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Wates: The brothers who changed New Malden

In my September 2022 piece I noted the dominance of  developer Wates in shaping modern New Malden, especially south of the A3. This month I’m writing about the firm; next month I’ll concentrate on their archetypal chalets with their “exterior of outstanding loveliness”*.

The Wates business began around 1900 when Edward Wates (1873-1944) set up a furniture store in Streatham, South London, his brother Arthur joining him in 1902. The store, E & A Wates, sold furniture and furnishings and handled removals. It closed in May 2021 and the buildings are now being converted into flats under the name Wates Yard. Younger brothers William and Herbert, who were builders, joined the firm in 1904 and persuaded their older brothers to invest in some land in Purley to speculatively build two new houses. Wates was in the housebuilding business and by 1914 they’d built 139 houses.

During the 1920s Edward’s three sons, Norman (1905-69), Ronald (1907-86) and Allan (1909-85) joined the firm, progressively taking over from the first generation. Norman was the dominant figure: in 1926 under his leadership it embarked on ‘what was then an enormous speculation’, an estate of 1,000 houses in Streatham Vale, which took five years to complete. Ronald trained as a surveyor and took responsibility for site acquisition, later pursuing a second career as a borough and LCC councillor, for which in 1975 he was knighted. Allan joined the firm in 1930; from 1936 he was responsible for the contracting side of the business. All three brothers took an active role in community and philanthropic activities, something which younger members of the family have continued: since it was formed the Wates Foundation has made grants totalling over £100 million, which have provided vital support to thousands of charities.

The period up to WW2 saw enormous expansion, though activities were largely confined to a relatively small geographic area to the south of London from Twickenham in the west to Sidcup in the east. By doing this Wates could maintain a permanent workforce rather than using casual labour. By WW2 Wates  had completed 30,000 houses, 1500-2000 a year.

During the 1930s Wates built more homes in Malden than any other developer. From memory the first houses built by Wates in Malden were some  terraced houses on the south side of Kingston Road – built around 1930 IIRC. After this Wates moved on to build many of the houses in Cromwell Avenue estate. Kenneth Bland (1909-83) joined Wates as chief architect in 1933 and would be there until 1970s – he may be responsible for the Dutch gables found on later Wates houses (they’re not exclusive to Wates of course). Estate layouts, road and utility service design and the like were generally handled by Chart, Son & Reading, a Croydon firm of architects and surveyors.

With the opening of the Kingston Bypass (A3) on 28 October 1927 the land to its south was fair game for development and between 1928-34 Wates bought up multiple parcels of land. During the 1930s they were building houses by the hundred – Wilverley Park, Motspur Park, Barnfield and Wendover estates, the Worcester Park Station estate and several infill developments such as Burford Road.

From 1936 speculative house building in Greater London started to wind down. Most easy-to-develop land had been developed and the flow of new buyers had probably slowed down. The last Wates houses built in Malden before WW2 were for the most part larger detached houses pitched at a slightly different demographic.

As with other pieces in this occasional series, some of the information given here is drawn from memories of my time (1976-84) working at R.B.Kingston upon Thames Building Control and may be incorrect. If you can add anything or see any errors in what I’ve written please add a comment. Unfortunately the British Newspaper Archive has yet to digitise copies of the Surrey Comet for the period covered by these pieces.

* Weekly Dispatch (London) – Sunday 21 January 1934


The title I’ve given this page is a bit tongue in cheek. Wates were responsible for most of the interwar housing between the A3 and the Chessington railway line but a number of other builders were active in the Malden & Coombe BC area including

