Sunday History Photo / NT

Submitted: Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 07:58
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In 1855 the explorer Augustus Charles Gregory, financially backed by the Colonial Office, sailed from Moreton Bay, around the coast of Queensland and the Northern Territory and up the Victoria River. Gregory's boat was wrecked at the site of Timber Creek and it is claimed that Gregory named the site after cutting timber to repair his vessel.

The site of Gregory's camp, known as Gregory's Tree Reserve, can be found to the west of the town. The boab tree with the date '2 July 1856' clearly carved in it can be accessed from a track which runs from a cairn on the Victoria Highway to the tree at the riverside. Over a period of eight months Gregory with various numbers of the expedition explored large areas of the Victoria River catchment and penetrated nearly 500 km south, along Sturt Creek, to the edge of the Great Sandy Desert.

Gregory was one of the many believers in an 'inland sea' within Australia’s centre. He explored the Elsey, Roper and McArthur Rivers, in 16 months travelling more than 8000 km. The subsequent settlement of the area resulted in Timber Creek becoming an important port for the surrounding cattle stations particularly Victoria River Downs Station which was then the largest pastoral enterprise in Australia. The river was used until the 1930s when road transport made it redundant. A police station was first established in Timber Creek in 1898. Initially just a hut and a goat yard, the dwellings were upgraded to iron and steel in 1908, now the Timber Creek Police Station Museum.




The town features several attractions that preserve its rich pastoral and exploration heritage and fishing is one of Timber Creek's biggest draw cards. The beautiful Victoria River, running through deep valleys and gorges, is one of the Northern Territory's most scenic places to catch barramundi. Gregory National Park is Timber Creek’s backyard. Covering an area of approximately 13 000 sq km, the park is home to red-rimmed escarpment ranges, plunging gorges and ancient boab trees.

The 2/1st North Australia Observer Unit (2/1 NAOU) was an Australian Army reconnaissance unit of World War II. Formed in early 1942 in the Northern Territory, the unit was a light horse mounted unit that was tasked with providing early warning of Japanese activity in northern Australia at a time when an invasion of the country was expected. As the threat of Japanese invasion dissipated the unit's operations were curtailed in 1943 and it was eventually disbanded in the early months of 1945. The unit is considered to be a predecessor of several reconnaissance units that currently exist within the Australian Army


Formed on 11 May 1942 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Bill Stanner, the unit's headquarters was established in Katherine, Northern Territory. Nicknamed the "Nackeroos", the unit was raised at a time when the Japanese were steadily advancing in the Pacific. Broome had recently been bombed and an invasion of Australia was considered a possibility.

Concerned about the large unobserved sea and air approaches to northern Australia, specifically in the Kimberley region and in the Northern Territory, the Army tasked 2/1 NAOU with patrolling remote areas of northern Australia on horseback to provide early warning of Japanese activity to Northern Territory Force, which was tasked with defending the area in the event of an invasion. Other tasks included manning fixed coast watch stations and signals work. At the peak of its strength it numbered approximately 550 men, including 59 Aboriginal personnel who were employed as guides and labourers. As the threat of Japanese landings declined 2/1 NAOU patrols were reduced in July 1943 and the unit was disbanded in March 1945.
In 1972, Stanner summarised the unit in the following terms to Amoury Vane, the author of the unit's history:

"The Unit was organised somewhat on the lines of a Light Horse regiment but with commando-type flexibility. It had a strategic and tactical role with duties of reconnaissance, scouting and coast-watching and was widely dispersed on and off the coasts and inland, between Cambridge Gulf and the Gulf of Carpentaria. The members of the Unit tended to operate in very small groups, often of section strength, over an enormous area, manning observation posts or in fixed or mounted roving patrols, so as to answer for the flanks of Northern Territory Force. They seldom assembled as troops, companies, or squadrons, and never, while I was in command, as a single Unit, after once taking up their field stations.
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Reply By: Life Member - Fred B (ex-NT) - Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 08:11

Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 08:11
Thanks for another great read. There is so much history about the timber creek area still untold... the stations, the people etc. Such an amazing area to explore.
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Fred B
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Reply By: Ron N - Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 12:18

Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 12:18
Thanks, Doug - Another good article about an area I love, for its stunning scenery.

I have a copy of the book, "Curtin's Cowboys - Australia's Secret Bush Commandos", written by an ABC couple, Richard & Helen Walker, in 1986.

The book is a fabulous read, and makes you appreciate what the coastal observer blokes in the North did - and the shocking conditions that they had to cope with, during WW2.

