared and the men had to grub out stumps and prepare the site for a permanent camp.
The writer complained that the men were busy on labouring duties when they could have been busy doing military training.
It would have been more effective, the correspondent felt, for a private contractor to clear the camp site.
The ‘discontentment’ amongst volunteers was caused by ‘wasters’ who, apparently, were quite happy for labouring duties to continue for up to 6 months.
Training involved forced marches in the local area. In mid-1916 over 1000 men, accompanied by over 100 horses, marched to Camden through Campbelltown on manoeuvres headed by a military band.
They were marched to Camden showground where they were dismissed for an hour where they had lunch.
The Camden press reported that it was an imposing spectacle having such a large number of troops marching through the town area. The mayor, GF Furner, welcomed the troops to Camden and he then hosted the officers at lunch.
According to the notes on the photograph:
Officers of the Light Horse Camp, Menangle. European War, November, 1917.
This photo was donated from “Camelot”. The Lt Clem Bate on the left end of the middle row was a friend of the Anderson Family and he probably gave them a copy. He was the uncle of Mr Jeff Bates who was an MHR for the Camden area for many years (as well as previously an MLA). The Lt R.V. Moore in the back row is Mr Val Moore of Glenmore, Camden. The Lt Veness in the back row is the other local in the photo. He came from Menangle.
In June 1916 reinforcements for the Camel Corps were posted to Menangle camp for training and exercises. The Sydney press stated the Abdul Wade of Bourke had lent 6 camels to the army for training exercises at the camp for members of the Camel Corps. Four of the animals were for riding, while the other two were pack animals. They were sent to Menangle camp by rail from Bourke under the care of an Afghan camel driver.
The Australian War Memorial states that the Imperial Camel Corps (ICC) was formed in January 1916 in order to deal with the revolt of pro-Turkish Senussi tribesmen in Egypt’s Western Desert. The first four companies were recruited from Australian infantry battalions recuperating after Gallipoli. Four battalions were eventually formed up and units saw action in Palestine in 1917 and 1918. Units were disbanded in mid-1918.
In July 1916 a further 1000 men from the Australian Light Horse and Trench Mortar Batteries at Menangle Camp did a route march through Camden. They stopped for lunch, after which they gave a demonstration of high explosives, grenades and bomb throwing for the amusement of the local community.
In July 1916 Colonel Lenohan, the officer in charge, stated the military band played at the camp every Sunday afternoon. He reported in the Camden press that he would welcome visitors and he offered to show them around the camp.
In early 1916 the Menangle Red Cross decided to donate a badly needed hospital tent to the Australian Light Horse at a of cost £34. It measured 20 x 30 feet (6×10 metres) and could be partitioned off and used for several purposes, or used as a whole for a camp hospital with a capacity of 14 beds.
The press report noted that it would ‘prove a boon to those recovering from sickness, or to any one ‘off colour’ and in need of a quiet rest and medical attention’. The cost of the tent ‘considerably diminish[ed]’ the cash reserves of the small Menangle Red Cross branch but was felt that it was greatly needed by the men.
In May 1916 Brigadier General Ramaciotti inspected the camp and stated that there was a fine billiard room for 10 tables under construction and a well-appointed canteen.
The Camden and Menangle Red Cross branches supplied the camp hospital with eggs, cakes, scones, pyjamas, hand towels, pillow slips, sheets, towels, and cakes of soap in 1916 and 1917.
The men’s Red Cross branches at Menangle and Camden sent across trays and bed rests that they constructed at their carpentry workshops.
As the hostilities on the Western Front wound down there was less need for training facilities and Menangle camp closed in May 1918.
The CHN blogger was out and about at Campbelltown Arts Centre recently on a Friday night at the opening of the 2017 Fisher’s Ghost Art Award.
A packed Campbelltown Arts Centre was filled with keen supporters of the award. They walked around and viewed the art works that had survived the culling process and made it onto the walls and displays.
55 Years of History
2017 is the 55th year of the prize and the finalists had some pretty stiff competition.
There were a diverse range of works. The categories include Open, Contemporary, Traditional, Sculpture, Photography, Primary Students, Secondary Students, Surrealism, Macarthur award for a local artist, Aboriginal, Mentorship Macability award for a work by an artist with a disability.
The Award has a total prize pool of $38000 supported by a range of local sponsors.
Campbelltown Arts Centre is well regarded art institution in the Sydney area under the leadership of director Michael Dagostino.
Camden artist survives cull at the Award
One entrant at this year’s award was Camden artist Sandra Dodds. She survived the cull with her sculpture work Eclipse.
Bringelly artist Brian Stratton had his work Shoalhaven Tapestry hung in the Traditional category.
Brian said about his painting:
‘One of my watercolour paintings of Crookhaven Heads on the south coast of NSW. Over the past three decades I would have painted more than 200 paintings of the north face of this headland. To me this work has more of a feeling of a tapestry, as opposed to a watercolour; hence its title.’