  • E&L Berg: Notable for their halls-adjoining area in the High Drive area and their Berg Sunspan houses in Woodlands Avenue.
  • Crouch Group: Builders of many semis in the Kenley Road area.
  • Gleeson: Built lots of houses between the large Wates developments and the Hogsmill river. Their attempt to copy Wates chalets doesn’t IMO come off.
  • R.Lancaster (Wembley): Kingston Vale estate, SW15 (Bowness & Ullswater Crescents, Derwent, Grasmere and Keswick Avenues, Windermere Road). Large houses for better off buyers.
  • Lavender and Farrell: Developed the Worcester Park end of M&C: Manor Drive, Highdown and Leyfield. For a detailed history see Worcester Park Life, Dec 2012, Local History article.
  • New Ideal Homesteads: Set up in 1929 and grew to be the largest homebuilder in the 1930s. Undertook development to the north of Clarence Avenue

A trip to Shepparton

For my latest mini-break (one night away from home) I went back to Shepparton, 181 kilometres north east of Melbourne. With a population at the last census of around 53,565 it’s the sixth largest city in Victoria. Shepparton is served by rail, but I drove, firstly because train services are currently suspended for track improvement works and secondly because I was paying my annual visit to SPC. Horrendous traffic, rail and hail made for a less than pleasant drive there.

SPC? In 1917 a group of fruit growers in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley formed a cooperative named the Shepparton Fruit Preserving Co. Ltd. It began operating in 1918, canning fruit under the brand name of SPC. After various changes of ownership in recent years, the company reverted to local ownership.

My interest in SPC? Shepparton town centre is home to their factory outlet store which carries lots of bargains: bulk buys, short dated products and end of line stock. I picked up lots of non-perishables and soft drinks which will see me through Christmas and well into the new year.

After a good night’s sleep at the Paradise Lakes motel, I went out to my car to find a flat tyre. Not what I wanted, especially with the spare wheel buried under a pile of food! Unlike the day before, it was a dry sunny morning and I got all sorted within an hour.

Late breakfast and then before driving home I visited MOVE, the Museum of Vehicle Evolution. I’d been there several times before, back to when it was Shepparton Motor Museum. It was rebuilt a few years ago and now houses large displays of cars, motorcycles, bicycles with a huge truck gallery where alongside the trucks the stories of their owners are told. Many came from southern Europe just after WW2 and built up sizeable transport businesses on the back of the fruit growing and canning industry. For those with little interest in transport there is a fashion gallery, display of vintage electronics and a gallery devoted to Furphy agricultural products.

Then home, thankfully a trouble-free easy drive.

SPC Factory Outlet, Shepparton
SPC Factory Outlet, Shepparton
SPC Factory Outlet, Shepparton
SPC Factory Outlet, Shepparton
Some of the cars on display at MOVE
Some of the cars on display at MOVE
MOVE early bicycles
MOVE early bicycles
MOVE truck gallery
MOVE truck gallery
MOVE 1980 White Road Boss
MOVE 1980 White Road Boss
MOVE 2008 Kenworth W908
MOVE 2008 Kenworth W908
MOVE Furphy gallery
MOVE Furphy gallery
MOVE vintage electronics
MOVE vintage electronics

Dubai stopover (QE2)

In recent years I’ve developed a special interest in and affection for Cunard ships. As a very small child I crossed the Atlantic on RMS Media in 1957, returning on the Queen Mary in 1959. In 2010 I was able to revisit the Queen Mary, now a floating hotel in Long Beach, California. In 2018 the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2) finally reopened as a floating hotel, moored at Dubai’s Port Rashid, and visiting her got added to my to-do list.

In July I made my first post-Covid trip to the UK to see friends and family. In earlier times I took a direct flight from Melbourne though Singapore to London so as to maximise my time with family. Now retired, I took the opportunity to have a stopover in Dubai so I could fulfil my ambition.

The QE2 made her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 1969 then came to prominence when she was requisitioned for the Falklands War as a troop transport in 1982. In 1985 her engines were converted from steam to diesel. In 2007 she was sold to Dubai interests to become a floating hotel but this didn’t happen until 2018.

