Jack Bobridge Track – Sign 5 Sandy Creek
Sandy Creek Military Camp
In 1942, Sandy Creek became the site of a military camp. Men from the district of Lyndoch, Sandy Creek, Tanunda and Adelaide were instrumental in establishing the camp for the Australian Army. The site was chosen due to an established railway service, serviceable roads, electricity and plenty of water in close proximity.
Troops of the 2nd AIF were housed in tents in a large paddock with a big shed at one end. The division remained at Sandy Creek only a short time, leaving in April 1942 and were replaced, unannounced, by approximately 2000 members of the US Infantry Division (Red Arrows) on 14 May 1942 (only remaining until July 1942) . The accommodation at the camp was insufficient for this number of soldiers, so within a week, carpenters had built tents with wooden flooring, which housed 12 soldiers each.
“The Americans left lasting legacies in the Sandy Creek – Cockatoo Valley areas. American troops were responsible for building roads in the Sandy Creek area and erecting several of the buildings in the camp. One of the greatest achievements was the extension of the Sandy Creek Railway Station.”[i]
“A memo directed to the camp commander [stated] that all must undertake practice in pistol firing. [It was said] that on one occasion the Sandy Creek Hotel is thought to have been the target of poor shooting by the Americans. Today in the back wall of the hotel, there are holes that look very much like high calibre bullet holes.”[ii]
“Imagine the impact on the small rural community of Sandy Creek (population less than 200) when about 7,000 members of the 32nd US Infantry Division arrived unannounced and set up camp in 1942. Although they only stayed a few months the impact of the servicemen on the social and economic life of the town was quite dramatic! The local people quickly befriended the American servicemen, and some of these relationships were long-lasting.
Local people recall inviting the Americans into their homes, holding dances, assisting them to send money and telegrams home, earning extra income from taking in washing, and receiving gifts of war time ‘luxuries’ such as lipsticks, stockings and cigarettes from the relatively affluent Americans. The American’s ‘strange’ food preferences such as plum jam on meat and a penchant for beef and ham were also a point of interest. Some enterprising locals even set-up a temporary café serving another American favourite – fried chicken.”[iii]
POW Internment Camp
“After the departure of American troops, several Australian regiments and divisions were stationed at the camp for short periods until the conversion to the Prisoner of War camp. These included the 2nd, 9th and 10th battalions between 1942 and 1944.
The Camp became an internment and POW camp for Italian prisoners of war and operated as such from April 1944 to May 1946.”[iv]
The camp had a housing capacity for 600 men. A high percentage of the Sandy Creek prisoners and internees were hired out to farmers in the Barossa and Mid-North areas. The Italian prisoners were sent to farms, particularly where there were families with children, as they were missing their own children greatly. They were fondly remembered by these families as caring greatly for the “bambinos”.[v]
“At the end of the war a total of 501 POWs from Sandy Creek were sent to the Loveday POW camp near Barmera and from there repatriated at a later stage. Many returned to Australia as immigrants.”[vi]
Barossa Goldfields – Gold Rush
The area, being Crown land, was proclaimed an official goldfield and the township of the Barossa grew up with stores, hotels and even an institute and school. At its height, the rush attracted over 4000 people but within a couple of years the number of miners dwindled, until new discoveries were made elsewhere in the 1880s and ‘90s. The township lasted till the 1950s.
The area continued to support small farm and fossicking interests during the depression years, up to the mid-1930s, and became a Recreation Park in 1962.[ix]
Barossa Goldfield – Gold
Gold was found here in both river (alluvial) deposits and in quartz reefs. Alluvial gold was found first in 1868 in shallow river deposits, but more ancient and deeper ones were also exploited. In both cases the gold particles were washed out of the riverine sands. The Victoria Hill area was the most important site and many shafts were sunk to gain access to the old river beds, but by 1871 the area was largely worked out.
Interest was later shown in quartz reefs and a number of mines were sunk in the 1890s to find goldbearing lodes.
While some speculators showed off promising gold specimens, many thousands of £s were wasted in fruitless endeavours by the Belle of the Barossa and Menzies Barossa (previously Royal Phoenix) mining syndicates. A stamp battery near the South Para River (at G4) was used to pulverise ore to release gold from the quartz, but it was used only once.
The gold story is told well by the information panels installed by the Department of Mines and Energy. The fever of exploitation can still be appreciated from the remains of shafts, tunnels and the concrete foundations built for expensive equipment.
The area continued to support small farm and fossicking interests during depression years, up to the mid-1930s, and became a Recreation Park in 1962.[x]
Barossa Goldfields – Walking Trail
Parawirra Recreational Park - Goldfields Road via Cockatoo Valley (between Sandy Creek and Williamstown), Open every day - ( Park may be closed in extreme fire danger weather)
Over a period of 2 years, members of the Barossa Goldfields Historical Society restored the ruined stone cottage which had been marked for demolition, meeting every Tuesday for working bees until it was finally rebuilt in July 1993.
The tiny two-room cottage was originally built by Jack and Vera Bowden, using local stone, timber and sand in the 1930s consisting of one main area with a fireplace for cooking; and a bedroom. When Iris, the youngest of their 4 children married, another room was added. Iris and her husband continued to live in the house with her mother Vera until 1957.
Now restored, the small extension to the cottage is used today as the historical group’s museum telling the story of when alluvial gold was first discovered in Spike Gully in 1868 by Job Harris. The area was proclaimed an official goldfield and the township of the Barossa grew up with stores and hotels and even an Institute and school. At its height, the rush attracted over 4000 people but within a couple of years the numbers of miners dwindled until new discoveries elsewhere in the 1880s and 90s. The township lasted till the 1950s.
At the museum one can see a display of gold mining equipment and geological samples from the area as well as Job Harris’ 1862 family bible. There is also an interesting display in the main room telling the story of the nearby US army camp made up of soldiers from the 32nd US Infantry mainly from Michigan and Wisconsin who sailed from San Francisco to Port Adelaide in 1942. Only fragments of the camp buildings’ foundations now remain. One can also view a one man corrugated iron goal cell that once stood behind Williamstown Police Station but in 2001 was relocated by volunteers on the back of a pick up truck and placed beside the cottage.
The Barossa Goldfields Historical Society holds an Annual Open Day on the 4th Sunday in September. New members of the society are welcome. There are three loop walking trails from near the cottage through Para Wirra Recreation Park.[xi]
[i] A Brief History of the Sandy Creek Military Camp, By Ken Flood, Lyndoch & District Historical Society, Lyndoch, S.A. 2002
[ii] A Brief History of the Sandy Creek Military Camp, By Ken Flood, Lyndoch & District Historical Society, Lyndoch, S.A. 2002
[iii]Barossa Goldfields Historical Society, http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/43010/20080627-1159/www.history.sa.gov.au/chu/programs/sa_history/sharing_legacy/projects/project02.html
[iv] A Brief History of the Sandy Creek Military Camp, By Ken Flood, Lyndoch & District Historical Society, Lyndoch, S.A. 2002
[v] Jo Zander
[vi] A Brief History of the Sandy Creek Military Camp, By Ken Flood, Lyndoch & District Historical Society, Lyndoch, S.A. 2002
[vii] A Brief History of the Sandy Creek Military Camp, By Ken Flood, Lyndoch & District Historical Society, Lyndoch, S.A. 2002
[viii] History Directorate of Prisoners of War and Internees 1939 to 1951 Part Three.pdf
[ix] Barossa Walks, Barossa Goldfields, pamphlet provided by Bob Swarbick
[x] Barossa Walks, Barossa Goldfields, pamphlet provided by Bob Swarbick