Local Connections to Cowra

During World War 2, Cowra in NSW, was the site of a Camp for Japanese, Korean, Formosan and Italian Prisoners of War.


The 5th of August this year was the 70th anniversary of the Cowra Breakout when over 1100 Japanese soldiers stormed the perimeter fence in a mass attempt to escape. As a result of this event and during the subsequent round-up of POWs, 4 Australian soldiers and 231 Japanese soldiers died and 108 prisoners were wounded. Historically the episode is recorded as the only land engagement on the Australian mainland during WW2.

Improvements at the site of the Cowra Camp completed for this Anniversary, now tell the story clearly and are very well presented.

A shelter, set on the rise giving a sweeping view over the Camp site, houses several information boards telling many aspects of camp life and the people held there.

Other signage is to be found at significant sites by following designated paths throughout the compound.

What is intriguing to note on one of the first interpretive signs, is the layout of the camp; four separate compounds housing prisoners of different nationalities with a wide corridor down the centre called the Broadway. This was also the configuration of the POW Camp at Murchison.


Also of note was that the Cowra Camp was Prisoner of War Camp No. 12. As mostly referred to as Cowra Camp rather than as Camp 12, this was a surprise and of interest as Murchison POW Camp was Camp 13 and both were constructed mid 1941.


Another feature at the Cowra site is a replica of the guard tower. Standing at the base of the tower visitors can hear an audio presentation all about the Camp.


Also in Cowra is the Japanese War Grave Cemetery, one of only three in Australia, the others being the German War Grave Cemetery in Tatura and the Italian War Graves in Murchison, the Ossario.

Even if you have visited Cowra before, it is well worth a return visit to see the improvements at the Cowra POW Camp No. 12 site.


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Success in Obtaining Grant Announced

When information about the availability of a grant for security measures was forwarded to the Murchison & District Historical Society from Member for Benalla Dr. Bill Sykes’ office, the timing was most appropriate as we were about to start our extension project at the Heritage Centre.
The Society has been successful in obtaining a grant of $1,367 though the Coalition Government’s Community Safety Fund towards a security alarm system in the Heritage Centre. Bill Sykes and Steph Ryan, Nationals candidate for Euroa visited the nearly completed Heritage Centre on Friday the 29th August to see the improvements and to make the announcement of our success in obtaining the grant.
Steph Ryan said, “Effective crime prevention requires residents, communities, businesses and all levels of government to work together to improve safety. Everyone needs to play their part, and we can all take some simple steps to secure our own property and get involved in local community action to help drive down crime.”
The redevelopment project is nearing completion with the major building works complete and only minor finishing to be attended inside the building. External landscaping and paving will soon be undertaken.
Members will be busy in setting up our displays again, furnishing the new function room and organizing the Heritage Centre so it will operate more effectively and give visitors a better experience.
We are delighted with the improvements and look forward to be open again so we can share the improved Centre with the Community.

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   John Ball, Steph Ryan, Bill Sykes, Lyndon Gregory and Kay Ball outside Heritage Centre

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                         Nearly completed extended and redeveloped Heritage Centre

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Family History Always Popular

Murchison Historical Society receives many enquiries from people researching their family history and a recent enquiry was in connection to the Roberts family, a very notable family in both Rushworth and Murchison. In particular, a handsome memorial stands in the Murchison Riverbank gardens as well as two memorial plaques in Christ Church Anglican Church in Murchison honouring the death of Lt. James Charles Roberts who was killed at the Boer War.

Memorial to Lt. James Charles Roberts Riverbank Gardens Murchison

Memorial to Lt. James Charles Roberts Riverbank Gardens Murchison

James was born in 1872 and Baptised in St. Pauls Anglican Church Rushworth as his family were storekeepers in the town. He attended the Primary School in Rushworth and his secondary Education was undertaken in Melbourne where he gained his Matriculation Certificate from Carlton College.
In later years his family lived in Murchison and ran the Coffee Palace that was situated opposite the present day swimming pool and he attended Christ Church Murchison regularly.
After graduating from Melbourne University as a Civil Engineer, James spent some time working on the family farm at Moora then returned to University to study medicine.
He was a member of the Murchison detachment of the Victorian Mounted Rifles and went to South Africa to serve in the Boer War. Sadly, James met his death in February 1900 during a fierce battle at Rensburg South Africa, when greatly outnumbered by the enemy.
His parents were John Henderson Roberts and Ellen Sayers (Roberts) and they had 10 children.
Jennifer Vallely who is enquiring about the Roberts family, is keen to know if there are any Roberts family in the area. Her father’s name was Colin Henderson Roberts and his father’s name was Albert Victor Roberts who married Anna Maude Draper (Roberts). Albert was James Charles brother born 1874.
Jennifer can be contacted by email: jenv55@bigpond.com Please get in touch with Jennifer if you are related to this family.