My stay on QE2

Originally I’d planned to stay for three nights but a late family wedding notification reduced this to two. I flew from Melbourne and arrived Wednesday mid-afternoon. Dubai taxis and Uber provide an efficient, reasonably priced service which is just as well since the QE2 is moored well away from public transport. Obviously the first thing to do was to check in. A large ship-inspired onshore building houses the reception along with a large number of QE2 artefacts.

I’d chosen a ‘Captain’s Room’, in service days designated as a first-class stateroom. No balcony! How things have changed since the 1960s: now every effort is made to maximise the number of balconies on cruise ships; back then only the elite got a balcony. I wasn’t fussed since Dubai in July is not balcony weather. My stateroom, breakfast included, cost a very reasonable AED563 per night (US$153; GBP125; AUD237); the room rate increases somewhat during the cooler months. The cheapest (‘Classic’) rooms start at about half this; if you’re feeling flush, the Royal Suite, once reserved for members of the Royal Family can be yours for AED3000+ per night.

Top of my to-do list was the Heritage tour. This is run twice a day and I was nicely in time for the 5.00p.m. tour, ably led by Craig. The tour took in a number of places that are not open to casual visitors including the bridge. Having just arrived, the tour served as a good orientation exercise. I spent a good few hours exploring the ship on my own, getting lost more than once!

For dinner I went to the Lido restaurant and enjoyed butter chicken and rice, very reasonably priced at AED70 (US$19; GBP16; AUD29) considering that they have a captive audience. On the Wednesday night the restaurant was all but deserted; it was much busier on Thursday. The included buffet breakfast was much as you’d get at any hotel.

As for Dubai itself

If Dubai had been my destination, rather than a stopover, I would not have gone in July! A daytime temperature of 39C did not lend itself to prolonged outside sightseeing. I spent most of Thursday in the huge Dubai Mall, also riding the Metro to Deira City Centre from where I walked down to the Dubai Creek. Dubai metro trains and trams have Gold Class cabins, offering additional comfort for a premium fare and there are also cabins set aside for women and children.

On Friday I didn’t need to go to the airport until about 7.30p.m. so went to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building (830m, 2,722ft), named for a former president of the UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The cheaper of the two viewing decks is on the 124th floor: the views are spectacular.

Then all too soon it was time to go back to the QE2 and pack for the onward UK flight.



A less than bright spammer

This post is a work in progress, more to follow

Spam email from someone who thinks I own fastmail.com.au

Spam email from someone who thinks I own fastmail.com.au

Barely a day goes past without me getting an email like the above.  Does ‘Aaron’ not realise that fastmail.com.au is a major provider of email services to people like me?

On reaching seventy

At the start of July I reached the Biblical threescore years and ten: Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away (Ps.90.10 NIV). Thankfully most people live beyond eighty but living a long life is a mixed blessing if our last years are marked by physical or mental impairment.

I kicked off my birthday dinner with a short speech reflecting on fifty years of adult life:

  • In my 20s I was a council building inspector and originally expected to be there until I retired. My holiday ambitions went no further than Southend-on-Sea, 40 miles (64 km) east of central London.
  • In my 30s one throwaway comment from a friend’s wife set me on the path of 37 years of self-employment. Another throwaway comment from another friend led to me making my first overseas trip as an adult. Since then I’ve made around 30 UK-USA trips, 15 trips to Australia as a British tourist and a similar number as an Australian visiting the UK, four trips to Africa and some other places too, and, in recent years, multiple cruises.
  • My early years of self-employment did not go well: the low point was reached around my 40th birthday when I was deep in debt and my bank threatened (metaphorically) ‘to send the boys round’. Yet another throwaway comment from yet another friend to me back to uni to study Business Studies and this was a key driver to my business coming good.
  • Five years later I was back in Melbourne enjoying the Christmas sunshine when the notion came to me, ‘you’re so happy here: you should move here’. Finally in 2008 I was able to do so – the best decision I’ve ever made.

