Like a few others, I have just discovered this site, and, it does take me back a lot of years.

I was working for the PMG's Department as a Technician's Assistant, on Country Installations, in Maryborough, Queensland, converting the local telephone exchange from common battery to automatic working, when on the notice board I spied a request for people to apply for a temporary transfer to the Dept. of Supply, Weapons Research Establishment, Salisbury, SA, for a period of 6 months.

Being in difficulty with a few of the local girls in town, (like trying to take too many out at time), I thought this may well be a way out of my problem. So I applied, was accepted, and was on my way on June 30, 1959.

There was a team from Queensland - Joe Bock, Jimmy Ridley, Harry Carvolth, Brian Lehane, and myself. We left Brisbane's Eagle Farm airport at 7:20 am, wearing, for us, our good clobber, suitable for our climate. I actually had a jacket on, remembering that it was mid-winter in Brisbane. We flew in a DC6 to Sydney and on to Melbourne in the same plane, which was good.  One of the hosties used to be a telephonist on the switch board at the Taxation Dept. and I knew her from there. She looked after us on the way down. Another DC6 from Melbourne to Adelaide, and when we pulled up at the terminal, I thought the ground staff were deformed, they did not seem to have any necks at all. It looked quite strange. THEN the attendants threw open the doors, and fairly soon I was just as deformed. It was freezing, and I was lowering my neck as much as possible too!

The next day, after settling in at a boarding house at 45 Strangways Terrace, North Adelaide, we all fronted up at WRE at Salisbury, and were "guided" into the office of Harry Foster, the Senior Engineer for Communications. We were told that we would be working in Salisbury for 4 weeks while we were acquainted with all the rules and regs., Woomera Standing Orders, The Official Secrets Act, tool kits issued, and all that good stuff. Harry's secretary Thurza Davidson/Davison was extremely helpful at this stage.

Adelaide was a shock to my system, I had never felt so cold for so long. In Queensland, when it rained, it rained, and it was over. Here the cloud cover was permanent, a Scotch Mist descended, and stayed forever. The boarding house was closed tight as a drum, and the only time fresh air got in was when someone opened and closed a door to go in and out. You had the cooking smells, the Fyreside [Kerosene heater], washing, smoking, and other smells as well. Finally, after 8 weeks, I saw the Sun again. By this time I had bought an overcoat, a motor bike, and had done some touring around Adelaide and its districts. To say nothing of Yaldara vineyards in the Barossa Valley. It was becoming a pretty good place to be.

Back to work. After 4 weeks, we went up to Woomera and were accommodated at the Sergeants Mess. Our quarters were to the side of the Mess, and were made from corrugated iron. TALK about hot in summer. We were taken out to the Range, and introduced to Jack Nelson, our Foreman of the Communications Group. Jack and his wife, and son Lindsey looked after us after hours as well. More of this later. We were told we were to train electricians in the PMG's method of cable running and termination on frames, MDF's, racks, blocks, or boxes. Ken Hurraine, Dave Stringfellow {(who came later), he was the son-in-law of Paddy Dillon?}, Ernie ?(who lost a bet he could not have a shower in the ladies quarters without being caught, he really did, but left his watch behind), Bill ?(who used to work in the copper mines in Rhodesia), and others whose names escape me, were the intended victims. We spent 2 weeks in Woomera this time, then back to Adelaide for 2 weeks, then 2 weeks in Woomera, and so it went. A good arrangement because we were getting free accommodation in Woomera, and the boarding house did not charge for the time we were away in Woomera.

Then came the time we were to go back up to Woomera, and one of the blokes said it was not convenient because he had things to do. Harry Foster blew up and said that we had had a good ride because the clerks could not work out Travelling Allowance, (that was why we had 2 weeks up, and 2 weeks down), the clerks WILL find out how, and we would be permanently based in Woomera. That was that! The end of Capital City allowance of 5 pounds a day. We went off, and never came back until we left. Except for the odd visit, off course.

Our first big job at the Range Instrumentation Building, was to expand the Timing Room, which had Frank ? in charge, and Barbara Fail  ?, as his off-sider. Our next was to build the Firing Room, which had Trevor ? in charge. What a pokey little place that was. Five of us working in there, almost sitting on shoulders to terminate on the sane verticals on the same MDF. Oh well, it kept us off the streets. There were other jobs up-range at Mt. Eba, and sites in between. Lots of characters, like Kevin who performed a very valuable function, he picked up all the rubbish from the Vinten and Camera sites up range. Who could ever forget his comments on the weather. It could be 105 degrees F. in the shade, if you could find it, along comes Kevin, you say, "A bit hot Kev!", to which, always the same retort, "Merciless mate, merciless". Kevin was one of those who kept to himself, never said much, unless directly spoken to, but, woebetide any one who upset him. I saw him in action down at the Junior Mess one night, and he decked 4 smart alecs who took the Mickey, and the resumed drinking his beer.

Woomera at this time, had only a few, I think 5 or 6 single women over 18 years of age, who were in the main nurses at the hospital. There may have been a few hidden around in families in married quarters, but we never saw them. There was a butcher named Ted Hall who later became a bus driver out to the Range. Ted had a few daughters who were mentioned by Len Bedall in his books. Lurlenne, (Floss,  of Triumph motor cycle fame), was one.

Our life, as single young men, was all work. We were working 13 days out of 14, every second Sunday off, average 10 hour days, with only the Mess bar's and the ASCO store to spend money in. At this juncture, I must say the weather in Woomera was beautiful, cold at nights, but to see the Sun during the day was great. Even better if you could get out of the wind. I remember one day, I could not get out of bed to go to work, (it may have been after a particularly good night playing pool, having a few beers, and general carousing), I went up to ASCO to buy some razor blades and toiletries, I came back with clothes, a rifle, shooting licence, and was all overcome with doing some SHOPPING! We used to walk from our rooms to the ablution block with a towel slung over our shoulder and wearing thongs. It seemed a reasonable thing to do. Until one day a car with some ladies took umbrage at this site, no doubt after doing the U for the third time, and then an edict was issued from on high that we had to wear the towel like a lap-lap. We never did find out who dobbed us in.

I had my motor bike, a Gold Star BSA 500 for those interested, by this time, and used to ride to and from the range head if I missed the bus. It could be a hair raising ride back to quarters at night from the range. You never knew when a big red was going to leap out in front of you. I remember one night I blew a head light bulb and had to wait for a vehicle to come along so that I could follow it back to the Village.

It was about this time that requirements changed, as they often do, or, maybe because our training was too good, that we were told we would be returning to Queensland. Or, it may have had something to do with the confrontation in Harry Fosters office. I took stock of how things had progressed, and I decided that I had done OK from all this, as, for someone on 800 odd pounds a year, I had saved nearly 500, bought a motor bike, now had an overcoat, seen lots of new places, met lots of people, a few richard craniums amongst them, and generally had a good time. What more could a 24 year old want?

So endeth the first lesson. I return to Woomera in about February, 1960. More to come - link below.

Alan Kennedy


(Thu, 30 Oct 2000)

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