The proceedings on the opening night got under way just after 6.00pm with the official announcements around 7.30pm. The announcement of the winners was introduced by a welcome to country by a local Dharawal elder.
The 2017 judges were curator Tess Allas, artist Dr Daniel Mudie Cunningham and artist Ben Quilty.
In 2017 the carnival was held on Bradbury Oval and was in full swing as the art award winners were announced at the art centre.
The street parade moves along Queen Street and has a variety of community, sporting and business groups with floats and novelties.
Each year the festival has a theme and in the past they have included The Ghost with the Most, The Spirit of Campbelltown, the International Year of the Volunteers, the Centenary of Federation, the National Year of Reading and most recently, the 30th anniversary of the Campbelltown-Koshigaya Sister City relationship.
The Miss Festival Quest, which ran up until the early 90s, was adapted to form The Miss Princess Quest, which has now been running for more than two decades.
The story of the ghost of Fred Fisher
The festival is based around the story of the ghost of Fred Fisher.
The ghost story of Fred Fisher is part of Australian gothic literature and the country’s colonial past. These stories make a statement about the white Australian psyche and the monster within. The landscape is portrayed as a monster in the genry of Australian gothic now and in the past when the early colonials viewed the bush as evil and threatening.
The National Library of Australia outlines the story of Fred Fisher and the songs, stories and legends that flow from it. They claim that it is the most forgotten ghost story in Australia..
Camden has hosted 32 Squadron RAAF since the time of the Second World War. The members of the squadron have developed a special relationship with the local community that has been marked by tragedy and celebrations. This is their story.
The members of 32 Squadron arrived in Camden in September 1942 after seven months of hazardous operational duties supporting Allied Forces in New Guinea and the surrounding area, including New Britain. The squadron had been ‘hastily formed in the field’ in February 1942 with personnel drawn from other units.1 Large scale air attacks on Rabaul in January 1942 had resulted in the virtual elimination of the 24 Squadron, and this was followed by the invasion of New Britain by the Japanese forces (23 January 1942). The war was not going particularly well for the Allied Forces. There was the loss of Singapore (15 February), the commencement of an air campaign against Darwin, the country’s major northern port city (19 February) and the Japanese invasion of Timor (20-23 February).2
These events led to the formation of 32 Squadron. It was drawn from the survivors of 24 Squadron, who had reformed at Port Moresby with a flight of Hudson bombers. Two more flights of Hudsons, one from 6 Squadron, Richmond (New South Wales) and 23 Squadron, Archerfield (Queensland) were flown in to add to the strength. At this point the squadron had a strength of 12 Hudsons and crews and 124 maintenance staff.3 The duties of the squadron included bombing and reconnaissance against Japanese bases at Rabaul and Gasmata bases, landings at Lae and Salamaua, the Gona-Buna and Milne Bay campaigns, the Coral Sea battle, as well as anti-submarine and convoy patrols and supply drops to ground forces. During the eight months of combat operations the squadron flew over 400 missions lost 10 aircraft, with 54 killed in action.4 Lyle Abraham claims that 32 Squadron was the only Australian squadron to be formed ‘in the field’.5
Tour of Duty in New Guinea
After their tour of duty in New Guinea the squadron was initially posted to Pokolbin, New South Wales, but were then moved to Camden in late 1942.6 DK Saxelby, an electrician from the Camden base maintenance group, recalled on their arrival that the squadron were
‘a much battered battered band of men. Their clothes were the worst for wear having literally rotted off their backs from the humid climate and replacements destroyed by the enemy. Their footwear was falling to pieces’.7
On their arrival the squadron was equipped with 4 Lockheed Hudsons and 6 Avro Ansons under the command of DW Kingwell. The Hudsons were a 5-crew medium bomber. They were the main Australian bomber in New Guinea until 1943. The aircraft were considered slow with a top speed of 246mph. They were a ‘relatively easy’ target for Japanese gunners and Zero fighters, but they were the only aircraft available at the time.8
Commanding Officers 32 Squadron RAAF
21 February 1942
W/C DW Kingwell
4 February 1943
W/C JF Lush
10 May 1943
W/C PA Parker
30 August 1943
W/C IH Smith
9 December 1943
S/L CA Loneragan (Temporary)
30 May 1944
S/L OF Barton
28 August 1944
W/C R Homes
28 February 1945
W/C DW Campbell
29 August 1945
F/L LG Brown
Source: WA Paull, 60th Anniverary 32 Squadron
Operational Duties at Camden Airfield