Regrets – here’s just a few

If I could re-live my adult life knowing what I know now, what would I change?

Study: I took my first degree with University of Reading, the first year being based at the College of Estate Management in Kensington, then in the new FURS building at Reading Whiteknights. I commuted from home and the experience was an extension of school. Being then very introverted, going to a university that would have required me to live away from home would have been very challenging, but I see now that it would have been good for me.

Home: After leaving university I began to think about having a home of my own. At that time (mid 1970s) the general rule was that you could borrow three times your salary plus, where applicable, one times your fiancée’s/wife’s salary. As I was single this left me able to borrow around £6,000, not enough for the average house. My interest was taken by a house in Warwick Road, Twickenham, a rundown two-up, two-down terraced cottage. This didn’t worry me since I would have enjoyed renovating it but given its condition at that time the only mortgage available was from the council at 17½% interest! My dad’s opinion was ‘you’d be daft to spend £7,000 on a house like that’ and I followed his advice. A year later my salary had all but doubled and interest rates had fallen, so the pain would have been short-lived. Houses in Warwick Road now sell for £600K and more!

Exercise: In the UK once I became self-employed I ran my car as a company car. Under the tax rules then in force failure to do at least 2,500 miles a year resulted in a tax surcharge so I used my car whenever possible. In retrospect it would have been much better to walk to the post office each day but this was in an era long before your smartphone was checking on whether you walked 6,000 steps a day. I also justified using the car on the basis on time saved, but the walk would have been good for my mental as well as physical well-being.

People: I’ve always been guilty of trying to do much in the time available. When it came to church I was always the one walking into meetings a few minutes after they’d started, having tried to do one more thing before leaving home. On Sunday mornings I didn’t count myself late if I slipped into church before the first hymn finished. Now I so wish I’d made time to walk to church and get there ten minutes before the service started, giving myself time to talk to other members, especially the older ones. Those brief conversations might or might not have meant much to me, but many of the older folk might have appreciated a short friendly chat and I would have begun the service in a much more receptive frame of mind.

Cars: I bought my first car as soon as I could. It was old (11 years, which was old then) and an endless money pit. My dad had never held a licence (eyesight problems) and took the view that if he could manage without a car, I could too, so no help was forthcoming. And yet an offer (say) to match my £100 savings would have meant that I could buy a still modest much better car. Later it was me not being prepared to spend more: as a building inspector I drove a fair distance and mileage allowances depended on engine size. I put too much emphasis on choosing cars that would show a profit (a Chrysler Sunbeam 1.3 and Austin Maxi 1750) rather than some cars I might have enjoyed more. At one point I was seriously interested in buying a Saab 96 but let head rule heart.

Relationships: I won’t say too much here. I’m now 70, single, never married. Several times in my life there have been women who I hoped might be more than just friends but it was not to be. Do I regret not having children of my own? In the absence of a strong, stable marriage, no. I have though had the joy of ‘borrowing’ other people’s children as babysitter, twelve years as a Beaver (Joey) Scout leader, and thirteen years (so far) as a church creche helper.

No regrets

The last fifteen years have been the best years of my life and I have never once regretted making the move to Melbourne after 55 years in Twickenham. I’m not rich, but I have no financial concerns, no real health issues compared with many of my contemporaries, a rich varied life (read my other blog entries) and my birthday dinner reminded me of my rich circle of friends. Could anyone want for more?

 

A trip to Hurstbridge

Yesterday I decided to do something different and took the train out to Hurstbridge, 28km NE of Melbourne CBD, 38km by rail.

The railway was extended to Eltham in 1902 and then to Hurstbridge in 1912. The Eltham-Hurstbridge section was electrified in 1926. Parts of the line are still single track though a number of these sections have recently been or are currently being duplicated. The last part of the line passes through native bushland. 

The area that is now Hurstbridge was first settled by Cornelius Haley in 1842. He engaged Henry Hurst as manager. In 1857 Henry and his family took over the estate. Significantly, he built the first log bridge across the Diamond Creek.

