Walcha history: Town does its bit to help out in World War II

Proud moment: The winner of a wartime Town Queen competition at Walcha. Photo: Courtesy of Bruce McRae.
Proud moment: The winner of a wartime Town Queen competition at Walcha. Photo: Courtesy of Bruce McRae.

The Queen Competition of 1940, which raised £2000 for the Walcha and District Patriotic Fund, was one of many fundraising events held during the years of World War II.

Raffles, street stalls, socials, dances and concerts all contributed towards the various Win the War campaigns.

Mrs Coll King recalled an Ugly Man competition conducted by the Women’s Voluntary Services in July 1942.

Her father, Tom Fenwicke, who she believed to be quite a handsome man, represented the town while Frank Lisle represented the district. Votes were sold for a modest amount over a two-month period, with the event raising a total of £768; Tom was declared the winner with a margin of £100 over his rival.

Shortages of raw materials saw government authorities require councils to collect waste paper, cardboard, rags, bags and non-ferrous metals to aid the war effort.

In Walcha, the right to collect this waste, and sell it to licensed purchasers, was vested in the local Patriotic Fund. It was recommended residents keep a waste container at home and, when filled, deliver the contents to the old power station shed behind the present-day library in Derby Street.

Brass, bronze, tinfoil, solder, lead, car radiators, electric radiators, toothpaste tubes, worn-out rasps and files and metal caps from light bulbs were brought in, as were several .22 rifles and ammunition. Great quantities of newspaper, writing paper, brown paper, cardboard boxes and linen were also delivered to the waste depot.

In December 1941, the Commonwealth Government announced a total prohibition on the manufacture of aluminium goods for domestic purposes and an appeal for aluminium pots and pans for conversion into aeroplanes and munitions. 

The manufacture of camouflage nets was another important job taken on by communities throughout Australia with lessons on meshing and knotting given to volunteers of all ages.

The Walcha branch of the Women’s Voluntary Services reported at its AGM in 1943 that it had dispatched 250 camouflage nets in the previous eight months. It took about 20 hours to produce one camouflage net.