Volunteer Defence Corps

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V.D.C. (VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS)   Research by Gordon Freegard   

WAR TIME MEMORIES    

 

 

 

V.D.C. (VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS)

 

The Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) was an Australian part time volunteer military force of World War 11 modeled on the British Home Guard. The VDC was established in July 1940 by the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL)  and was initially composed of distinguished ex-servicemen who had served in World War 1, but were too old for frontline service. General Harry Chauvel, who had retired in 1930, was recalled to duty in 1940 and was appointed Inspector General of the VDC. Chauvel held this position until his death in March 1945.

 

 

INSPECTOR-IN-CHIEF, VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS,
 GENERAL SIR HARRY CHAUVEL., G.C.M.G., K.C.B.     #15

 

 

 

Originally the government only supplied some weapons, but from 1941 on, it supplied standard army uniforms and eventually took over the running of the organisation completely. The VDC was never well equipped however. But by the time the war with Japan began it had a strength of 44,000. Some 5,000 men of the VDC were soon called up for full time service as coast watchers, airfield defence and security guards in order to free up younger men for combat use. Following the outbreak of the Pacific War, the Government expanded the VDC in February 1942. Membership was open to men aged between 18 and 60, including those working in reserved occupations. As a result the VDC reached a peak strength of almost 100,000 in 1942, with the VDC being responsible for collecting local intelligence and providing static defence of each unit's home area and key installations. They were also responsible of training for full scale guerrilla warfare if the Japanese invaded.

VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS MARCHING BEFORE BEING ISSUED WITH UNIFORMS  #1

 

VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS PRACTISING THERE MARKMANSHIP   #2

 

The VDC men wore green uniforms which included the familiar Aussie slouch hat. Some were armed with .303 rifle and Vickers or Lewis machine guns, while others had to improvise. In the absence of suitable equipment for training purposes, members of the Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) took it upon themselves to fashion their own examples of mortars, machine guns, rifles and grenades. Their efforts range from the crude and dangerous to the relatively sophisticated. Unsurprisingly, a number of accidents were recorded among VDC member using homemade weapons during the war.

A ready made base for the VDC were the Australian rifle clubs under the banner of the National Rifle Association, which was then associated with the Department of Defence. Rifle club members were highly skilled rifle men, well versed in the handling of firearms and ready for the task involved. Every Australian town of any significance has boasted at least one rifle club. In Western Australia alone there were 128 rifle clubs affiliated to the Western Australian Rifle Association, with a membership of about 12,000 rifle men.

VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS PHYSICAL EXERCISING   #3

 

VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS GUERRILLA TRAINING   #4

 

VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS MORTAR PRACTISE   #5

 

VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS PRACTISING GRENADE THROWING   #6

 

To further training of such a body of men, the defence department was issuing free ammunition and heavily subsidized the purchase cost of the rifles. Every able bodied man considered it to be his duty to belong to the rifle club in order to attain the highest shooting skills and get ready to fight the enemy. The great metropolitan area boasted 44 rifle clubs which were sharing the use of the established rifle ranges at Swanbourne, South Perth, Queens Park, Armadale, Bedfordale, Kalamunda, Midland Junction, Mundaring and Chidlow. Such was the interest in rifle training that there just wasn't enough rifle ranges, especially in the metropolitan area, to accommodate all.

To alleviate the rifle ranges shortage, the Defence Department asked members of VDC for help to build more rifle ranges. VDC members considered it to be their patriotic duty to take up the challenge and in a short time about half dozen rifle ranges sprung up in the wider metropolitan area. The rifle ranges at Byford, Mt. Helena, Wooloroo, Jarrahdale, Bullsbrook, Bushmead and Byford were built.

 

One of the rifle ranges also built at that time is the Pickering Brook Rifle Range, which is now the only one remaining metropolitan range built in that era. In the last twenty or so years all other rifle ranges were closed due to the ever expanding urban sprawl encroaching into the safety zones of the ranges.

 

In 1941 Mr. Alan Harris, then the Forest Department official, was given task to survey the land area at the Darling Range escarpment and to choose well accessible but not too populated site, suitable for the purpose of the rifle range. After considerable effort, the piece of land at Pickering Brook was selected as to be suitable. The future rifle range site was to be situated in the state forest close to the Pickering Brook townsite, running away from the settlement in the south-east direction. The Karragullen-Midland railway affectionately known as the Zigzag was passing selected land thus making it comfortably accessible to folks traveling from any direction. In all 96.4 hectares of state forest was put aside by the Western Australian government and leased to the Commonwealth.