Sadly on 4th October 1866, Henry Hurst was fatally wounded by a bushranger, Robert Bourke. Bourke was tried, found guilty of murder and hanged.

The township was progressively known as Allwood, Upper Diamond Creek, Hurst’s Bridge, Hurst Bridge and, since 1954, Hurstbridge.

Although dry and sunny it was a cold day so I didn’t spend long there but am hoping to return for the Hurstbridge Wattle Festival (last Sunday in August). One of the promised attractions is that Steamrail will be running steam-hauled shuttle trains.

The excellently signed heritage trail (PDF) takes in thirty buildings and other places of interest; I got to see about half of them.

Of particular note was the Little Bank Building, constructed so that it could be pulled from site to site by a team of horses or bullocks, and Saunders Garage, built 1912 as an engineering workshop then used as a motor mechanics since 1952. In addition, the op (charity) shops could have engaged me for a good while.

Then back to the station for the city-bound train – during the day it’s a 40-minutes service.

I broke my journey at Eltham to take a look at the historic trestle bridge. It’s the only surviving timber trestle bridge on the Victorian rail network. In the 1980s a plan to replace it was strongly resisted by local residents. They won and the bridge survived. It is now heritage listed.

The bridge is 195m long, 38 spans, and roughly 120 trains pass over it each day. It’s 121 years old … well not really, since none of the original members remain. When members are replaced the installation date is chiselled into the new member.

Then home – a good trip.

Taitset YouTube videos:

The Hurstbridge line

Eltham trestle bridge

Hurstbridge line map showing duplication works in progress (Victoria’s big build)

Hurstbridge railway substation (now decommissioned)
Hurstbridge railway substation
Hurstbridge Heritage Trail information plaque
Hurstbridge Heritage Trail information plaque
Little Bank, Hurstbridge
Little Bank, Hurstbridge
Saunders Garage, Hurstbridge
Saunders Garage, Hurstbridge
Eltham trestle bridge
Eltham trestle bridge
Data mark on trestle bridge post
Date mark on trestle bridge post

On Coronations

According to the UK Daily Telegraph, “George III’s coronation took place on September 22, 1761, and was described by contemporary observers as “a complete shambles” and a “fiasco” after the heralds forgot their lines, the dean omitted to provide any chairs for the King, or Queen Charlotte and the canopy was mislaid along with the Sword of State. Meanwhile, the King removed the crown at the wrong moment and a large diamond fell from its setting, prompting a frantic search”. Queen Victoria’s 1838 five-hour coronation has been described as “the last of the botched coronations”. We may be thankful for this.

On May 6th King Charles III was crowned. I’m not a royalist but did take time out to watch the service – for us in eastern Australia, held at a very civilised 8.00p.m. AEST. It’s the first coronation to take place in my near seventy-year life and if King Charles lives as long as his father and I as long as mine, it will be the only one I witness. In contrast, my dad lived through four, not that he’d have been conscious of the first. The four:

Edward VII (and Queen Alexandra)

Like Charles III, Edward spent decades in waiting. As Queen Victoria’s eldest son, ‘Bertie’, he was heir apparent from birth (1841), succeeding to the throne, on 22nd January 1901. Although just 59, obesity and heavy smoking had aged him. His coronation was set for 26th June 1902. Two days before he was diagnosed with appendicitis so it had to be postponed. Many dignitaries returned home. The deferred coronation took place on 9th August.

Why was this coronation notable? At university we learned about this coronation … in contract law class. Many people with rooms overlooking the processional route rented them out for the occasion. When the coronation was postponed, the would-be spectators wanted their money back and a spate of law cases followed. Generally they succeeded if the contract implicitly or expressly stated that the room hire was for the purpose of viewing the proceedings, not otherwise.

