Yesterday today with Alan McRae

MEN IN UNIFORM: Peter Wellington (first row, second left) with the 2/19 Headquarters Company platoon at Ingleburn. The soldiers were later to be transported to Bathurst.
MEN IN UNIFORM: Peter Wellington (first row, second left) with the 2/19 Headquarters Company platoon at Ingleburn. The soldiers were later to be transported to Bathurst.

THIS week’s photo shows the 2/19 Headquarters Company platoon at Ingleburn prior to moving to Bathurst.

Group photos were a part of life during World War One and World War Two, however, overall there are not massive numbers of them. 

This photo shows Bathurst man Peter Wellington, who is sitting in the first row, second from the left. Peter was the postal corporal in Headquarters Company of the 2/19 Battalion, Eighth Division, Second AIF.

While this image was taken at Ingleburn Camp on September 20, 1940, all these men were destined to be transported to the Bathurst Army Camp before being sent to Singapore.   

When the minimum height was lowered to 5’ 4” in June 1940, Peter, then aged 27, went straight from where he worked at the Windsor Post Office to the local Windsor Council to fill in a form to enlist. The councils would send the forms on to the recruiting offices in Sydney.

Peter chose the army as there were no education requirements, they needed men the most and his mates had already enlisted. His mother accepted the situation and wished him luck.

After passing his medical examination at Sydney Showground, Peter took an oath, called an attestation, which was conducted five diggers at a time. In the next room, Peter was issued with his new army number NX55612 and his first paybook. He was now in the A.I.F. They were given the prefix X before their army number, with a letter indicating their state of origin, such as N for NSW or Q for Queensland.

The men were soon under canvas at Wallgrove, with six men to a tent. They slept on straw-filled pailasses on the ground. The men were fed in the mess huts, which were one of the few permanent buildings on the base. Then, when the Seventh Division moved out of the camp at Ingleburn, Peter and the Eighth Division moved in on August 20. The Seventh Battalion marched up to the Bathurst Army Camp in August 1940.

They were moved to Ingleburn by truck, where the accommodation was more permanent, with corrugated iron huts built to live in among the trees. 

It was at Ingleburn that Peter was to meet a man that he was to get to know well later in life in Bathurst. He was Lieutenant “Joe” Pickup, a Bathurst signwriter and interior decorator and painter, who had been appointed Officer Commanding Number 4 Carriers Platoon. Joe had been part-time in the 54th Battalion for four years.

After his basic training, Peter was given the job as postman as he was the only civilian postman among all the volunteers. Promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal, Peter had to set up everything concerning his job. He was known as the Post Corporal, although he was only a Lance Corporal. Peter became part of Headquarters Company, which was the largest company in the division, with transport platoon, mortar platoon, anti-aircraft platoon, signallers platoon and pioneers platoon.

Peter and the other men came to Bathurst on a troop train on November 5 and 6, 1940, stopping at Glanmire. The troops called it the “Bathurst Camp”, while locals called it the “Glanmire Camp”. The troops got off the train and then, with their rifles on their shoulders and full backpacks, they marched over to the camp. 

Peter arrived on a Friday in fine weather and received leave next day in Bathurst. This leave was to be a twist of fate for him. Fortunately for Peter, he arrived in the warmer months. The Bathurst Camp was a pre-embarkation camp, the Seventh Battalion having already passing through.

The story of Peter Wellington and others are recorded in the book Pudu Pete - the Battalion Postie and Other Prisoners of the Japanese, which can be purchased from the Bathurst District Historical Society Museum in Russell Street between 11am and 2pm every day except Monday.

- Alan McRae is with the Bathurst District Historical Society