The Merredin Military Museum, Great Eastern Highway, Merredin, Western Australia. Photo: Julian Tennant
The Merredin Military Museum is easily found from the street with this World War 1 Vickers manufactured Ordnance BL 6 inch 26cwt howitzer sitting out the front of the museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
Bell 206B-1 Kiowa recon helicopter used by the Australian Army from 1972 – 2019. Photo: Julian Tennant
View of the open air exhibits at the Merredin Military Museum. Some of the vehicles on display include a Mk III Valentine tank, Staghound armoured car, Aermacchi MB-326H jet, UH-1H and Bell 206B-1 Kiowa helicopters and a M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier. Photo: Julian Tennant
Situated approximately 256 km (159 miles) east of Perth and roughly halfway to the goldfields surrounding Kalgoorlie, the town of Merredin was established as a rest stop for travellers making their way to the goldfield region. Being so far from the coast the town also became an important military base during World War 2 when military planners were establishing a defensive line in the event of a Japanese invasion. Merredin was considered distant enough from the coast to be out of range of carrier borne aircraft, close to major road and rail supply routes and in an area where there were good food and water supplies. As a result the town and surrounding district was home to several military bases during the war and since the early 1990’s, home to the Merredin Military Museum.
I had been wanting to visit this museum for some time and after giving the curator, Rob Endersbee a call to confirm that it would be open, I left Perth early on Friday morning for the three-hour drive. Because of its history during WW2, there are a number of military related sites around the area, so the plan was to stay in town overnight and make a leisurely drive back to Perth on Saturday or Sunday, checking out anything that took my fancy on the way.
Despite leaving quite early, I did get a little distracted on the drive when I passed an old service station in the town of Meckering, just over an hour outside of Perth. The gas station had been redecorated to look like a huge SLR camera and was now The Big Camera – Museum of Photography, a private collection of hundreds, if not thousands, of old cameras and photographic equipment that made for a nice little rest stop.
Arriving at the Merredin Military Museum shortly after 11am, I was met by Bill Beer, one of the volunteers and a little later, Rob the curator, both of whom were happy to talk about the exhibits and provide additional information about the pieces on display. The museum was established in the early 1990’s after three local collectors accepted an offer from the Merredin army cadet unit to pool their collections and set up a display in one of their sheds.
By 1998 and with support from the local shire the collections had been relocated to a new home, the old railway communications building less than 200m away from the train station and tourist information centre making it very convenient for any visitor arriving from Perth. The current location houses the three private collections as well as the museum’s own growing collection, so it is rather eclectic and as a result quite fascinating, including items that I had not expected to encounter in a regional town.
An extremely rare Australian Mk III ‘Folbot’ collapsible canoe used by Australian Special Forces operatives from Z Special Unit during World War Two. Photo: Julian Tennant
The first of these is in the main display room where an extremely rare Folbot (folding boat) canoe used by the Australian Services Reconnaissance Department’s “Z” Special Unit operators is suspended from the ceiling. This was the same type of canoe used by the two-man teams during OPERATION JAYWICK to paddle into Singapore harbour and attach limpet mines to the Japanese shipping. There is also a small display of other “Z” Special Unit items, including a detonator timer and a very rare Australian Army Stiletto (AAS) which is the Australian made dagger based on the famed Fairbairn Sykes design.
Sten gun magazines with magazine filler and a very rare Australian Army Stiletto (AAS) issued to “Z” Special Unit operatives and members of the 2/6th Independent (Commando) Company. Looking at the detail of the knife, I believe that this is the pattern made by Gregory Steel Products in Melbourne. Photo: Julian Tennant
Clock timer used for initiating explosives. Part of the “Z” Special Unit display at the Merredin Military Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
World War 2 period uniform of the 2/23rd Infantry Battalion (left) and Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps officers tunic circa 1945 (right).