The squadron’s operational duties at Camden included reconnaissance and sea patrols off the east coast of Australia. The squadron did night patrols covering the east coast of Australia from Bundaberg to Mallacootta, Queensland. The Bristol Beauforts, which the squadron was using from March 1943, were fitted with radar and was a ‘very closely guarded at the time’. There were also detached flights at Coffs Harbour and Bundaberg.9 PJ Squires recalls that during his time at Camden between May and December 1943 the role of the squadron was anti-submarine protection for coastal convoys using depth charges. Air cover was given from Bega to Bundaberg by moving aircraft.10 Harry Simpson recalls that his Beaufort crew undertook anti-submarine patrols at night using radar protecting convoys sailing off the east coast. The crew escorted convoys off the east coast. His crew also took part in general training including ‘fighter cooperative attacks’ and high and low level bombing practice.11 The crews were constantly flying between Camden, Mascot, Bundaberg, Coffs Harbour, Amberly, Richmond, Williamtown, Evan’s Head and Moruya12 as well as Nabiac, Southport, Hervey Bay, Archerfield, Tocumwal and Canberra.13
The log book of John Murphy shows that on 26 February 1943 the squadron did anti-submarine patrol while convoying the Queen Mary, the Acquatania and the Ile de France.14 Another member of the squadron recalled that the squadron did convoy duty for the Queen Elizabeth when it brought he 6th Division back from Africa.15 Leo Reid recalls one mission undertaken by his crew that took place on 16 May 1943 (two nights after the Centaur hospital ship was sunk off Brisbane) when their Beaufort made contact with a submarine five miles off Coffs Harbour. The plane dropped 6 bombs on and around the submarine. They were credited with a ‘D’ assessment (damaged and possibly unable to reach base). The Beaufort was crewed by pilot F/S G Liddell, Navigator F Westphalen, WAGs E Shipley & L Reid.16 Jock Sharpe’s Beaufort crew was: F/O Harry Kemp, F/S Peter Bowers, F/S Colin Sinclair, F/O JM (Jock) Sharpe (WAG).17 Harry Simpson’s Beaufort crew was: F/L WJ (Bill) Hoddinott, Pilot, F/O Peter King, Navigator, F/O HB (Bill) Simpson, Gunnery Leader, Wireless and Radar Operator, F/O CJ (Chuck) Owens, Wireless Airgunner, Tail Gunner.18
While a part of B Flight at Coffs Harbour, Bill Paull recalls that the crew of a Beaufort, pilotted by F/L Harrison, while on night patrol disabled a Japanese submarine with depth charges. The crew returned to Coffs Harbour and asked for a 250lb anti-submarine bomb to sink the disabled submarine. They tried to skip the bomb into the submarine as they did in the Bay of Biscay. On inspection of the area the next morning they found the submarine had disappeared but there was an oil slick 1/2 mile wide and 3 miles long and the crew was credited with a possible sinking.19
Alan Wailes recalls training exercise with military units. One exercise with a searchlight company involved flying over Port Kembla at around 5000 feet so that the searchlight crews could practice homing in on an approaching aircraft. ‘We went back and forth for almost 2 hours with the searchlight beams tracking all over the sky but nowhere near us’. In the end the crew had to turn on their landing lights so that the searchlights could find them. Another exercise involved flying over Dover Heights and giving the ack-ack units some practice. ‘We spent 3 hours flying in from all directions to really keep these chaps on their toes’. Wailes claims that after a pre-dawn patrol ‘there was nothing more relaxing than to be coming in right over Sydney Harbour just on sunrise and to be able to take in the scenic wonders’.20
By the end of May 1943 the squadron was re-equipped with a total of seven Beaufort.21 PJ Squires recalls that eventually the squadron had 12 aircraft. The Beauforts were used for night cover using radar, while day cover was given by Avro Ansons.22 Lindsay Fromm notes that he wrote in his diary that an Airacobra landed at Camden in April 1943, and in May the CO (Lush) took the Boomerang out for a flight. A Spitfire squadron arrived at Camden in May 1943 and later in the month flew to out Darwin.23 By late 1943 Jock Sharpe recalls there were 24 Beaufort aircraft on the base.24
Accommodation at Camden Airfield
