41.5 Mile

41.5 Mile

Government (Permission Required) & Private Property

24pnrrez41.5 Mile is a quite an extensive camp area and occupies much ground space, extending approximately two Km’s in width and in length. About half of this site is located on government property and the remaining half on private property and is not easily accessible. The site was occupied by mainly by the 2/4 Pioneer Battalion (colour patch at top) who occupied the site in 1942 and the 8th Infantry Battalion who moved in later in August 1942 (colour patch, middle). In September 1943, the site was vacated by the 8th Battalion and then occupied by the 12/50 Infantry Battalion (colour patch bottom).

8thinfrez The site contains extensive remains which include, water tanks, oven/laundry facilities (picture at top), slit trenches, large concrete foundations, wet weather positions, drains, culverts, showers, generator pads, barbed wire entanglements, bores, tent terraces, banana palm gardens, stone paths and even a cricket pitch.

1250thinfrezA good insight into the campsite is offered in a ‘Hygiene &  Medical Report’ by the 12/50 Infantry Battalion.

1250report2nd AIF war diaries, 1939-45 War, Australian War Memorial, AWM52, 8/3/50-006

00812 Div GS Branch NT Force unit war diaries, 1939-45 War, Australian War Memorial, AWM52, 1/5/27-00800412 Div GS Branch NT Force unit war diaries, 1939-45 War, Australian War Memorial, AWM52, 1/5/27-004

1250ref212 Div GS Branch NT Force unit war diaries, 1939-45 War, Australian War Memorial, AWM52, 1/5/27-016

Water Tanks

IMG_3536There are standard cylindrical water tanks at this site as well as this square type of tank that uses large rivets in its construction.

Oven/Laundry Facilities

As pictured at the top of the page, the site contains two large washing / oven facilities used to heat water. The actual use of these devices is still unclear as some sources point to them being ovens (See picture below) while others point to them being for laundry. The main structure of these devices are constructed from 44 gallon drums which have been welded together. Openings have also been welded to the top to provide access to the heat. Hinged doors and handles at the front of these devices allow for stoking. Chimneys are still present at the site however they have now all fallen off the main structure and can be seen at the back of the picture at top.

0_2764412Instruction on the use of a ‘field oven’ somewhere in Australia.

Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

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A diagram from a Commonwealth Camps manual (1939) illustrating the method by which these facilities were to be constructed and used.

0_2701930Believed to be troops of the 2/4 Pioneer Battalion constructing a ‘5-chambered refrigeration hut’ at 41.5 Mile.

Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

Slit Trenches

The slit trenches at this site are some of the most sturdiest and most thoroughly constructed that the author has seen. Some of the ground that has had to excavated, mainly by hand, is extremely rocky and would have demanded much effort by the soldiers. I can only guess that these slit trenches were constructed by the 2/4 Pioneers being as they were ‘combat engineers’. The construction of these trenches were a general order of all units stationed within the range of Japanese bombers and were required to be dug close to buildings and tent sites. Some soldiers expended more effort than others in the construction of these trenches and this often is attested to by the depth of some of the trenches found. Water would often fill these trenches during the wet season and thus were required to be emptied periodically.

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0_2736217W/O F. HEANEY (left) and Pte. K. HILDER of the NT Press Unit in a slit trench armed with a Bren Gun for defence against strafing Japanese aircraft, 1942. (Note SMLE MKIII in background)

Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

Concrete Foundations

Many large foundations are located at this site and vary in construction style. Some are situated on terraces constructed form rock and others are constructed on the flat areas with some making use of corrugated iron in the construction process. These large foundations must have been officers messes or workshops but this may be an incorrect assumption.

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0_2701937Although unconfirmed at this time, the author believes these officers to be from the 2/4 Pioneer Battalion in the mess room at 41.5 Mile Camp. This is due to the date of the photo and colour patches visible on their slouch hats.  It gives you a good idea of the nature of building and furniture construction. (Note: censor has blanked out center of colour patch)

Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

Tent Positions / Terraces

IMG_5569A large tent position belonging to the 12/50th Battalion outlined with rocks on the slope of a hill to provide natural drainage during the wet season.

IMG_5581Another tent site belonging to the 12/50th Battalion on flat terrain with a raised base and drainage channel at left for wet weather occupation.

Stone Pathways

As the site is situated in a very rocky area, any prolonged walking in the area leads to very sore ankles. Tent sites also adhere to the armies per-occupation with dispersal and hence are separated by some distance.  In an attempt to provide easier access to tent sites, kitchen and washing areas, many stone lined pathways/lanes were cleared.

IMG_5583A stone pathway leading up a hill the construction of which would have surly kept the 12/50th Battalion busy.

Drains

The site contains some of the longest drains to be seen on any ww2 site in the NT. Many of these drains service the many showers dotted throughout the site. Hygiene was extremely important to troops serving in the NT, and the troops of the 2/4 new this only to well judging from the number of washing sites located within the camp.

IMG_3635Drain running through the camp from a shower complex.

Showers

The showers present at this site also illustrate thorough construction techniques. At least one of the showers still contains a heating apparatus to heat water. Many of the foundations that remain are in a very good condition and have attached septic units.

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Shower foundation in very good condition

IMG_4501Water heating apparatus constructed from a 44 gallon drum and encased in local rock. The tube where the hot water would have exited can still be seen at the top of the structure.

Cricket Pitch

Also present at the site is the faint remains of a cricket pitch. Soldiers of units stationed in the area would often field an 11 against each other in competition. Given the nature of the war in the NT, sport, especially cricket and volley/basketball was a good way to keep soldiers occupied, fit and helped with acclimatization.

IMG_3372Giving the pitch the pre-match key treatment. Verdict…’ a little dry’.

0_272572Marvelous forward defensive stroke, NT. 1943. Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria.

Generator Pads

The site has a number of electric generator pads within the camps vicinity. Indeed the remains of one of the electric generators can still be seen on site although it is in poor condition. Electricity was important, especially for the refrigeration of foodstuffs due to the climate of the NT.

IMG_3542Pads to support engine and generating unit. Most of the engines and generators were mounted on bolts cast into the concrete to prevent movement.

Banana Palm Gardens

The eastern side of the site contains many banana palm gardens created out of local quartz and arranged in circles. The gardens are located very close to tent sites and would have supplemented the soldiers regular diet with fresh food.

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Barbed wire entanglements

IMG_5592Coils of rusting barbed wire at 41.5 Mile. This wire was at one stage strung out in the gullies behind the camp site to protect the rear areas from possible attack.

IMG_5594Barbed wire stakes that stretch out in long lines behind the camp site.