dedicated to the memory of:
Sgt Andrew “Drew” Russell of the SASR
killed in action in Afghanistan during the first deployment of troops to that country and in fact, the only Australian casualty at that time. Andrew was the son of our members, Bob and his wife Jan and the husband of Kylie
A place of peace, to relax for VVF members, veterans of all conflicts, and their families to “get away from it all”. Enjoy the silence, the birds and the feeling of being ‘out in the bush’.
In about 2002, the idea of a camp was born. Initial efforts in finding a suitable area were unsuccessful and the idea remained an idea.
About 2003 the idea gained some substance with Don Viney, of “Vinedale” at Alawoona, offering to the VORG ten or fifteen acres of scrub, sand, and a lot of weed for our use to build a ‘camp’. The idea was starting to take some form. A drive and walk through the area on offer provided the rudimentary beginnings of a vision, which slowly developed into a plan. The idea had now given birth to a determination to make it take form.
Early 2004, slowly, ever so slowly, expeditionary work, began with the cutting of a track through the scrub, with a view to cutting in caravan/camping sites off the original track. These sites were cut in, but the track needed further modification to allow the passage of caravans. Now there were people involved. Phil Hawker had been generous in housing us at his farmhouse, however, with the advent of workers, this required us to spread the boundaries of our thought processes a little further a field. A toilet was required. We could not keep running back to the farmhouse every time we needed to answer the call of nature. A long drop toilet was manufactured, transported, the hole dug and the long drop positioned for our use.
Now that things were starting to take shape, a name for this place was needed. What was it going to be? What were we going to call it? Should the name be related to Vietnam, and should it be named after one of our departed members? These were vexing questions, as there were so many deserving of having a camp, Yes! we did decide to make it a “Camp”; named after them. It was finally decided that it would be good if we could honour the new generation of veteran. Sgt Andrew “Drew” Russell of the SASR had been killed in action in Afghanistan during the first deployment of troops to that country and was in fact, the only Australian casualty at that time. Andrew was the son of one of our members, Bob, and his wife Jan, and the husband of Kylie. So an approach to Bob and Jan, as well as Kylie Russell was made. The family gave us their blessing, and now we had a name: “Camp Andrew Russell”.
Don Viney was warming to our (very) basic plan and offered a small unit with a shower and toilet in it. With the assistance of Don and his forklift, the unit was loaded onto a trailer and moved to the camp area where a site was chosen and the unit unloaded – not to be moved again. Plumbing of the shower and toilet was provided, as well as a septic system. Our partners loaded and unloaded something like three or four trailer loads of rock for the soakage pit. This made us sit down and suffer a bit more brain strain about where to put things in relation to the emerging layout of the camp.
Partners were now heavily involved and shifted I don’t know how many tons of rocks, huge amounts of weed (including tumble weed), and somehow a track circuit started to form itself. A provisional fireplace had been built, and this was used to dispose of the copious quantities of weed that were being harvested by our happy band of helpers. During this time, bits and pieces of building material were starting to find their way to the camp. Things like fencing iron, steel framework and other odd things that were stacked to one side as we just could not be bothered with them at the time.
Late 2004 a definite plan had evolved, and things really started to hum. Construction went ahead quite rapidly. The generator shed was sited (after a couple of moves) and the generator installed. We had previously been using the generator mounted on a trailer.
The ‘Camp Kitchen’ had been a tarpaulin stretched between trees, people had moved from the farmhouse to setting up at the campsite. Tents and caravans started occupying the scratched out caravan/camping sites, which still needed a lot of work on them. The stockpile of building materials continued to grow and was soon put to good use with the camp kitchen starting to take shape, active clearing and marking of camp sites was well in hand, things started to roll along at a rapid rate of knots. Water tank stands had been built; tanks put in place, again with the assistance of Don Viney. Some (weellll, a LOT of) outside assistance was provided in road making, which made our main circuit suitable for all types of vehicles and caravans.
The memorial area had been constructed and flagpoles fixed into position, with a ‘pallet’ fence constructed behind them. A ROCK for the plaque was gained, (not without difficulty), and moved into position. The cross was also put into place. Gardens were constructed, statues of soldiers were fixed into position. Trees, lawn and rye were planted to provide a stable base to keep the sand together.
Signage was provided by a generous benefactor and placed into position, fencing was erected, solar lights installed. As well, the installation of all lighting, power was run from the generator to the ablution block, camp kitchen, and memorial area by a couple of our resident ‘sparkies’.
The campsites were finally cleared properly. Our partners were quick to jump in and mark these sites out, as well as tidying up where necessary.
By August 2005 we were able to set a date for the dedication and opening of the camp at 28th October 2005. The target date was met, and the dedication and opening of “Camp Andrew Russell” was conducted on schedule, and was well attended by almost 100 people.
This was a momentous occasion for all that had worked so hard to bring this idea of a camp, to reality.
The day started well with a morning tea for those who wanted to partake. Following the morning tea the formalities of the dedication were commenced.
Tony Moody was Kylie Russell’s delegate (as she was unable to attend) and unveiled the dedication plaque and Bob Russell declared the camp open. Pastor Bruce Stocks (from RGH) gave the service, the Last Post and Reveille were played, Denis Vincent (an admirable MC on the day) recited the Ode, flags were raised to the masthead and a wreath was laid. Pamela Blamey from DVA attended, and spoke encouragingly of the VVF and VORG, Kerry Lampard (President SASR Association of SA) and Bob Russell each gave an address, all of which were well received.
At the conclusion of formalities, people were invited to inspect the camp and its facilities. Lunch was provided to all present, and a good lunch it was too. Congratulations must go to the Catering Committee that was formed for this day.
The Veterans Off Road Group is proud of what it has achieved at Alawoona, however now is not the time to rest on our laurels. There is the ongoing maintenance of the camp, making it as ‘fire safe’ as possible and gradual expansion of facilities as use demands.
My thanks go to all those who were involved in any capacity for the effort and generosity of time put into the transition of an idea into a tangible reality.
John (Grumpy) Hough.
SPECIAL THANK YOU
As usual John (Grumpy) Hough is being his unassuming self and hasn’t rated a mention in the accolades above. It was Grumpy’s vision for a camp for veterans in about 2002 and he put the idea to the VORG which was received with much enthusiasm.
It is a result of Grumpy’s foresight which has seen this project develop from a vision to the reality that it is today.
On behalf of all veterans thank you Grumpy for your vision and dedication.
Since the beginning there have been many improvements, there is now hot water in the showers and kitchen, no more having to wait for the kettles to boil though no doubt in winter we will still be sitting around the fire with the kettles singing as the temperature of the water gets up to brew point.
The kitchen has been fully kitted out with new cupboards and a new refrigerator, the fridge is left running all the time by virtue of solar panels and batteries courtesy of the Federal Government. Now all a visitor has to do is transfer their cold goods into an already cold fridge. Just leave Don’s beer there!
There is a generator to back up the solar system and the power to kitchen and ablution block, you are asked to replace the fuel you use when there. For your caravan power you will need your own generators.
The cost is a reasonable donation of $8.00 per person per night, children 12 and under are not charged.