Photos of men at Broadmeadows Camp c. 1915.
Images courtesy Museum Victoria. Reg. No. MM 5409 & Reg. No. MM 5410
Very early in the war, in mid August 1914, moves were made to establish the main camp for Victorian troops at Broadmeadows. The 14 August 1914 issue of the Argus reported that it would be established on 200 acres of land about half a mile off Sydney Road on the edge of Campbellfield. It reported that ‘the property, known as Mornington Park, belongs to Mr R.G. Wilson, who has patriotically placed it at the disposal of the military authorities.’ They expected that by the following week about 7,400 troops would be in place in the camp – an instant tent city!
I was interested in the wording of the rest of this article. It wrote of ‘the disappointment of the 18 year old young soldiers, who are not to be permitted into the concentration camp.’ A very different meaning of the term ‘concentration camp’ to the one we think of today.
The Broadmeadows Camp quickly became the place for a Sunday afternoon outing and the novelty of the place is evident in this article in the Brunswick and Coburg Star, 28 August 1914:
‘Never in the history of Brunswick and Coburg has traffic along Sydney Road reached such a stage as that on Sunday, when from early morn ice cream carts, fruit vendors, and the general public drove to the Broadmeadows Camp in every possible class of conveyance.’
The traffic threw up clouds of dust and the police were called to supervise the traffic. Fortunately, only one accident occurred.
The atmosphere changed later in the year, as the first contingent was preparing to embark, but at first it was like a carnival. The great losses and sorrow were still to come. Now it was time to celebrate the great adventure and join in the excitement.