A general view of the camp area at 39 mile as it exists today.
Road reserve / Private property / Government property
39 Mile was home to a variety of units including Infantry Brigade Headquarters like the 23th Infantry Brigade HQ (June 1942 –
August 1943) [colour patch top] and the 12th Infantry Brigade HQ (September 1943-end of hostilities) [colour patch bottom]. Many infantry brigade supporting units were also present in the area including engineering, artillery and Anti-Aircraft units. One such engineering unit, that will be the focus of this page, was that of the 281st Light Aid Detachment (L.A.D.) of the Australian Mechanical and Electrical Engineers (AEME). It was attached to the 12th Infantry Brigade and tasked with the arduous job of repairing a range of different vehicles and weapons that belonged to the brigade including bren gun carriers, heavy machine guns and light anti-tank guns (QF 2-pounder).
Much of the site today is separated by property boundaries and the current North-South rail line with the center section of the camp site being cleared to construct the railroads permanent way in 2002-2003. Luckily much of the camp site survives today close to the Stuart Highway and on the opposite site of the railway easement. Camp remains include tent/building sites, raised roads, ablution, shower and lavatory sites.
Soldiers of the 281st L.A.D., 12th Infantry Bde holding up the skin of a water python (Liasis fuscus) in the workshop area at 39 Mile. Note the hill in the top right of photograph…same hill as above. Note also the green beret of AEME being worn by some of the engineers.
Special thanks goes to the family of William Maurice Jones (TX10758) for the bulk of the historic photos that appear on this page.
Most of the building and tent sites that exist at 39 Mile Camp were constructed without any concrete floors and made use of local bush timber or bamboo for the majority of the buildings construction. Corrugated iron was used primarily for the construction of the roof but was also used to to supplement bush timber when available. As with 40 Mile Camp, tents and buildings were constructed near local outcrops of Laterite stone which provided a good foundation for buildings and natural drainage of water during the wet season. Most of the buildings and tent sites are raised some height above the ground using crushed termite mounts.
Sleeping accommodation at 39 mile illustrating the unique features of the buildings used by the 281st L.A.D. Note the worn bren gun carrier tracks which have been painted white and used to ring the building and create a path to the doorway. Note also the use of cycad and sand palm trunks in the construction of the walls of the building.
A sergeant asleep in a hut at 39 Mile, the walls of which have been constructed from sand palm trunks. (Livistona humilis).
A building constructed almost entirely from bamboo save for the roof that was constructed from corrugated iron. William Jones (TX10758) is the 4th man from right to left sporing a pair of trousers. Note how the building is constructed on a raised earth (crushed anthill) foundation. Note also entrance to the building which is clearly marked with bamboo.
Craftsman Ivan Bedelph (TX13568) of the 281st L.A.D., 12th Infantry Bde, 1943-45 outside the battery shack at 39 Mile. With 6 volt systems in vehicles prevalent during the war in Australia, the amount of batteries a unit must have gone through would have been incredibly high hence the number stacked up waiting to be charged at right of photo.
Craftsman Ivan Bedelph (TX13568) [Left] and Val McGuinness (TX12841) [right] testing the battery voltage on a CMP F15A truck at 39 Mile.
This photo gives a good idea as to some of the major tasks carried out by the 281st LAD with bren carriers of the 10/48th Infantry Battalion being serviced in the NT bush. Note the makeshift workshop so major maintenance could be carried out on the carriers in the shade. With temperatures topping 46 degrees C in the ‘build up’ (October-December), working in a steel box that was the fighting compartment of the bren gun carrier in the sun was found not to be feasible.
Soldiers removing one of the front bogies from a LP2 Bren Carrier in the NT.
Bren Carrier Track Link and pin at 39 Mile confirming the 281st LAD’s presence at the site.
The “working mans” clubhouse, 281st L.A.D, 12th Bde, 39 Mile, 1943-44. Note the corrugated iron skirting boards and the Australian mess tins.
The remains of a grease trap near the shower/laundry block at 39 Mile.
Washing day at 39 mile using surplus flower tins over railway line off cuts.
When you gotta go, you gotta go. The remains of lavatories at the edge of 39 Mile Camp.