Outback Life







Alice Springs RSL Club

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

For many soldiers just getting to Alice Springs was an experience in itself. The roads did not reach to Alice Springs and the Ghan rail journey was a long, slow trip.

Even though there was a war on, the soldiers still found plenty of time for those traditional Australian activities that they had been familiar with, as well as doing extra Army duties, such as guarding the prison compound.

Alice Springs wasn't a bad area to be in really. The food was good and there was even a reasonable beer supply for the troops. They were given a ration in the evening and they had a permanent two-up school in the dry bed of the Todd River. That was supervised to a degree and they used to go there by the bloody hundreds to play two-up. There was even a picture-theatre later.

There were occasions when the troops were permitted to visit nearby places of interest when they weren't required for duty and the two-up school was always well attended. Although regular infantry training was required, there was often an opportunity to lighten the situation, even on the firing range. This made for largely contented troops although, of course, there are always instances when the troops and the officers are at odds in how each would like to see things happen, but discipline was usually strong enough to ensure that soldiers adhered to expected behaviour.

28 September, 1942 - Alice Springs
Brigadier N.M. Loutit, DSO, Commander of No.11 (Central Australia) (Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial)

In 1942 brother Darrell and I went to Port Adelaide and signed up for the Navy - we didn't know at that time that we were going "north next year" with the Army. Several weeks after arriving at Alice Springs we got the call to report at Port Adelaide and we had a health test, which we passed. At Alice Springs we were ordered to parade to Major Forster. At the time several officers from other Units were holding a meeting concerning a truck rollover up the Track. Forster saw me and when he knew what we were there to see him about [transferring to the Navy], "he did his ally" and ordered "get out Croser". He seemed to have a habit of doing that. I stepped around, saluted and said, "No Sir, Darrell and I have received our call to join the Navy". I think if he had a gun he might have shot me. The next morning we went up to Headquarters and he drove us across river to "Bullshit Castle", and we met Colonel Murphy. He told us we were too good as soldiers to let us go! After that I lost interest in the Army. I tried to get out from that day on.
Outback Corridor, Alan C. Smith

Painting from Alice Springs 1942
Title: Temperature 104 degrees
Maker: Hodgkinson, Roy
Object type: Drawing
Place made: Alice Springs (Place executed)
Date made: 1942
Physical description: watercolour and gouache with crayon
Measurements: 52.8 x 68.2 cm
(Image courtesy of Australian War Memorial, Canberra)


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