While stationed at Camden the squadron’s accommodation consisted of eight huts that were located on the rise on the eastern side of the current carpark, which was then the parade ground. There was also an operations rooms in the same area of the airfield. At the same time the Macarhur Onslow family, who lived in Hassall Cottage, had their small plane in a hanger located slightly north of the Bellman hangars. The squadron’s officer’s mess was in Macquarie Grove house, while the sergeant’s mess was located in a building on the rise east of the officer’s mess. The airfield tower was located west of the Bellman hangars on the grass verge adjacent to the taxi-ing areas.25 The huts were standard arrangements for RAAF personnel. The officers had individual rooms and the ranks were accommodated ‘barrack style’. There was a small hospital staffed by several male orderlies. Jock Sharpe does not recall any female personnel on the base during his posting at the airfield in 1943.26 Not everyone lived on the base, particularly the married men, and Leo Reid recalls that he and his wife lived in a flat in John opposite Dr Crookston’ house.27 (Letter, Reid, 30/12/86) Harry Simpson recalls that after his marriage to wife Marjorie that lived off the station when he was not flying. They lived in flat supplied by Matron Berry of Camden Hospital and then for many months with Mrs Dickenson, who lived at 10 Chellaston Street. His wife, Marjorie, worked with Yvonne Dickenson at the local dentist, Campbell Graham.28
Free Time and Recreation
Recreation provided a release from the constant stress of operations. Shortly after their arrival in Camden the squadron held a dinner in the big hanger and entertainment was provided by Chips Rafferty and a magician. Everyone enjoyed themselves and ‘a lot of beer was drunk’. In late in 1942 a number of the squadron assembled a Gypsy Minor, (FROMM, PHOTOGRAPH) while the Christmas dinner was held in camp. The officers and sergeants waited on the lower ranks and ‘helped us drink our Christmas cheer’.29 The men usually went to Sydney when they were given leave traivelling by train and staying at Air Force House in Sydney. Allan Diprose recalls that he went with other airmen to local dances and he attended the Presbyterian Church and the local Masonic Lodge.30 PJ Squires maintains that 70% of the squadron’s time was away from Camden consquently the men had little or no interaction with the local community. Any leave they were given they spent in Sydney.31 DK Saxelby recalls that he was given the duty of looking after the base switchboard at night. He slept beside the board and took messages that came in at night. He remembers that ‘this was good’ because in quiet periods he was to have a chat the girls at the telephone exchange in Camden.32 Harry Simpson recalls that he and his wife spent most of Harry’s leave in Sydney and on one occasion spent several weeks with Mrs King at Thirroul.33 Alan Wailes recalls that while he was at Camden he flew a Tiger Moth aircraft and had ‘an enjoyable time skithering around the sky’. (he was a WAG). They played golf, which according to Wailes, was ‘ a great way to relax as the course bordered the bushland countryside of the Macarthur-Onslow sheep property’. He took part in ‘organised clay pigeon shooting which, apart from being a sporting outing, enabled us gunners to keep our eye in with moving targets. Then when we felt a need to vary the Base menu we would venture into Camden town to enjoy a good steak followed by a dessert of honeydew melon, which they thought were green ‘rockies’.34
Many members of the squadron made friends with local people during the war years.35 Lyle Abraham claimed that Camden people ‘were so warm and friendly that we felt like being back at home’.36 Most airmen who corresponded with the author do not recall a great level of interaction with the local community. Alan Wailes maintains that this was not really the fault of the aircrews. Most airmen had little contact with local residents because of the varying flying times that most crews had to put up with, especially when undertaking night patrols.37
Flood at Camden
The weather always played an influential role in the conduct of operations. On 20 May 1943 the airfield was flooded and cut-off from the town for a week and no-one could get in or out of the camp.38 Reid remembered that their Beaufort became bogged after leaving the runway when taxi-ing to the hangers.39 Photographs of the flooded airfield show floodwater stretching from the bottom of Exeter Street across the river to the lower part of the airfield adjacent to the fuel dumps. The flood water also came up to the sentry boxes on the gravel entrance road to the airfield, which the constant rain had made almost impassible. (PHOTO, CHS) Bill Paul remembers the 1943 flood and how their way along Kirkham Lane to the station at Elderslie. They had to put their clothes over their heads and hold onto the fence wire to get to the station.40
The ‘peaceful and beautiful surroundings of the cowpasture country [sic]’ contrasted with the ‘grim’ days of aerial combat in New Guinea, and while at Camden a member of the squadron recalled that
it took a long time flying in the near serenity of Camden to diminish or erase in the squadron’s memory the desparation and frustration of those grim eight months in New Guinea – if ever they will be erased.41
But the tranquility ‘of this lovely area’ of rural countryside surrounding the town could be deceptive, and flying out of Camden airfield was not without its own risks.42 Three crews were lost in accidents while on operations at Camden and ten of the airmen were buried in the Camden war cemetery.
