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Bathurst Army Camp, Kelso

Also known as:

Bathurst Army Camp - 1940-1947
Bathurst Migrant Camp (Bathurst Migrant Reception and Training Centre) - 1948-1952
Rossmore Park
Bathurst Sheep and Cattle Drome

Location:

Limekilns Road

City/Town:

Kelso

State/Province:

New South Wales

Country:

Australia

Directions:

Turn into Boyd Street at the intersection of Great Western Highway, Kelso. Boyd Street leads into Limekilns Road. Continue for approximately 6km until you reach the entrance of Rossmore Park.

Sources

Bathurst Visitors’ Centre Information Sheets “Bathurst Army Camp 1940-1947” and “Bathurst Migrant Camp 1948-1952”.  Research by Anthony Fisher, a student in Applied History at Charles Sturt University. Additional photos by 2/30 Bn. Assoc.

Find Bathurst Army Camp in Google Maps

Notes

The camp was originally built to accommodate the 1st Armoured Division. However, nearby farmers opposed this idea as they could see tank manoeuvres disturbing grazing stock and causing damage to the surrounding environment. When the army hierarchy realised that tank exercises would be restricted, it was decided that the camp would be an infantry training centre.

At the entrance of the camp you will find memorials to the Army Units that trained in Bathurst.


Entrance to
Bathurst Army Camp. The 2/30 Battalion Cairn is in the foreground.
The flagpole which stood on the 2/30 Bn parade ground at Bathurst has been erected at the memorial.

 

To the right of the entrance are two sheds which were part of the old army camp.

 

Further along the road, past the cattle grid on the right is where 'J' Block was once located. The foundations you can see on your left are part of the Transport Depot and Workshops.

The original barracks were made from galvanised iron and had no insulation. The buildings were iron sheds, wooden barracks and tents. On sunny days they were extremely hot inside and at night freezing cold. The troops slept on palliasses, which are hessian bags stuffed with fresh straw. During the cold winter months, the soldiers were issued with four grey blankets and slept in 'long johns' under their pyjamas, along with any other clothing that did not restrict their breathing. However, the army was not always so tough on its men - during the winter months, they were allowed to sleep in till 6.30am, instead of 6.00am!

 

Some of the buildings when in use as Bathurst Migrant Camp

 

The camp was vast, capable of holding 5,000 troops, and spread out along the main road with a few arterial roads. Imagine how long it would take to walk from one end of the camp to another. At the main office of the Sheep and Cattle Drome, there is a map which shows the lay­out of the army camp.

At the time of the Migrant Centre's closure in April 1952, the Bathurst and Dis­trict Chamber of Commerce re­ported that the Bathurst Reception and Training Centre had grown to encompass:

“a fenced area of 3 1/2 square miles consisting of 11 self­ contained residential units (blocks) capable of accommodating a total of just over 6,000 per­sons in reasonable comfort.

Each of the 11 blocks identified alpha­betically from A to L, is equipped with a sufficient number of hutments and barracks, the majority of which is subdivided into two room quarters, a large number of toilets, shower recesses, washing and laundry facilities, kitchens and dining halls and boiler houses supplying hot and cold water.

The area is well reticulated with water, and contains, apart from the 11 residential units already mentioned, a fully equipped pic­ture theatre with a voluminous stage and ample additional rooms and storage space capable of seat­ing an audience of 1,800 persons; a separate transport department consisting of two large vehicle halls and additional roofed space fully wired for power and light; another unit that served for five years as a full time hospital capa­ble of housing up to 150 patients and personnel at a time; a first class post office fully equipped with telegraph and telephone fa­cilities and numerous other structures.”
 

 

Surrounding Communities

This was not a holiday camp and the troops spent most of the time camping outdoors. They went on long route marches and carried out mock battles with each other. On many winter mornings, troops on training exercises woke up to find their blankets coated with thick, white frost.

While doing all this training, they discovered the beauty of the Central West and were welcomed by communities such as Blayney, Lithgow, Cowra and Orange.

 

Other features

At the top of the drive where the Sheep and Cattle Drome is now located, only one building remains from the old Army Camp. It is located behind the main office building. This was the canteen, where the soldiers were able to purchase luxury items or have a drink.

Out the back, on private property today, appears to be a bunker, but it was actually used for grenade throwing. Troops were positioned in the brick sheds at the end of the double-brick wall, while a 'nervous' soldier, accompanied by an instructor, threw what was probably his first grenade. Behind the wall, about 20 feet back for safety purposes, is an observation post for another instructor.

 

Units that trained at Bathurst

7th Division

The first soldiers to arrive at Bathurst were elements of the newly formed 7th Division, which was later to become the 9th Division. In the Middle East these men were allocated to the 9th Division. The battalions included the 2/13 and 2/17 Infantry, with the 2/4 Anti-­Tank Regiment. These units trained at Bathurst from May to October, 1940.

 

8th Division

On the departure of the Middle East contingent, new soldiers arrived at Bathurst. Elements of the 8th Division started to arrive in November 1940. This included the 2/18, 2/19 and 2/20 infantry battalions. By February 1941, they had been joined by the 2/26, 2/29 and 2/30.

 

2/30 Battalion plaque on the memorial wall at the entrance to Bathurst Camp

 

These soldiers experienced a beautiful summer in the Central West which, in one way, suited their overseas destination of Singapore.

A large aerial photograph of the Migrant Camp, taken in 1954, is on display at the entrance on Limekilns Road.

 

Information display about Bathurst Migrant Camp,
at the entrance to the Camp on Limekilns Road, Kelso

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Last updated 28/01/2012