George V (and Queen Mary)

George was not born to reign. He became the heir to the throne in 1892, aged 26, on the death of his older brother, Prince Albert. He became king on the death of his father, 6th May 1910, with his coronation taking place on 22nd June 1911. His 25-year reign was marked by the Great War and the Depression. He died on 20th January 1936 aged 70.

Why was this coronation notable? The guest list saw an assemblage of European royalty that would never be replicated. Within ten years the map of Europe would be redrawn. The VIP list included the German Crown Prince (the King’s first cousin once removed), the Grand Duke of Hesse (the King’s first cousin), Prince Henry of Prussia (another first cousin), the Crown Prince of Denmark (another first cousin), the Crown Prince of Sweden (another first cousin), Archduke Karl of Austria, the Crown Prince of Romania (yet another first cousin), Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich of Russia, Infante Ferdinand of Spain, the Crown Prince of Serbia, the Prince of the Netherlands and many more

Edward VIII

Why was this coronation notable? Because it didn’t happen: Edward’s ten-month reign ended with his abdication on 10th December 1936. By then plans for his coronation, set for 12th May 1937 were well in hand. But they weren’t wasted …

George VI (and Queen Elizabeth)

On Edward VIII’s abdication the unready and reluctant Prince Albert found himself king, taking the name “George VI” to emphasise continuity with his father. With so many arrangements already made, his coronation took place on 12th May 1937. Just over two years later the country was again at war. “Cometh the hour, cometh the man” – certainly true of WW2 and George VI. The stress of wartime leadership coupled with the effects of heavy smoking led to his premature death on 6th February 1952.

Why was this coronation notable? The coronation procession (but not the ceremony inside the abbey) was broadcast on TV, the country’s first major outside broadcast – at the time there were probably no more than 1,000 TV sets in the UK perhaps watched by 10,000 people. It was also the first coronation to be filmed, and the first to be broadcast on radio.

Elizabeth II

For her first ten years there was little expectation that Elizabeth would in time become queen. Then the abdication of her uncle moved her up the line of succession, to become heir presumptive (presumptive because in theory her parents could have produced a son who would have become heir apparent). After years of war and the austerity that followed, the new Elizabethan age was greeted with enthusiasm.

Why was this coronation notable? The 2nd June 1953 coronation was televised with more than half the adult population (viewer estimates vary: 20-27 million) watching, many on sets obtained specifically for that purpose. It would be the last coronation for nearly seventy years.

And the only coronation that most of us have witnessed:

King Charles III (and Queen Camilla)

In contrast to Queen Elizabeth’s three hour ceremony watched by 8,000 guests, Charles’ coronation was a slimmed down affair, with the ceremony lasting about an hour with only 2,000 guests present. In spite of the much larger population, UK viewer figures are put at around 20 million, much lower than the 29 million who watched Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.

Why was this coronation notable? Those participating included Vincent Nichols, the Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, and Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh members of the House of Lords.

Anzac Day 2023

Today is Anzac Day (Anzac: Australian and New Zealand Army Corps). To quote the Victorian ANZAC Day Act 1958:

Anzac Day march 2023: Looking up the march route

Anzac Day march 2023: Looking up the march route

In commemoration of the part taken by Victorian troops in the Great War and in memory of those who gave their lives for the Empire, and in commemoration of the service of Australians for their country in subsequent conflicts and peacekeeping activities, the twenty-fifth day of April in each year (being the anniversary of the first landing on Gallipoli of troops from the United Kingdom Australia and New Zealand) shall be known as ANZAC Day.

If you know your WW1 history, you’ll know that the Gallipoli campaign was a disaster. After eight months the Allied forces were evacuated. Allied deaths included 8,709 from Australia and 2,721 from New Zealand. At that time Australia’s population was less than five million. To remember those who had died (and many more who were injured) Anzac Day was instituted.