Loss of Aircraft
The first accident occurred on 3 November 1942 and resulted in the loss of all five crew. Two Hudsons had been despatched from Camden airfield to investigate a report of a Japanese submarine 480 km east of Sydney around 5pm. At the time there were atrocious weather conditions and the pilot of one aircraft abandoned the mission after a short search and landed safely at Mascot. The pilot of the second Hudson became disoriented and crossed the coastline near Port Kembla. It was sighted by personnel on duty at the Windang searchlight battery. They estimated the height of the aircraft at 250-300 metres. The aircraft proceeded across the Lake, and was spotted again, this time by the searchlight battery at Koonawarra Bay. The aircraft flew on and then crashed in to Bong Bong Mountain west of Dapto around 9.15pm. A number of local residents in the area heard the plane pass overhead and then heard the explosion of the crash. Local residents reached the crash site aroung midnight and found no survivors.43 Lindsay Fromm recalled that duty personnel from Camden left the base the following day and arrived early the next morning to Dapto and made their way to the crash sight after a long climb through through the rainforest. The bodies were removed that afternoon. The wings of the aircraft were slide down the mountain to be taken away by truck. ‘The rest of the place was piled on the four bombs and the army detonated them after notifying the wide area’. The loss of the crew was a ‘sad event’ for the squadron.44 An inquest was held in Wollongong four weeks later. The squadron’s commanding officer suggested at the inquest that in the bad weather the pilot may have become lost and confused Lake Illawarra with Botany Bay and hence not realised that he was headed toward the Illawarra Enscarpment at a low altitude.45
The second accident occurred on 26 January 1943 at Camden airfield. It involved the crash of a Hudson and the loss of all five crew members. The accident report stated that the aircraft crashed shortly after take off in wooded country south-west of Camden around the middle of the day. The aircraft was apparently in ‘an inverted position when it struck the ground’. The third accident occurred on 17 November 1943 with the crash of a Beaufort the death of all five crew members. The aircraft had crashed into the side of Saddleback Mountain, west of Kiama, around midnight while on a night cross-country training exercise.46
Other minor incidents also kept ground crews busy. A Hudson overshot the runway on 8 January 1943 hitting the bank and collapsing the undercarriage, another crashed on take off and was moved into the hangar by the Rescue and Salvage Unit, while another crashed into a gutter and was taken away by road. On 13 May 1943 a Beaufort crashed on take-off and hit a number of stumps on the hill at the end of the runway. The plane was a complete write-off, but the crew were able to walk away with minor scratches after getting out through a hole torn in the fuselage.47
Anxious Night Patrols
Alan Wailes remembers some anxious moments on a night patrol off the coast in bad weather. ‘We were making our way back to the coast at the conclusion of a patrol when we ran into an extremely heavy sea fog – perhaps we would be through it in a short while. I was on wireless/radar watch at the time and ‘glued’ myself to the radar screen hoping for a landfall recording at any time – the screen was blank, was it working alright? (In those early days the equipment was barely adequate and with limited range.) My thought momentarily wanded to a week or so earlier when one of our aircraft returning under similar circumstances, slammed into the coastal mountain range at Foxground near Gerrigong. Military secrecy at the time kept the public unaware of the crash until a timber cutter stumbled on the wreck days later. I was one of the pall bearers at the funeral of the crew of four’. Wailes laconically recalls that there was ‘a strange thing about many mainland bases we used (including Camden) there always seemed to be a cemetery just over the fence at the end of the runway’. He stated that ‘we didn’t really need a reminder of our ‘precarious occupation’.48
On another occasion their aircraft had a hydraulic failure. Their undercarriage would not come down, the wing flaps would not operate and there were no wheel brakes. After circling Camden airfield for an hour and trying a number of attempts to lower the undercarriage the pilot successfully put the aircraft on the runway, just clearing the fence and cruising to a stop at the end of the runway.49
In January 1944 Harry Simpson recalls that the squadron was relocated to Menangle Park, where they were involved in extensive training, before moving to Gould Airfield in the Northern Territory in February.50 By May the remainder of the squadron was transferred to Lowood, Queensland where the squadron was eventually disbanded in November 1945.51
Squadron Reunions at Camden
In the postwar period many airmen from the squadron got together for regular reunions, with a number were held in Camden. Postwar reunions have had an important social and theraputic event for members of the squadron. They would rekindled the camaraderie and ‘strong bonds forged by ordeal and comradeship’ between the men that made up the squadron.52
The reunions allowed the men to relive the glory days of the war. They also provided a theraputic role in that the veterans understood each other and did not have to explain or justify themselves to others. The war played a pivotal role in the lives of these airmen and its played an important focus for their memories which are played in their reunions. The reunsion allows the veterans to relive their unique experiences amongst who were there. They relived times and events in their lives that they often have not even spoken about to their families. Stephen Garton has maintained in The Cost of War that
the traditional war narrative of men is one of self-realisation. War represented the attainment of an ideal of manliness – in physical action, bravery, self-control, courage, and, more importantly for many, male comradeship.’53
According to Garten this ideal was fostered at school, in sport and in the boy scouts and as the homefront was constructed as ‘a feminised space’ the reunion allowed the airmen to relive their warrior days. Many veterans found that return to civilian life created feelings of restlessness and dissatisfaction, where they missed the ‘vibrancy of war’. They felt that those on the homefront did not ‘comprehend the enormity of their experiences’ and they craved the company of their former colleagues.54 The reunion provided this experience and rekindled bonds. For the airmen of the 32 Squadron their annual get together and five yearly reunions fulfilled these requirements.55 Keith Nelson felt that there was always ‘a lot to talk about’.56
The squadron held their 45th anniversary reunion in Camden in May 1987. Their program included a welcome by the Mayor, Dr Elizabeth Kernohan, on the Saturday, followed by a tour of Camden Airfield, a tour of the Camden Museum of Aviation at Narellan and a visit to Gledswood. On the Sunday there was a remembrance address at the Camden Cenotaph and an ecumenical service at St John’s Anglican Church. The organisers of the reunion stated that the Sunday program had been arranged as a special ‘thank you’ to Camden townsfolk.57
Around 70 squadron members and their families attended the 50th anniversary in Camden in February 1992. This was the largest and most successful reunion held in Camden. Reunion organiser Colin Butterworth stated that the celebrations commenced on the Friday with a civic reception followed by the reunion dinner. On Saturday the veterans marched along Argyle Street and took part in a flag-raising ceremony at the John Street intersection, with a fly-over by the RAAF Roulettes. Mayor Theresa Testoni granted the squadron membership of the muncipality and presented the squadron with a citation. Led by the Campbelltown-Camden band playing ‘The 32 Squadron March’ the party moved onto the Camden RSL Bowling Club for the squadron luncheon. Celebrations on Sunday commenced with an address at the Camden Cenotaph with a fly-over by four Hawker Siddley aircraft from the new No.32 Squadron (based at Sale, Victoria) and a tree planting. This was followed by an ecumenical service at St John’s Anglican Church. An editorial in the Camden Crier maintained that the squadron’s choice of Camden for its reunion was a ‘high compliment’. Colin Butterworth felt that members of squadron regarded themselves at the unofficial ‘City of Camden’ Squadron because of the close affiliation between the townsfolk and the squadron.
