The Department of the Army World War 2
By 1942 the Population census shows the population of Mt Martha was around 100. In 1946 excluding the Balcombe Army it was 222.
In 1942 Mount Martha House, was still managed by Miss Hunter and Mr Smithers, and was requisitioned by the Army for Australia’s first RAAF Officers Training School where leaders from all the armed forces came for training. The photos and information is courtesy of the State Library, which is becoming available in 2018. Other properties and areas of Mt Martha were also requisitioned, and some areas were closed to public access.
The RAAF ran courses on Signals, Leadership, Staff Course and a Unit Commanders’ Course of 2 weeks to three months duration. The Officers had the front part of the House, Rooms 5, 6, 7, for their exclusive use. Room 5 was the RAAF Officers lounge, with its beautiful stained glass windows and fireplace, whilst still being under the ownership of Miss Hunter & Mr Smithers. Occupants remember original furniture still here, with descriptions of beautiful lead light bureau in situ when it was sold to the Army in 1950
Participants included: the School Commandant Air Vice Marshal W.H. Anderson, Wing Commander Jolly, Squadron Leader Keith William ‘Bluey’ Truscott and many more. They eventually departed at the end of the war, returning the house to a hotel.
The Army Apprentice School was at Balcombe and the Army Officers regularly dined at Mt Martha House with the RAAF Officers. Z Special Unit Commandos (incorrectly called Z force) were trained Mount Martha Research Station (MMRS).
1942 also saw at Balcombe Army Camp the US Marines Corps in tents on Citation Oval. 21 May 1943, three United States Marines, veterans of the Guadalcanal Campaign, received the Congressional Medal of Honour. They were Colonel Merritt A. Edson, Lieutenant Mitchell Paige and Platoon Sergeant John Basilone. Manoeuvres were regularly seen at Safety Beach and Mt Martha Beaches.
Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt visited the US troops recuperating from active service when they were staying at Maryport. She stayed at Vinstra, 451 Esplanade on corner of Lempriere Ave in 1946
During World War 2, there were no soldiers on R & R leave in the House, they were housed at Melrose and Maryport, both located up Lempriere Ave. Maryport was managed after 1945 by Major Stan Walker and his wife Pearl with their daughter Lynette and was their home for 5 years.
1942 also saw the reformed and increased 2nd Field Ambulance which had seen active service in WWI. Being Australia’s oldest Australian Army medical corps, comprising Units A & B, this unit of conscripted and volunteer young men encamped up between the Primary School, Glenisla Drive and Fairbairn Estate for training purposes as well as down the Peninsula.
Under the command of Colonel Dr, David Zaccharin, they went on to further training across Western Australia, building railways and airstrips, to leave Darwin in 1944 aboard the transport ship Van Heutz for New Britain. There they found that Australian troops had been killed by the Japanese. In August 1945 they went to Rabaul. Eventually the volunteers returned home whilst the enlisted men went on to Faroah Island off Bougainville.
We are grateful to Corporal Bob Greenslade and the Carol Hunt the daughter of Corporal Jack Gordon Neaves who visited Mt Martha House in 2016. We encouraged them to make contact with Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance where their plaque to commemorate their landing at Jacquinot Bay in New Britain in 1944 was unveiled on 25 November 2018.
In room 11 which can be opened upon request you can see a mock up of bedroom from Army days, with a genuine Army bed and linen which was used in the house. A mannequin displays WRAAC winter uniform kindly donated by Nola Williams.
In 1946 local resident Jean Male who was employed as a young waitress and maid recalls the stay by some 25 Dutch Javanese Prisoners of War who were billeted here and in other houses in the district for about 6 months.”
Please move to station 6 to hear about 30 WRAAC Barrack days.
ANDREWS. C. Mt Martha House 1890 – 1997
CALDER, W. The Changing Face of Mt Martha
CALDER, W. Mount Martha Lands and People 2009
GORDON. M. Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula pub: Loch Haven Books, Dromana, 1997.
HUXLEY. D. “This Old House Once Knew our People” Compiled for the 40th Anniversary 30 WRAAC Barracks, with cover drawing by Duncan Forrester.
Mt Martha CFA
Mornington & District Historical Society Inc
Mt Martha House Historical Collection
Many thanks to all contributors and supporters
Corporal Bob Greenslade