On July 5th, General Douglas MacArthur, visited the Tinaroo Environmental Education Centre. The General spent 30 minutes viewing the tents and kitchens, and observed the training activities underway. He was impressed by the enthusiasm and skill of the participants.
Sounds too amazing to be true. But it is almost correct. The visit actually happened on July 5th 1943. And whilst the Tinaroo Environment Education Centre would not be established for another 42 years, during the Second World War, tens of thousands of Australian Soldiers from the 7th and 9th Divisions were camped on the Atherton Tablelands. Evidence of these campsites can still be seen. On and near TEEC, numerous concrete pads for mess huts, ablution blocks, and other buildings can be clearly identified. In addition relics (including bayonets, live and spent cartridges, ID tags, buttons, webbing buckles and cutlery) are frequently found.
The land now occupied by TEEC was a campsite area, occupied in July 1943 by the 2/7th Australian Field Regiment (Artillery). General MacArthur, the Supreme Allied Commander, Southwest Pacific Area, accompanied by Lieutenant General Sir Leslie Morshead, General Officer Commanding the 2nd Australian Corps, conducted a tour of inspection of the 9th Division Area, including the location of the Tinaroo Environmental Education.
The picture from the Australian War Memorial Collection shows General MacArthur (centre), General Morshead (left) and Brigadier Thomas Eastick, Commanding Officer of the 2/7th Australian Field Regiment (right), watching troops training with 25 pounder guns. The picture was taken less than 100m from where the main building at TEEC now stands.
To commemorate the service of the Australian soldiers that camped in the immediate vicinity of the Tinaroo Environmental Education Centre during the Second World War, we have erected five interpretative panels and a shade shelter. These panels explore and explain why the troops were here and how they lived and trained.
Extensive research over the last few years by the teaching staff at TEEC has produced a wealth of information for the interest of members of the public and visiting school students. Photographs and archival documents from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra have added to the signage. Local artist Robert Strachan has done magnificent work assisting us with the presentation of the information. Four of the panels focus on different aspects of soldiers’ lives, including camping, food, training, and sport & recreation. A fifth panel marks the visit of General MacArthur on 5th July 1943.
We are grateful to the Commonwealth Department of Veterans’ Affairs who provided funding towards this project under their “Saluting Their Service” grants. A grant of $3636 was allocated to us with the proviso that we publish the following disclaimer.
The Commonwealth has not participated in the research, production or exercised editorial control over the Activity or its contents. The views expressed and conclusions reached herein do not necessarily represent those of the Commonwealth, which expressly disclaims any responsibility for the content or accuracy of the Activity.
In 2017, TEEC will work with local Teachers and High Schools on the next stage of the project. This will involve the development of resources, and potentially a day visit program, that will support Year 10 History. Specifically the resources will include a range of primary and secondary sources to explore the Australian experience during World War II, including home front experiences.