Our bus, full to capacity with historical society types, drive in through the opened massive metal gates which are flanked by noticeably empty sentry boxes. We are met by four, um, 'senior' men, all dressed in a uniform of sorts; yellow t-shirts with an insignia and camouflage pants. As we are soon to discover, these retired gents are all former serving soldiers who volunteer at the Ingleburn Military Heritage Precinct.
We're greeted and then whisked away to the old Chaplains Hut to be briefed by Leon about the history of the site while we indulge in afternoon tea.
We learn that the precinct we see today is the barest remnant of a huge military base that spread over 600 acres and which is now whittled down to three.
The Ingleburn Army Camp was one of Australia's major army camps from 1939 to the 1970s. It was the first purpose-built infantry training camp for World War II. It later played a significant role in the training of personnel for the Korean and Vietnam Wars and was the centre in Australia for National Service training from 1951 to 1972. It continued to play a significant role in the training of Army Reserves from 1973 to the 1990s.
The site Museum
A 'dummy' shell
The heritage precinct comprises the old Bardia Barracks entrance gates, Guard House and Cell Block, Chaplain's Office and Post Office. There is a small museum and five memorials, the most moving, to the fallen national service men. Three large well maintained guns are on display which the former diggers are keen to explain in detail.
The Guard House and grim Cell Blocks are where conscientious objectors to conscription during the Vietnam were held, most famously perhaps, children's show host Simon Townsend amongst others.
The Guard House Cell Block
Before its closure in 1999, suburban expansion had swept around the Ingleburn Military Army Camp but now the inevitable is happening. The land that comprised the camp was sold to Landcom with only a small section preserved as the Military Heritage Precinct. Together with the Mont St Quentin Oval opposite, these sites have been listed on the State Heritage Register in recognition of their historical and social significance.
The site is only open by appointment. Tours are free but donations are gratefully accepted. The larger the group, the larger the show that these digger volunteers will put on. Contact Leon on 4572 7768 or 043972 77 68