In 1942 the Japanese invasion was imminent so all schools were told to prepare air raid shelters for the children. Mrs. Richards, Headmistress of the Pickering Brook Primary School instructed the children on how to dig air raid shelter trenches in the school grounds. They also started practicing air raid drills

CHILDREN DIGGING A BOMB AND AIR RAID SHELTER   #7

 

12th BATTALION JARRAH VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS PRACTISING AT CARINYAH   #8

BELIEVE THIS IS ONLY ONE HALF OF THE ORIGINAL PHOTO TAKEN AT FOREST DEPARTMENT GROUNDS AT CARINYAH, BETWEEN 1943 - 1945.
THE 12th BATTALION JARRAH VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORP CONSISTED OF:

GEORGE ANDERSON,BERT BEARD, HAYLOR BROOKE, FRANK BROWN, FRED CUNNOLD, TED DAVEY, BILL ELLERY, NEIL FRETWELL, GEORGE GIBBS, ALEC LARSON, JOHN LITTLEY, WALTER MANSELL, BILL McCORKILL, BERNARD McGARRY, KEITH McINNES, FRED McKAY, FREDERICK McKAY, LYN NEWMAN, ALEC NIVEN, JOHN PULLEN, TED SMAILES, SYD SMAILES, HORACE SMITH, TOM SULLIVAN & WALTER TEMBY.

 

The Range was built under the supervision of Major Priestly to the Defence Department standards, mostly by members of the No. 2nd platoon, the 12th battalion of Volunteer Defence Corps also known as the "Jarrah Battalion", consisting mainly of forestry workers employed by the nearby timber mills. Early in 1942 about 30 members of the battalion gave their free time to the cause and began construction of the rifle range.

For the next year and half, trees were felled, land cleared and fenced off, the target gallery dug up, stop butts and target frames constructed, the firing mounds established, poles for flags and the telephone line erected, access tracks laid down and a wooden hut with a fireplace built. In all it was a remarkable effort considering that most of the time only hand tools were used. The pick and shovel, the saw and axe left many members with blisters on their hands for weeks and months. Three metre deep, 2 metre wide and a 12 metre long pit for the target gallery was dug up with a pick and shovel.

It wasn't an easy task considering that the ground is very rocky. Big boulders were broken into smaller, more manageable pieces, with sledge hammers. The stop butt, a huge earth embankment catching the bullets was built with the help of a horse and scoop. Many members spent their own money to purchase things like wire, nails, tool sharpening etc., not bothering to claim the refund from Commonwealth, they just considering it to be their patriotic duty to help the country in its hour of need.

HORSE PULLING A DRAG SCOOP DURING CONSTRUCTION     #9

 

ABOUT TO UNLOAD SCOOPFUL OF SOIL DURING CONSTRUCTION    #10

 

VOLUNTEERS WORKING ON THE CONSTRUCTION     #11

 

Early in 1943 the state of affairs did not look so great for the Allies and the possibility of the imminent invasion of the Australian mainland by the enemy was pressing on the Commonwealth government. The building of the defence establishments begun to be urgent priority. VDC members building the rifle range redoubled their effort working to the point of exhaustion. Many volunteers who so freely gave their weekends to the cause started drifting to the construction site after finishing their regular jobs, working till dark day after day, weekends and public holidays.

 

Finally in the spring of 1943 the rifle range began to take shape and the opening ceremony date was set for 31st October 1943. The Pickering Brook Rifle Range opening ceremony was a grand affair. Hundreds of people from all walks of life come to witness this occasion and to pay their thanks to all those volunteers involved in the construction of the rifle range. The Ladies put up an excellent picnic, and were probably glad to reclaim back their husbands, brothers and sons, whom they did not see very often for such a long period of time. As a special thanks the Defence Department donated several kegs of beer which ofcourse were drank quite quickly by the appreciative mob.

After the opening day, the rifle range was put to use at once. The Defence department personnel briefed VDC members on the latest weapon technology. VD corps were getting instruction about the use of rifles, machine guns, pistols, handling of explosives etc. The proper of the rifle range was also used for VDC drill.

Records show that beside the members of the VDC, the regular army units were also stationed at the range during the second world war, namely the 25th Light Horse Brigade attachments which used the range for army drill and shooting practice.

On 14th August 1945 the war ended and the school children are given two days holidays as gazetted. VE Day is celebrated with much rejoicing

After the war finished the Volunteer Defence Corps were no longer needed and in the later part of 1945 the Defence Department was instructed by the government to disband the VDC structure.

Members of the 2nd platoon were invited to a "Supper Party" in the Carilla Hall, Pickering Brook on 27th October 1945 to celebrate the end of VDC and the passing of an era. Commanding officer Major A. Harris thanked members of the 12th Battalion for their outstanding effort in the past few years and officially disbanded the VDC.

 

 

CLOSE-UP OF PLAQUE COMMEMORATING THE OPENING    #12

 

AUSTRALIAN SERVICE MEDAL 1939-1945   #14

AUSTRALIAN SERVICE MEDAL 1939-1945    #13

The Australia Service Medal 1939-1945 was instituted in 1949 to recognise the services of the Australian Armed Forces and the Australian Mercantile Marine during World War 11. It is made of nickel silver with the crowned effigy of King George VI on the obverse. The reverse has the Australian coat of arms, placed centrally, surrounded by the words 'AUSTRALIAN SERVICE MEDAL 1939-1945'. Members of the VDC were awarded the Australian Service Medal for three years part time service. Some who served full time qualified for the War Medal. Some served in the Darwin Region and qualified for the Defence Medal.