World War 2 period RAAF winter greatcoat belonging to WJ (Bill) Allen who served in the Battle of Britain as an Air Gunner and finished his war service in 1945 with the rank of Flight Lieutenant. Photo: Julian Tennant
Items belonging to WX16991 Jack Flinders, who served with the SRD (Z Special Unit). Photo: Julian Tennant
Newspaper and Type 95 Japanese NCO’s sword brought back to Australia by Signalman Harold Hardy after the surrender of Japanese forces on Morotai Island. Photo: Julian Tennant.
Other rooms in the building feature an extensive selection of models and communications equipment, including an interesting display relating to one of Australia’s first surveillance units, the 2/1st Northern Australia Observation Unit, whose role was to carry out horse mounted patrols in the arid north watching for signs of Japanese invasion. There are also spaces dedicated to the local military history including several uniforms related RAAF personnel and the nurses who served with the 2/1st Australian General Hospital that was based at Merredin in 1942-3, as well as the Vietnam war, a weapons display and the WW1 Honour Rolls room. This last room reminds us that of the approximately 375 local men who left to serve in WW1, 70 were killed in action. A significant number for any small rural community of the time.
2/1st North Australia Observation Unit (NAOU) display. Nicknamed the “Nackeroos” or “Curtin’s Cowboys”, the unit was created in mid-March 1942 and given the task of patrolling northern Australia to look for signs of enemy activity. They operated in small groups, with most of their patrols were on horseback, taking advantage of the knowledge of local Aboriginals and maintaining isolated coastwatching outposts. They were disbanded in 1945 after the risk of invasion had passed. Their traditions are carried on today by the Regional Force Surveillance Units of the Pilbarra Regiment, Norforce and 51 FNQR. Photo: Julian Tennant
World War 2 period RAAF Air Gunner’s tunic and sign from the old Merredin Hotel. Photo: Julian Tennant
Two of the Australian Army issued booklets on display at the Merredin Military Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
Uniform worn by nurses who served with the 2/1st Australian General Hospital in Merredin, 1942/3. Photo: Julian Tennant
Uniform worn by nurses who served with the 2/1st Australian General Hospital in Merredin, 1942/3. Photo: Julian Tennant
2/1st Australian General Hospital display depicting the tent wards that existed when the unit first relocated to Merredin from Guildford in July 1942. Photo: Julian Tennant
A nice WW2 period Submarine Trench Art piece made from brass shell casings and bullet heads. Photo: Julian Tennant
A very rarely seen RAAF Search & Rescue patch from the RAAF Base Pearce near Perth. Photo: Julian Tennant
Royal Australian Navy submariner wearing the Disruptive Pattern Navy Uniform (SW12). Photo: Julian Tennant
Australian Armed Forces CR1M (Combat Ration 1 Man) ‘G’ type. Photo: Julian Tennant
Some of the extensive range of model tanks and AFV’s on display at the Merredin Military Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
A section of the Vietnam War display room at the Merredin Military Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
Australian Armed Forces Vietnam airmail envelopes and an anti-union card which originated after the postal union urged its members not to send mail to the servicemen in Vietnam. Photo: Julian Tennant
Dolls in Vietnamese national dress presented to Australian troops as a token of gratitude from the Government of the Republic of Vietnam. For many, these dolls are best known as the ‘award’ that was presented to members of Delta Company 6 RAR after the Battle of Long Tan in 1966 after the Australian Government denied the Vietnamese Government’s request to award them gallantry medals after the battle. The dolls were, however, given to many Australian servicemen, not just the Long Tan participants. Photo: Julian Tennant.