The book is out of print, and is hard to find, but if you can dig up a copy, I can guarantee you'll enjoy it.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Life Member-Doug T NSW - Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 17:00

Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 17:00
Thanks for you usual input Ron, your comments can at times add an extra highlite , I see the book is available on eBay , the cover photo is same as the B/w photo I used.

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Reply By: B1B2 - Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 16:32

Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 16:32

G'day Doug,
I liked the poem on the Nackeroo Memorial near Timber Ck.
'Somewhere in Australia'

Cheers,

Bill
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Follow Up By: Life Member-Doug T NSW - Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 17:18

Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 17:18
Thanks Bill, can you email me the full size photo, I think Peter Dunn in Brisbane would be interested in a copy for his huge website "Australia at War" . if you agree that he can use it with credits to you.

Here's a link to his page section2/1 NORTH AUSTRALIA OBSERVER UNIT


send to dtilley5@optusnet.com.au
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 18:45

Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 18:45
Doug, I've got a good, clear, close-up pic of that plaque, if you'd like me to send you a copy!
I've even got it in 4312 x 3264 pixel size, if you want the full size version!

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Life Member-Doug T NSW - Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 20:01

Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 20:01
Thanks for the offer Ron, Bill has sent a copy full size and I sent it to Peter 2 minutes ago.
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Reply By: Mick O - Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 22:02

Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 at 22:02
Thanks Doug, an amazing explorer was Augustus Gregory. - Moved hard and fast, avoided confrontation with the local tribes and never lost a man.

Keiran Kelly has written a great history of the man and his expeditions as well as retraced some of his exploration routes into Lake Gregory. - "Hard Country, Hard men!"

I have crossed some of Gregory's line out around the Lake that bears his name.

Mulan, Lake Gregory, Mount Wilson - 2013

In 1856, Augustus Gregory described the view from Mount Wilson (The furtherest south he ventured into the fearsome Tanami):


"From the summit of the hill (Mount Wilson) nothing was visible but one unbounded waste of sandy ridges and low, rocky hills, which lay to the South-East of the hill.
All was one impenetrable desert; …the vegetation on this part of the country was reduced to a few stunted gums, hakea bushes, and Triodia (spinifex), the whole extremely barren in appearance… The remaining portion of the horizon was one even, straight line: not a hill or break of any kind, and except the narrow line of the creek, was barren and worthless in the extreme, the red soil of the level portions of the surface being partially clothed with Triodia and a few small trees, or rather bushes, rendering the long, straight ridges of fiery-red, drifting sand more conspicuous."

The journal of Augustus Gregory, 1856.

Hard Country, Hard Men - By Keiran Kelly
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903

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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Monday, Apr 11, 2016 at 13:34

Monday, Apr 11, 2016 at 13:34
Doug,

My first visit to Timber Creek was April 1968, on way to "Newry" Station to commence work. Must have been a long & hot wet, or new owners, but they'd run out of beer. Had a ginger beer instead. Became "the local" when I moved to Auvergne Station in '72.

Never got to the Gregory bottle tree during the time I was there, but did spend some time at Gregory Bore & Yard, which is along a short distance away. Some clicks to the north of this is Flying Fox swamp, where we used to go every November, from Newry, to cut coolibah posts.



Flying Fox swamp had been fenced off to stop cattle watering there when management needed to trap cattle in the area. The fencing job was done by 2 brothers, Welshmen that worked hard & played a bit harder. On one particular evening, they travelled to Timber Creek in their series II Landrover, washed the dust from their throats and returned to camp.

As it was both hot and very humid, they decided a swim in the Victoria might cool things down. Apparently the water was good as they swum right across to the Bradshaw side and realised, on arrival and perhaps a little more sober, the possible predicament they were in. As I recall, they wisely walked upstream some distance to where a rock bar cut across the River, so this reduced the length of the return swim.

Bob

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Can't remember most of it.

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Follow Up By: Life Member-Doug T NSW - Monday, Apr 11, 2016 at 14:35

Monday, Apr 11, 2016 at 14:35
Bob, I was reading away expecting to get to the point where a Croc took one of them, must have been their lucky night
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Follow Up By: Bob Y. - Qld - Monday, Apr 11, 2016 at 18:14

Monday, Apr 11, 2016 at 18:14
Yeah Doug, they were very lucky.

Of course around then(late '60's) the scaly fellars were a bit scarce and no doubt a little timid. Still there would have been a few sharks about too.

They survived and moved down to Coober Pedy opal mining. Lost track of them after that.

Bob

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