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Alice Springs RSL Club

Military - The Role Of Alice Springs
Overview | Role of Alice Springs | Soldier's Experiences in Central Australia | Life on the Convoys

I doubt if any other town the size of Alice Springs played a bigger part in the second World War. I know many have asked if Alice would have grown as she has done if there had not been a war, but this need not concern us now. We only know that she has grown, and that she played a magnificent part which has given her a place in Australian history. For about a year after war had been declared, Alice sent off her sons and organised her Red Cross and Comforts Fund Committees. Then on 2 September 1940, Captain Page and Sergeant-Major Mick Potter knocked on my door with a letter of introduction, and the whole life of the Alice was changed.
An Australian Adventure, Harry Griffiths.


29 September, 1942 - Alice Springs
ANZAC Hill camp in the foreground and transport company camps in the distance. (Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial)

Once the troops started to arrive in Alice Springs to support the construction gangs working on the construction of a proper road to Darwin, they realised that their work was of great importance in ensuring the whole of northern Australia was able to be protected. Up until that stage, the only way north was on a track that was even worse than the stretch up to Alice Springs. It was for this reason (the need to be able to quickly move troops, equipment and supplies north) that the road between Alice Springs and Darwin was being upgraded.


3 January, 1943 - Alice Springs
Transport Company personnel returning to camp after a march through Alice Springs. (Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial)
Alice Springs was a small town then in both area size and population, pleasantly situated in a basin in the MacDonnell Ranges. ANZAC Hill above Wills Terrace overlooked the town, the whole of which lay between the River Todd on the east side and the railway line on the west. Billy Goat Hill, Stuart Terrace, the gaol and the hospital were at the southern extremity. There was a population of only 956 civilians and 4,600 service personnel in January 1943. The telephone directory listed only thirty-three subscribers, most of whom were business people.
Convoys Up The Track, Alan Smith

The huge influx of servicemen and women occurred because of the need to get supplies and personnel north to Darwin and beyond to the frontline in the fight against the Japanese. Alice Springs was the base at the end of the railway from the south from which these supplies and personnel were loaded onto various transports and, in convoy, moved north:

When a train arrived at Alice Springs from the south all troops and Allied Works Council workers going north by Army convoy were taken to the Staging Camp for an overnight stay before proceeding on next day. The contents of freight trains were off-loaded onto army transports (in the early days 3 ton trucks - Chevrolets, D3 Internationals, later semi-trailers and from 1944 on to Mack-Lanover 10 ton diesels and trailers) for movement north. Normally two platoons of 30 vehicles cleared a freight train load, depending on the vehicle used and type of freight. When the vehicles were loaded they returned to their Army Transport unit lines and parked overnight ready for departure next morning. The train, having been cleared, returned south to Terowie to receive another trans-shipment of supplies and equipment.
Outback Corridor, Alan Smith


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