Vietnam war period 3 Cavalry Regiment, Royal Australian Armoured Corps (RAAC) beret and badge. Photo: Julian Tennant
Australian infantryman, Vietnam. Photo: Julian Tennant
First World War Australian Imperial Force digger’s uniform in the WW1 room at the Merredin Military Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
First World War Australian Light Horse uniform in the WW1 room at the Merredin Military Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
First World War Australian medics uniform in the WW1 room at the Merredin Military Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
Outside and in the vehicle shed are a several military vehicles plus aircraft, some of which are undergoing restoration, including a working Mk III Valentine tank, an CAC Aermacchi MB-326H (Macchi) training jet built under license by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, a 1980’s era Toyota station wagon (something that for some reason I never expected to see in a museum) and an interesting Bren Gun carrier, officially designated the Universal Carrier MG, Local Pattern No. 2 (LP2), that had been converted to carry a QF 2 Pounder anti-tank gun. Designated the Carrier, Anti-tank, 2-pdr, (Aust) or Carrier, 2-pdr Tank Attack, it is a heavily modified and lengthened LP2 carrier with a fully traversable QF 2 pounder anti-tank gun mounted on a platform at the rear and the engine moved to the front left of the vehicle. Stowage was provided for 112 rounds of 2pdr ammunition. Bill said that around 200 were produced and were used for training but he did not think that they saw operational service.
One of the more unusual vehicles undergoing restoration at the Merredin Military Museum. This is a modified Bren Gun Carrier (Universal Carrier MG, Local Pattern No. 2) which has been converted to carry a QF 2 Pounder Anti-Tank gun manufactured by General Motors in South Australia. Photo: Julian Tennant
Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) Aermacchi MB-326H (Macchi) jet. Photo: Julian Tennant
Mk III Valentine and M3 Grant tanks undergoing conservation and restoration at the Merredin Military Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
Officially designated ‘Car, Armoured, Heavy,’ but colloquially known by Australian crews as the ‘Stag’. The Staghound Armoured Car entered service with the Australian Army in 1943, and the last of the vehicles were retired in the late 1960s. Photo: Julian Tennant
Toyota station wagon used by the Australian Army in the 1980’s. Photo: Julian Tennant
Australian Army M113 Armoured Personnel Carrier at the Merredin Military Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
A WW1 period 18 Pounder wagon/limber that had been converted to be used with the 25 Pounder gun (as seen in the background) due to the shortage of purpose built limbers for these artillery pieces. The limbers had new axel bars, truck tyres, breaks and mud-guards added. These went on to serve in the Middle East and Pacific Campaigns. Photo: Julian Tennant
Australian M3 Stuart tank undergoing restoration at the Merredin Military Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
The Wiles Junior Mobile Cooker. Invented by Boer War veteran, James Fletcher Wiles, who recognised the difficulties involved in preparing hot meals for troops close to the front-line. During World War 1 over 300 of these cookers were used in Australia, Egypt and France by Australian troops. Photo: Julian Tennant
25 Pounder Gun on display at the Merredin Military Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
Chatting with Rob and Bill towards the end of my visit, it was quite interesting to hear some of stories surrounding the exhibits, but it also reinforced my respect for the people who keep places like the Merredin Military Museum open to the public. This is a private museum, running on a very tight budget, relying on donations and the goodwill of the public, plus its dedicated volunteers to stay afloat. When Rob heard that I was coming up from Perth for the visit, he told Bill, who actually turned up before the 10am opening time to make sure that somebody would be there when I arrived… which kinda made me feel bad for taking the break at The Big Camera in Meckering.
Rob also told me that despite a lot of information still stating that the museum is only open from Monday to Friday, it is NOW OPEN 7 DAYS PER WEEK from 10:00 until 15:00, but if you’re passing through Merredin and want to visit outside of those hours, give him a call and he will try to arrange to have it opened so that you can get in. That shows real dedication and I definitely recommend a visit the Merredin Military Museum as a day or overnight trip from Perth or if you’re making a trip to visit the goldfields around Kalgoorlie. Finally, if you are interested in exploring more of the sites related to the war history of Merredin and the wheatbelt region this RAC magazine article and this guide from the Merredin Tourist Visitors Centre are also worth reading.
The Merredin Military Museum
Great Eastern Highway
Western Australia 6415
Phone: +61 (0) 429 411 204 (Rob Endersbee – Curator)
Everyday 10:00 – 15:00 Or call Rob to arrange a visit
If you like the content please share this post or follow this page using the buttons below or in the column on the right.