The squadron held its 55th anniversary in Camden in 1997 and was attended by 20 members. On the Sunday a remembrance ceremony was held at the Camden cenotaph in Macarthur Park. In 2002 the 60th anniversary of the squadron was remembered with a tree planting ceremony in Macarthur Park.58 It was the last anniversary to be held in Camden.
1 ’32 Squadron’, Online at here, Accessed on 28 October 2005.
2 Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought, The Encyclopaedia of Australia’s Battles, St Leonards: Allen & Unwin,1998, pp. 199, 202-207.
3 Camden Crier, 13 May 1987.
4 Macarthur Advertiser 13 May 1987; Camden Crier 12 February 1992; Camden-Wollondilly Advertiser 26 February 2002.
5 LJ Abraham, Correspondence, 22 June 1999
6 Macarthur Advertiser 13 May 1987
7 DK Saxelby, Correspondence, 5 May 1999
8 Peter Dennis, Jeffrey Grey, Evan Morris, Robin Prior & John Connor, The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 297.
9 L Reid, Correspondence, 30 December 1986; J Sharpe, Corresponence, 23 June 1999.
10 PJ Squires, Corresponence, 23 September 1999.
11 HB Simpson, Correspondence, 20 July 1999.
12 HB Simpson, Correspondence, 20 July 1999.
13 AF Wailes, Correspondence, 21 March 2002.
14 J Murphy, Correspondence, 30 September 1992.
15 Camden Crier 13 May 1987
16 L Reid, Correspondence, 30 December 1986.
17 J Sharpe, Correspondece, 23 June 1999.
18 HB Simpson, Correspondece, 20 July 1999.
19 W Paull, Correspondece, 20 September 1999.
20 AF Wailes, Correspondence, 3 March 2002.
21 Camden Crier 12 February 1992, 26 February 1992; F Ellem, Correspondence, 14 November 1986; LG Fromm, Correspondence, 10 August 1999.
22 PJ Squires, Correspondence, 23 September 1999.
23 LG Fromm, Correspondence, 10 August 1999.
24 J Sharpe, 23 June 1999.
25 L Reid, Correspondence, 30 December 1986.
26 J Sharpe, Correspondence, 23 June 1999.
27 L Reid, Correspondence, 30 December 1986.
28 HB Simpson, 20 July 1999.
29 LG Fromm, Correspondence, 10 August 1999.
30 AR Diprose, Correspondence, 21 June 1999.
31 PJ Squires, Correspondence, 23 September 1999.
32 DK Saxelby, Correspondence, 5 May 1999.
33 HB Simpson, Correspondence, 20July 1999.
34 AF Wailes, Correspondence, 3 March 2002
35 Camden Crier 12 February 1992.
36 Camden – Wollondilly Advertiser 26 February 2002
37AF Wailes, Correspondence, 26 Septembe 1999.
