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Alice Springs RSL Club

Children - When The Soldiers Came
Overview | When the Soldiers Came | Explosion: bomb or accident | Life as a Child in the Outback

Prior to the war, the population of Alice Springs was approximately 450 people and so was a very small isolated community with little in the way of new occurrences. However this soon changed with the advent of war and the significant role that Alice Springs played. Almost overnight the children of Alice Springs awoke to a doubling of the civilian population and even more of a surprise was the up to 8,000 soldiers who were in "the Alice" on the way north.

Of course the soldiers had large quantities of materials and equipment which the children from the Outback had never seen before, including trucks, weapons, and so on. It was all very new and exciting for the children of the town as they had all of these different people and things to talk to and play with.

1936 - Alice Springs
Doris Elliott and Bill, aged three and a half years
(Image courtesy of Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory)

We were out bush with our parents. Dad was a driller and we came into town and we were in the back of the truck, Judy and I with the dog. We came into town and there's all these tents. We went 'Wacko, the circus is in town. Mum and Dad will take us to the circus'. It was a circus alright, it was the Army. When we travelled up north, there were big convoys going up and down the main road all the time. Each side of the bitumen was just red dust for miles from the dust that used to blow from these, there might be 50 to 60 trucks or more in line, one behind the other and you had to pull off and wait till they went past.
Outback Corridor, Alan Smith

Also surprising to the children was the fact that their small Outback town which before the war housed just a few hundred people was transformed into a sprawling town consisting of a growing civilian population section and a large canvas-tent area on the eastern side of the Todd River.


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