This morning I set my alarm for 4.30 – not something I’ve done for many years. Why? I’ve been to watch our Melbourne Anzac parade on a number of occasions but to now have never made it to the 5.30a.m. Dawn Service, something I’ve felt I should do at least once. I was one of about 40,000 attending.

Anzac Day dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance

Anzac Day dawn service at the Shrine of Remembrance

It was a moving occasion. In the darkness Master of Ceremonies Justin Smith reminded us that this year marks 70 years since the armistice of the Korean War, in which 339 Australian soldiers died. Those who returned weren’t given the recognition that they deserved, as was the fate of Vietnam vets twenty years later.

The Last Post was sounded, followed by a minute’s silence. The poem In Flanders Field was recited by Caitlin Fankhauser, the Shrine’s Young Ambassador. The MSO Chorus and Navy Band sang Abide with me and the New Zealand and Australian national anthems. The dignitaries moved to the Shrine sanctuary to lay wreaths.

Anzac Day march 2023: Melbourne High School band

Anzac Day march 2023: Melbourne High School band

Then home. I watched the parade on TV so the following pictures come courtesy of the ABC.

The march lasts for nearly three hours with representatives of around 370 units taking part. School and other bands provide the music. Here are the very impressively dressed members of the Melbourne High School band.

Here are a just a few of the more eye catching and interesting banners:

Anzac Day march 2023: 4th Light Horse banner

Anzac Day march 2023: 4th Light Horse banner

As can be seen from their banner, the 4th Light Horse saw service across the battlefields of WW1. Those marching behind the banner are descendants of those who fought.

Medals are worn on the left breast by those to whom they were awarded; descendants wear their ancestors medals on their right breast. According to the RSL rules photos of the person being commemorated are not to be carried but a good few people don’t comply.

Anzac Day march 2023: Usher's Mob

Anzac Day march 2023: Usher’s Mob

The march reminds us that every military force relies on all sorts of support operations, supplies, fuel, medical care, communications, engineers and here transport in the shape of the 118th Australian General Transport, aka ‘Usher’s Mob’.

I have no idea as to who Usher was, but his mob keep his name alive. The entire resources of the internet have failed to answer this question. If you find an answer please let me know via the comments.

Anzac Day march 2023: Catalina flying boats banner

Anzac Day march 2023: Catalina flying boats banner

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) operated Catalina flying boats as night raiders, laying mines in the southwest Pacific deep in Japanese-held waters.

In late 1944, mining missions sometimes exceeded 20 hours in duration and were carried out from as low as 200 ft (61 m) in the dark. Catalinas also regularly mounted nuisance night bombing raids on Japanese bases, with the RAAF claiming the slogan “The First and the Furthest”.

Anzac Day march 2023: Odd Bods banner

Anzac Day march 2023: Odd Bods banner

The Odd Bods Association was formed by ex-RAAF. and Allied Air Force members who had served in the UK, Europe and the Middle East in non-RAAF. units, mostly Royal Air Force units.

Once back in Australia they wanted an association of their own so that they could hold reunions and remember those who had lost their lives in the many conflicts during the war. Thus the formation of the Odd Bods Association in 1947.

Anzac Day march 2023: Wellington bomber banner

Anzac Day march 2023: Wellington bomber banner

458 and 460 Squadrons operated Wellington bombers.  458 Squadron was formed in 1941 and was soon sent  to RAF Holme-on-Spalding, Yorkshire before being sent to Egypt, Italy, France and Gibraltar.

460 Squadron was formed from members of 458 Squadron and operated from RAF Breighton flew the most sorties of any Australian bomber squadron and dropped more bomb tonnage than any squadron in the whole of Bomber Command.

Anzac Day march 2023: Scout and Guide banners

Anzac Day march 2023: Scout and Guide banners

And lastly, a thank-you to the Scouts and Guides who acted as marshals.

 *  *  *

2023 cruise #3: Barrier Reef

My third 2023 cruise started off as a March 2022 Barrier Reef cruise booked in March 2020 then unsurprisingly cancelled in July 2021. In this case deciding what to do next was easy: I rebooked on the same cruise a year later. I visited the Barrier Reef on my first visit to Australia in 1986 but not since then.

