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Head for the Hills: Chidlow's WW2 Army Camps

Home > Perth > Museums | Free | Exhibitions | Escape the City | ANZAC Day
by The Roaming Banshee (subscribe)
Roaming by any means, I’m a traveller by nature who loves to share a tale or two. Motorbike rider, hiker, photographer and hand-crafter who loves history and the great outdoors. Follow my adventures at https://www.facebook.com/theroamingbanshee
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Chidlow’s WW2 Army Camps Exhibition in Mundaring
Visit a tiny museum for an exhibition jam-packed with history!
The Mundaring District Museum is hosting a joint exhibition between the Mundaring and Hills Historical Society, the Friends of the Chidlow WW2 Camps and Heritage Detection Australia. The display proudly shows the wealth of artefacts uncovered at the location of the World War 2 Army Camps outside Chidlow and the methods used to discover them.

military, World War 2, Chidlow Army Camps
Head For The Hills exhibition space/Photo by author


Protecting our history
From 1942 to 1944, thousands of Australian soldiers (as many as 50,000) passed through the Chidlow Army Camps. Troops from across the country came to the camps to train before heading overseas or to other Western Australian locations. Up to 10 campsites were built and could house 4,000 soldiers at a time. Each campsite had a specific purpose, such as infantry, artillery, medical, engineers and the Brigade Headquarters. Camp 4 was used many times, and so was also called Camp 8, 9 and 10.

The Chidlow Army Camps area has been under contention for many years due to its lack of protection. Until now, none of the camps had been protected by listing on the Mundaring Heritage List (Municipal Inventory) or the State Register of Heritage Places. The crown land that contained half of Camp 4 was sold and approved for subdivision by a private developer. After a local metal detectorist began finding wartime items in the area, a Friends group formed to fight for the camp's protection. Since 2019, local volunteers have actively excavated as much debris and artefacts as possible before development started, supported by archaeologist Bob Sheppard and the land developer.

military, World War 2, Chidlow Army Camps, Australia
A collection of signs and shooting targets from Camp 4/Photo by author


In February 2021, the site of Camp 4 was finally added to the Shire of Mundaring Heritage List. However, the battle is still on to add Camps 1, 2 and 3, which are located in the Wooroloo Regional Park, to the heritage survey and for all the camps to receive protection at State level.

World War 2 treasure chest
The Camp 4 site had a full range of temporary and more established structures, including a radio room, kitchens, mess halls, an administration building, shower blocks, air raid slit trenches, even grey water drainage systems. Little can be seen now except broken concrete slabs, debris and remains of drainage systems. However, a veritable treasure chest of artefacts has been uncovered by the volunteers.

Over 900 items have been collected from Camp 4 so far, much of which has been donated to the Mundaring and Hills Historical Society. Items on display in the exhibition include signs, shooting targets, harmonicas, eating utensils, buttons, badges, buckles and handmade metal art. The variety of badges alone is worth seeing, with the collection featuring Warrant Officers, Artillery Sergeants, Radio Controllers and even the Victorian Scottish Regiment!

military badge, insignia, Australia
A collection of small items from Camp 4, including military badges/Photo by author

Also uncovered were many identity discs or 'dog tags', which have been returned to the soldiers' families where possible.

The exhibition features information posters about various aspects of the camps, such as why Chidlow was chosen, what identity discs are and how the troops fit in with the local community. There are also videos showing how the archaeological survey work has been completed and other interesting clips about the camps and wartime Australia.

The display also includes items loaned by the community, such as a light signal box, and from the Australian Army Museum of WA. A WW2 uniform from the museum belonged to a soldier who was based at Camp 4 in 1942 and 1943.

military uniform, World War 2, Chidlow Army Camps, Australia
World War 2 uniform/Photo by author


Archeo metal detection and the power of volunteers
The display details the metal-detecting process designed to rapidly survey the site, record the location of all the finds and to catalogue them. The method used, variously termed 'salvage archaeology' and 'archaeo metal detection', is an interesting combination of capturing important information about the finds and completing the survey work rapidly under pressure from impending development on the site. A volunteer team led by Bob Sheppard completed all the work in just a few months.

More information about the methods used by volunteers to collect the artefacts and the method of archeo metal detection used can be found on Bob Sheppard's website.

The Friends of the Chidlow WW2 Camps have been a strong force behind getting the importance of this site recognised and in collecting the wealth of items on display. You can follow the activities of the group on their Facebook page.

Mundaring and Hills Historical Society and Mundaring District Museum
The Mundaring and Hills Historical Society is also a volunteer group, who has been fighting for recognition of the camps' heritage value for many years. They recently won a grant to digitise the records and oral history of the Camp 4 site, including a book written by Bob Sheppard.

Aside from managing the Mundaring District Museum, the Society works to collect, preserve and showcase the history and culture of the Mundaring area. Their head office is in the former railway Station Master's House in the Sculpture Park, which houses their collection and library.

The Mundaring District Museum is in the old Mundaring Schoolhouse, built in 1908. This small space plays host to a continually changing display of historical significance to the Shire of Mundaring. A permanent exhibition in the building's foyer describes the school's history and fight to save the building and showcases items from the school's era.

Keep an eye on the Mundaring and Hills Historical Society Facebook page for future exhibitions and historical information about the area (their website is currently having some problems!).

Put everything in context this ANZAC Day
With ANZAC Day just around the corner, this is a great opportunity to learn more about what happened before our soldiers went to war and the local area's role in Australia's defences. This is a significant collection of wartime memorabilia and artefacts, so don't miss your chance to see this fascinating collection in one place.

 military, World War 2, Chidlow Army Camps, Australia
Head For The Hills exhibition space/Photo by author

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Why? Learn about the local army camps used to train soldiers during World War 2
When: Open until 29th April 2021, Monday to Saturday 9.30 am - 4.00 pm, Sunday 10 am to 2.30 pm
Where: Mundaring District Museum, 7225 Great Eastern Highway, Mundaring WA (inside the Visitors Centre)
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Many small towns have a museum and they are always interesting places to visit to soak up some local history, and sometimes broader areas of interest such as the Mundaring one.
by Neil Follett (score: 3|2142) 32 days ago
What a significant part of Australia's history. I'm glad it has been retained and help us learn about the past.
by Gillian Ching (score: 3|2480) 31 days ago
Lovely to be able to pop in and see my relative's badge on display
by ejder (score: 0|2) 27 days ago
Thanks for your fantastic overview of this exhibition. It is great when different parts of the community can work collaboratively to create an exhibition and to also protect our history and heritage for future generations.
by kunya (score: 0|2) 26 days ago
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