Walcha history: Veterans help war effort

On the march: Members of the Volunteer Defence Corps in the early 1940s – they were later issued with uniforms.
On the march: Members of the Volunteer Defence Corps in the early 1940s – they were later issued with uniforms.

The Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC), which was also known as the Home Guard, was a part-time service formed by the RSL in July 1940 with its membership made up from veterans of World War I.

It was taken over by the government in May 1941 and became part of the Australian Military Forces in February 1942. It was then made open to all men aged between 18 and 60, including those in reserve occupations.

The 3rd Battalion VDC was based at Armidale and took in the area from Guyra in the north to Nowendoc in the south.

Further demonstrations given by Staff Sergeant Muir with rifle grenades and with smoke candles created much interest.

A platoon was formed at Walcha in July 1941 with Lieut. A.E. Lisle of Malford as its commanding officer. It was expected that mounted units would also be formed at Yarrowitch and Nowendoc.

The VDC trained in guerrilla tactics and made plans for local defence. Their job was to delay or deny an enemy invasion by removing road signs and mileposts and by erecting tank traps, roadblocks and wire entanglements. They were also given instruction on the placing and setting off of explosives to destroy bridges and culverts.

The first of many weekend instruction sessions held by the battalion took place at Gostwyck Station in November 1941, with most of the men bunking down in the woolshed and shearers’ quarters. Saturday was devoted to machine gun practice and grenade throwing while on Sunday, a simulated invasion by forces from Guyra and Wollomombi was repelled by platoons from Armidale, Uralla and Walcha.

A report in the Armidale Express of November 11, 1941, reads in part: “Further demonstrations given by Staff Sergeant Muir with rifle grenades and with smoke candles created much interest.”

Forty of Walcha’s World War I veterans served in the local VDC together with other volunteers from the town and district. Another six Walcha veterans served in the 8th Garrison Battalion that was responsible for coastal defence in and around the Newcastle region.

Walcha and other centres on the tablelands gave estimates of how much accommodation could be made available for evacuees.

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