Members of the VDC were awarded the Australian Service Medal for three years part time service. Some who served full time qualified for the War Medal. Some served in the Darwin Region and qualified for the Defence Medal.

 

References:             Articles:        Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL)
 
                                               Pickering Brook Heritage Group

                              Images:      1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13, 14     Australian War Memorial
                                                8      Helen Ross
                                                9, 10, 11, 12     Pickering Brook Heritage Group
                                                15    V.D.C. On Guard

 

WAR TIME MEMORIES

   

VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS ARMBAND     #1

Khaki cotton armband worn by members of the VDC. The 'RSL' monogram indicates this is an early version when the VDC was administered by them. In May 1941 control was passed to Army Headquarters. The coloured band at the top indicated different ranks; Commander - Red, Battalion Leader - Yellow, Company Leader - Green, Platoon Leader - White, Section Leader - Purple, Administration Staff and Liaison Officers - light blue.

VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS SHOULDER PATCH     #2

The colour patch of the VDC, featuring a red circle within a ochre square, with "VDC" embroidered centrally.

 

DUMMY MACHINE GUN USED BY VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS     #3

In the absence of suitable equipment for training purposes, members of the Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) took it upon themselves to fashion their own examples of mortars, machine guns, rifles and grenades. Their efforts range from the crude and dangerous to the relatively sophisticated. This dummy machine gun was manufactured from local materials. The handle and breech of the gun are carved from wood to which has been nailed a folded tin barrel which has been soldered. A round tin ammunition tray, bolted to the top of the gun, can be rotated by means of a ratchet which also activates a crude sound generating device. The sight has been soldered to the front of the barrel while a simple dipod, made from mild tubular steel is attached with a butterfly nut. The gun is painted khaki green.

DUMMY MACHINE GUN USED BY VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS     #4

 

DUMMY MORTAR AS USED BY VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS     #5

In the absence of suitable equipment for training purposes, members of the Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) took it upon themselves to fashion their own examples of mortars, machine guns, rifles and grenades. Their efforts range from the crude and dangerous to the relatively sophisticated. Home made cast mortar bomb which is essentially a round topped cylinder that has been painted black, with what appears to be a sump plug screwed into the nose, serving as a striker. Unsurprisingly, a number of accidents were recorded among VDC member using homemade weapons during the war.

DUMMY RIFLE AS USED BY VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS PRACTICE RIFLE     #6

In the absence of suitable equipment for training purposes, members of the Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) took it upon themselves to fashion their own examples of mortars, machine guns, rifles and grenades. Their efforts range from the crude and dangerous to the relatively sophisticated. Australian practice rifle made with bush timber and has an iron butt. It is complete with bayonet and scabbard, capable of being unfixed and was made from part of a reaping machine. A number of rifles of this type and similar were used for training in rifle exercises, fixing and unfixing bayonets and bayonet practice.

 

GAS PRODUCER      #7

Black, steel, charcoal burning, gas producing, power unit manufactured by Electrolux in Melbourne as a petrol substitute for cars up to 30 horsepower. The main components of the unit are a large cylindrical charcoal burner with a hinging lid, a generator, and a filtering and cooling system. At the rear of the unit there is a black steel mounting bracket fitted for attachment to a motor vehicle. This particular unit is a heavy duty up-draft type, advertised by Electolux as the "C" or "Senior" model, which, unlike the smaller "Junior B" model, additionally employs a water system which enriches the gas produced by the unit, while reducing charcoal consumption. Larger models designed for truck use, were also made by Electrolux and a number of other local manufacturers.

 

MOTOR SPIRIT EMERGENCY RATION TICKETS     #8

Motor Spirit Emergency Ration Tickets were issued by the Commonwealth of Australia. There were 5 tickets, each a different colour, and each for a different amount of petrol; 1 gallon, 2 gallons, 10 gallons and 100 gallons. The tickets are 'For Essential Civilian Purposes only valid for 14 days from the date of issue as shown hereon.'

WAR SAVINGS CERTIFICATES     #9

These saving certificates were sold during the Second World War by the commonwealth Government to raise money for the war effort. The certificate could be redeemed on the date of expiry for the purchase amount plus interest.

SLOUCH HAT WORN VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS     #10

Australian Army slouch hat with badge as worn by members of the Volunteer Defence Corps.

TUNIC AS WORN BY VOLUNTEER DEFENCE CORPS    #11

Wool twill forest green tunic issued to the Volunteer Defence Corps during the early stages of the Second World War, with brass rising sun badges on each collar, Lieutenant pips and brass "AMF" buttons, all of which are painted dark grey. The tunic featured pleated breast and hip patch pockets with three point flaps. The waistbelt is fitted with a brass belt holder on each side. These were made by the Ashford Clothing Company. Sewn to each upper arm is the colour patch of the VDC, featuring a red circle within a ochre square, with "VDC" embroidered centrally.

 

"WILD WOODBINE" CIGARETTES ISSUED TO SERVICE PERSONAL   #12

Pack of ten "Wild Woodbine" cigarettes were issued to service personal

References:             Articles:         Australian War Memorial

                              Images:       1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12     Australian War Memorial

 

 

 

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