ANZAC Day and the ANZAC Day long weekend: It can be about memorials, and maybe a bit more.

There’s a lot to think about on ANZAC Day and the ANZAC Day long weekend.  We thought for Hidden Treasures on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast we would look at some of the sites around Perth and Western Australia that you can visit to remind you of the ANZAC story.

If you’re going to an ANZAC Day Service and want to experience a little more later in the day, or if you can’t get to a service but want to visit a site that is connected to our ANZAC history, we’ve put together a list of significant places you can visit to make silent contemplation your offering or perhaps find an adventure that helps tell you a story.

I grew up with men and women in my community who had been soldiers and nurses at Gallipoli and the Western Front in World War One.  They had been Prisoners of War on the Thai Burma Railway and they had dropped supplies to the soldiers on the Kokoda Track.  I knew their stories and felt connected to them because they lived in the streets around me.

There were also bunkers just out of town that had been built during World War 2 to store supplies and where we used to go for school holidays there were lots of adventures to be had exploring Point Peron which was a wartime observation post.

There are lots of places around Perth and Western Australia where you can find tangible reminders of our wartime past and the contribution made by our men, women and our communities. 

Some of the places in Perth and around the state include:

  • Point Peron/Leighton Tunnels/Oliver Hill: Observation posts, gun emplacements and storage bunkers.  Amazing to think these weren’t built as a tourist attraction.  These were designed to spot enemy ships attacking Fremantle Harbour.  They provide a view that lets you imagine what it must have been like to look out to sea with a pair of binoculars and having real fear that enemy ships might appear on the horizon.
Tunnel Tours at Rottnest and Leighton
  • Mount Hawthorn Bus Stops:  Gallipoli and Vietnam themed, complete with sandbags.
Bus Stops on Kalgoorlie St and Anzac Rd
  • ANZAC Cottage in Mount Hawthorn.  Built in a day!  In 1916, they started work at 3:30am and before the going down of the sun, a community finished building a house for John Porter and his family. John was with the 11th Battalion and landed at Gallipoli.
  • Broome Flying Boats: On 3 March 1942, Japanese fighters strafed Broome, including dozens of flying boats filled with refugees from Java, to escape the war.  At low tide in Roebuck Bay you can see up to 15 flying boat wrecks of PBY Catalina’s and Dutch Dorniers. Many refugees, including women and children, were killed either by gunfire or drowning and as you walk around these wrecks they are a physical reminder of when war came to our shores. 
  • Wireless Hill Station:  During World War 1 the navy took control of the Applecross Wireless Station and this is where a signal was received from the Cocos Islands that reported the position of the German Cruiser Emden which was then sunk by the HMAS Sydney. The navy again took over the station during World War 2 and communicated with ships off the coast using a mast over 100m tall.
  • HMAS Ovens: I asked Tom to research this for his ANZAC education and school holiday counter to boredom. This is what he came up with:
    • One of six 90m Oberon class submarines
    • Entered service in 1969, decommissioned in 1995
    • Crew size 63
  • ANZAC Centre Albany: Located on Mount Clarence this is one of the greatest interactive and immersive museum experiences in the world.  It looks out over the waters of Albany where many of the troopships left from. Follow the story of a service man or woman through the museum, not knowing if they survived the war until you finish your journey through the exhibits.
  • Merredin and Cunderdin: Major bunker complexes and airfields located throughout the wheatbelt and around Merredin and Cunderdin. There are still old aircraft hangers you can find and the remains of a World War 2 army hospital and a radar hut and concrete ammunition bunkers.  There’s also a museum located in Merredin that contains a lot of displays and memorabilia from all Australian conflicts.
  • Yanchep Bunkers: Walk up the Yanchep Rose Trail off Indian Ocean Drive.  In recent years these RAAF radar bunkers have been decorated by a local school with murals that are bright and discourage vandalism and tagging.
  • Corunna Downs Airfield: Just south of Marble Bar is one of World War 2’s greatest secrets. This is where B-24 Liberator bombers took off from runways over two kilometres long to attack Japanese bases from Singapore to Borneo, Java and other islands. You can still see the runways, bunkers, revetments and bits of rusted metal lying about the place. Also Nookanbah near Fitzroy Crossing,
  • Newcastle Gaol in Toodyay: Tells the story of the Toodyay connection to Prisoners of War in World War II.  Alma Beard trained at Royal Perth Hospital and was an army nurse, and four local men; Herb, Gordon and Tom Dorizzi and Reg Ferguson, were all killed after they’d been taken prisoner.  Alma was alongside Vivian Bullwinkle in the shores of Banka Island south of Singapore and the men were in the jungles of Borneo, west of the town of Sandakan.

Visiting sites that connect you to our wartime history is just as important as visiting a memorial site.  You can acquire knowledge and pay your respects to all of those who have served, particularly to those who died.

As Lord Byron wrote, “There are deeds that should not pass away, and names that must not be forgotten.”

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