Lt. James Charles Roberts killed at the Boer War (Image courtesy Australian War Memorial)

Lt. James Charles Roberts killed at the Boer War (Image courtesy Australian War Memorial)



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Decommissioning of Channel Number 1 Murchison


Channel No:1 empty and finished its useful life             First delivery of the pipes

History is in the making with work well under way of the major project of decommissioning part of Channel Number 1, a very early channel in the irrigation system, and converting the water delivery via a pipeline.
The section currently being converted runs alongside Gregory Road and down Hammond Lane to Chinaman’s Hill Road where it terminates into a large dam.
The large heavy duty plastic pipes are 500mm in diameter initially, tapering to 450mm and come in 12 metre lengths. These sections are welded together on site and lowered into a trench.
Local uses of this section of the system will be pleased to see this improvement and say goodbye to the constant leakage from the old channel which had become wide and shallow over time and in poor condition.
Goulburn Murray Rural Water Corporation have consulted with the water uses along the channel over several years and held many meetings to resolve the best way to deliver irrigation water efficiently along this section of Channel Number 1.
It is great to see all the planning now coming to fruition.


Pipeline ready to be laid                                               Welding the sections together



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Renovations and Extension to the Murchison Heritage Centre

Anyone driving down the main street of Murchison will be able to see that there is lots of progress with the re-development of the Heritage Centre.

The building when finished will have a vastly different appearance to the front entrance and will provide great improvements to what we can offer visitors to the centre.

Hard to be definite about when the project will be finished and it will take a while to set everything up again ready for visitors but we hope to be open in the Spring.


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Murchison Historical Society 29th Annual General Meeting

Our Guest Speaker at the AGM on Tuesday April 15th will be well known local identity Mr. Bruce Wilson, past Shepparton Councillor and currently Chairperson of the Shepparton Heritage Advisory Committee.
The title of his talk is “Heritage and History” and he promises to give a broad overview of the topic and will no doubt draw on his wide experience and keen interest in things historical!
As our Heritage Centre is currently closed for renovations, the meeting will be held at the Anglican Church Hall in Impey Street Murchison, opposite the Primary School beginning at 7.30pm. Supper will be served at the conclusion of the meeting.
We welcome anyone who has an interest in history particularly if you are new to the area as you can meet some friendly like-minded people and learn about our amazingly varied and unique history of the region.



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Camps Attract Increasing Interest

The Murchison Historical Society often receives enquiries about relatives who spent time as a Prisoner of War or Internee in Camps in our local area, or rest in the Ossario at the Murchison Cemetery. These have increased recently. Some people want to visit the area others correspond from overseas and interstate and are looking for documentation confirming the details of their relatives’ time in the Camps.
The Society does not hold documents that detail these personal experiences but much is available on line via the National Australian Archives web sites as follows http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/snapshots/internment-camps/introduction.asp and https://www.awm.gov.au/research/infosheets/civilian-internees-australia
Documents can be accessed that show the date of arrival, movement from one Camp to another, events such as illness and also misdemeanours! Repatriation date and often the name of the ship for those POW’s returned to their country of origin are available.
The site of Camps in our local area were clustered around the Waranga Basin. This area was chosen due to the proximity to needed water, relative remoteness, and a train service was nearby to transport both people and supplies. It was also in the midst of a food producing region that could not only supply required food but the Camps provided a needed workforce on the farms as the Australian farmers were away fighting the War and there was an acute shortage of labour.
Little remains today that gives insight into the busy places the Camps were when thousands of Internees and POW’s were detained for the duration of the Second World War.
The land where the Camps were located is private property and so not available to the general public. On Sunday 23rd March the Murchison sub branch of the RSL arranged a tour of Camp 2, a Camp for single male Internees. It was a very special opportunity to hear of the day to day happenings in this Camp with local Historian John Gribben bringing the events to life with humour and lots of intriguing stories of what the Internees would have experienced.
Two of the people in the group who joined the tour were researching the family history of their relative who had been in Camp 2.
If there are opportunities in the future for a tour of a Camp such as the RSL arranged on this occasion, make every effort to be included as it is a marvellous experience.

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