38 LG Fromm, Correspondence, 10 August 1999
39 L Reid, 30 December 1986.
40 WA Paull, Correspondence, 20 September 1999
41 Camden Crier 13 May 1987
42 Camden Crier 13 May 1987, 12 February 1992
43 B Tate, ‘Fire on the Mountain, Illawarra Mercury, 30 December 1995.
44 LG Fromm, 10 August 1999
45 B Tate, ‘Fire on the Mountain, Illawarra Mercury, 30 December 1995.
46 RAAF Historical, Canberra.
47 LG Fromm, Correspondence, 10 August 1999
48 AF Wailes, Correspondence, 3 March 2002
49 AF Wailes, Correspondence, 3 March 2002
50 HB Simpson, Correspondence, 23 July 1999
51 Camden Crier 12 February 1992
52 Camden Crier 13 May 1987
53 Stephen Garton, The Cost of War, Australians Return, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 20
55 Camden Crier 12 February 1992
56 Macarthur Chronicle 18 February 1992
57 Macarthur Advertiser 13 May 1987
58 Camden Crier 12 February 1992, 19 February 1992, 26 February 1992, 19 February 1997; Camden – Wollondilly Advertiser 26 February 2002
First published in Camden History, Journal of the Camden Historical Society, September 2009
Victorian librarian with attitude or a ghostly presence in the Camden Museum.
Who is the ghostly presence in the archive room at the Camden Museum.? Is it the ghostly presence of some Victorian matron who used to roam the site? Is it the ghost of some former Camden librarian who has come back in a different life?
The lady in question displays a certain attitude towards the visitors that is a bit disconcerting. She looks over your shoulder while you are busy reading some newspaper from a bygone time.
The lady makes you feel guilty that you have not contacted your long lost aunt in months. Maybe she just touches your guilt complex.
The images of the lady were taken by museum volunteer Anne who has an eye for a moving photo or two after a society meeting recently. She has made the hairs stand up on the neck of quite a few people recently.
The Camden Museum is full of objects with lots of stories to tell. An object will speak to you if take the time and patient to unlock the story of its last owner.
Where did it come from? Who owned it? What is their story? What was the object used for? When was it used? Where was it used? Who used it?
What events surround the object? What is the story linked to those events? Who attended the events?
Objects are full of stories. The stories are often hidden in plain view. You just need the patience to unlock the story.
What is the story of our lady? Where did she come from? Who is she? Why is she dressed this way? What does all this mean? What are the memories of people linked to her?
Recently I was told by a local person interested in local history that they only wanted the facts. Everything else is just fake news. What does that mean? What is a fact?
That question is simple enough.
Well is it?
Some will say the facts are in the newspaper. Well are they?
The newspaper is a second hand account of an event and the people who were at that event. The story is written by a journalist.
The journalist writes from their notes or their memories. How fixed are these details? Not as permanent as some would like.
So what are the facts? How accurate is the newspaper story.? Only as accurate as the writer remembers.
How accurate is the list of people at the event? Only as accurate as the writer recalls. How accurate is the story of the event, what happened and in what order? Only as accurate as the writer remembers or as good as their notes. Does the writer have any biases? Yes. What are they? Lots and they affect how the journalist writes the story.
What did the writer leave out of the story? Was the newspaper story a full, accurate and fair account of the event? How do we know 100 years after the event? We do not know and the facts are not as fixed in concrete as some would think.
So the local person I spoke to who only wanted the facts really did not understand what they were dealing with. Their facts are not as fixed as they thought they were.
At any public event everyone who attends is a witness to the proceedings. If you talk to 10 people from the event the following day they will give you 10 different versions.
So what were the facts? The facts will be the things that everyone agrees on. Maybe.
Try it sometime at your next family get together. Ask different family members to recall the event. They will all have a different version.
So what is the truth? What are the facts? Are they all telling lies? Did they all forget what you remembered? Is your version the only correct version? Is your version the truth?
Are you the only one who can remembers the facts? Or is it that your version is just one version of the truth? Or is it that your version is just one version of the facts?
So is everyone telling lies? Is everyone just making it up? Does everyone just forget all the facts according to you?
Is everything else just fake news.
So what is the truth? Not so easy to answer that one.
Everyone was there and they all witnessed the same thing.
Is everyone is telling the truth?
There are lots of versions of the truth. There are just lots of versions.
Everyone saw the event through different eyes. They all have a different story of the event.
All versions are correct. They are all correct. There is no wrong version. They are different interpretations of the same event.
But they all cannot be correct. As my local history contact told me he only wanted the facts. Everything else is just fake news.
There are lots of truths. There are lots of different views of the world. There is no black or white answer. Only shades of grey.
People like life to be simple. People like things to be right or wrong.
Life is not like that. There are all sorts of nuances to things. There is no one truth. There are lots of truths.
The lady at the museum. Who is she? What is her story? What is her history? Lots of interesting questions. So what is the truth?
Come and find out for yourself.
Find some of the truths of the Camden area by visiting the Camden Museum.
The Anglican Church at Cobbitty recently held an open day for the community to celebrate 190 years of the Anglican community in the village. Those who attended could listen to local experts give talks on the history of the Anglican church in Cobbitty, the stain glass windows in St Pauls, and its fixtures, furnishings and artefacts.
The Anglican Church has been the heart and soul of the village since the Hassall’s established themselves in the Cowpastures district in the early days of the colony of New South Wales. The church has taken a central part in place making and the development of community identity in the village.
The presence of the church is the reason the village exists and is closely reminiscent of a pre-industrial English style rural village. The village even had its own blacksmith, who was an essential traditional trade in all rural villages. Working over their hearth with hammer and anvil making and crafting the tools of the farmers to making decorative work for the church graveyard.
The Hassall’s were the de-facto lords of the manor. The development of the village was their fiefdom. Long term local identity and font of knowledge of all things Cobbitty John Burge recalled in his talk on the ‘History of the Cobbitty Anglican Church’ that the Hassall family owned pretty much all of the farms up and down the Nepean River in the vicinity of Cobbitty.
The Reverend Thomas Hassall, the son of missionaries Rowland and Elizabeth Hassall who arrived in New South Wales in 1798, was appointed the minister of the Cowpastures district in 1827.
The first chapel was built in the area by Thomas Hassall, called Heber Chapel and opened in 1827, with Thomas as rector. It was named after the Bishop Heber of the Calcutta Diocese, in which Cobbitty was located at the time.
Heber Chapel became the centre of village life as its first school and church. The chapel was used as a school building during the week and religious purposes on the weekend. Schooling at the chapel continued until 1920.
The Heber Chapel was constructed of hand-made bricks with a shingle roof. It is a simple design perhaps reflected the rustic frontier nature of Cobbitty of the 1820s when Pomari Grove, the site of the church and chapel, was owned by Thomas Hassall.
Recent renovations and restoration was carried out in 1993.
There was the opening of St Paul’s Church in 1840, with consecration by Bishop William Broughton. The community supported the construction of a Rectory in 1870 and a church hall in 1886.
St Paul’s Anglican Church was consecrated in 1842, designed by Sydney architect John Bibb in a neo-Gothic style with simple lancet shaped windows, typical of the design. These windows originally had plain glass and over the decades were changed for stained-glass
The church was built with plain glass windows. Stained glass became popular again in the mid-19th century as part of the Gothic-revival movement in England and New South Wales. Stained glass was originally installed in medieval churches and cathedrals, and then fell out of popularity. (Dictionary of Sydney)
There are 10 memorial windows in St Pauls with the oldest dated to 1857 and made by English glass artist William Warrington. It was donated by the Perry family in memory of their daughter Carolyn. There is one original window dating from 1842 with small panes of glass, in the style of the period.
Well-to-do members of the church community preferred to donate a window as a memorial rather than a wall plaque or other church object to commemorate their loved ones.
The current presentation of the church is different from the 1840 St Pauls. Today’s church represents the many changes that have occurred over the years. The changes in the building reflect changes in style, technology, tastes and support as well as periods of neglect.
A presentation by John Burge on ‘The History of the Cobbitty Anglican Church’ illustrated the many lives of the church from periods of strong support by the local community to relative neglect. During the 1980s the graveyard became overgrown and graves hidden under bushes. John’s images showed numbers of past symbolic trees, mainly cypress, that were planted grew into large trees. Sometimes these were planted too close to the church building endangered its safety and stability. They were removed.
When you look at the church you see a slate roof and automatically assume that this was original. It is not. The slate roof is a recent addition in 2014 and installed as part of the church restoration when work was done to roof trusses, bargeboards, and guttering. The church originally had a shingle roof with a plastered interior vaulted ceiling. Now it has a slate roof with a maple timber lined interior ceiling. The walls are quarried sandstone from Denbigh.
Electricity was installed in 1938, after originally being lit by candles then kerosene lamps.
The pews and pulpit are unchanged and are Australian red cedar timberwork.
Music is provided by an 1876 Davidson organ from Sydney, after music was originally provided by violin then harmonium.
The Anglican story of Cobbitty continues to evolve around the Heber Chapel, St Pauls, the Rectory and church hall. The village continues to grow as does the life of the church community with a host of activities under the current church leadership.
On Tuesday 3 October 2017 Dr Ian Willis presented a talk to Narellan Rotary Club at Harrington Park Country Club, Harrington Park, NSW. The title of the presentation was ‘The Cowpastures, just like an English landscape’.
Summary of the presentation
The early colonial European settlers in the Cowpastures were the key players in the story of creating an English-style landscape along the Nepean River. The settlers took possession of the countryside from the Dharawal Aboriginal people and re-made it in their own vision of the world.
They constructed a cultural landscape made up of an idealised vision of what they had left behind in the ‘Old Country’. For the European settlers the new continent, and particularly the bush, had the elements of the Gothic with its grotesque and the demonic, and the English-style landscape aesthetic they created was one attempt to counter these forces.
Settlers used the aesthetic to assist the creation of a new story on an apparently blank slate and in the process dispossessed and displaced the Indigenous occupants. The new landscape was characterised by English placenames, English farming methods and English settlement patterns, with only cursory acknowledgement of Indigenous occupation.
The early settlers had such a profound impact on the countryside that their legacy is still clearly identifiable today even after 200 years.