This was my first Celebrity cruise and my first cruise from Sydney. For the first time I took the XPT daylight train to and from Sydney, spending the nights before and after the cruise in the Great Southern and Holiday Inn, Darling Harbour hotels respectively, both of which I was very happy with. This was the first time I’d overnighted in Sydney since 2011.

The ship

Celebrity Eclipse is the third of Celebrity’s Solstice class ships, launched in 2010. Her rated capacity is 2,850 passengers and 1,271 crew. At 121,878 GT she doesn’t make Wikipedia’s top 60! I was booked into stateroom (cabin) 8254, defined as a Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Veranda – by my measuring (using a piece of A4 paper as a ruler!), the room was a spacious 225ft2 and the balcony a very generous 95ft2, both much larger than the quoted size for this cabin class.

Internally Eclipse is a beautiful ship. I’d specially commend Celebrity for the clear signage everywhere, far better than on the Grand Princess or Queen Elizabeth.

The cruise

I was given a late embarkation time which at first disappointed me, but it did mean that from arriving at the terminal to boarding took no more than ten minutes.

On board the crew were without exception excellent. The food was good and on sea days there was a wide range of activities – one, unique to Celebrity (not tried by me), was glassblowing classes. I went to the theatre shows nearly every night – NZ pianist/singer Will Martin was undoubtedly the standout. Several shows included very impressive high wire acrobatics.

One thing that stood out was the passenger mix. Around 1,500 had stayed on board following the preceding cruise around New Zealand and it seemed like the majority were from UK. There were very few solo travellers and most nights for dinner I ended up on a six-seat table with two couples; all good company but it would have been nice not to be the odd one out.

Day 2: Eden

One might have expected our first port call to be Brisbane, but not so perhaps because of wharf availability. Instead, on leaving Sydney we headed south to Eden for our first port day. Most of my time went on visiting the Killer Whale Museum and Mary MacKillop Museum. Two days at sea bound for Queensland followed.

Day 5: Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach was the first of our three Barrier Reef port calls. In each case water depth dictated that the ship had to be anchored a long way off shore with passengers being ferried to shore on tenders. The trip took 30-40 minutes. Here the organisation of the tendering was abysmal; by the time we got to Port Douglas things improved significantly.

I didn’t sign up for any excursions, instead just looking round the town and visiting the seafront market. The huge seawater lagoon was being well used: in these parts no one with any sense goes in the sea during the summer months: marine stingers (box jellyfish) are active and in extreme cases their stings can be fatal.

Day 6: Cairns/Kuranda

The next day we anchored at Yorkey’s Knob, just north of Cairns. After taking the tender to shore I joined a group tour going to Kuranda by bus. After spending the morning in town I made my way to the station for the Kuranda Scenic Railway two-hour trip down to Freshwater. The railway was built in the 1880s and is an extraordinary feat of railway engineering.

The train stops at Barron Falls overlook, where we were able to disembark for several minutes and further down passes just in front of the Stoney Creek Falls.

Then back on the bus to catch the tender back to the ship.

Day 7: Port Douglas

Port Douglas was our last port of call. As before we anchored in deeper water, tenders providing access to the town.

After looking round the main street I climbed up to the lookout, passing a wedding chapel, formerly the 1914 St Mary’s by the Sea RC church, rebuilt here 1988.

The last tender was timetabled for 5.15p.m. but long before this the heat and humidity had got to me, and I was glad to go back to the ship.

Day 8: Willis Island

Our last ‘stop’ wasn’t a stop, rather a sail-by. Willis Island (450 km/280mi east of Cairns) is home to a weather observation station, population 4. Cruise passengers on ‘journeys to nowhere’ (voyages that depart from an Australian port and return to Australia without making landfall at an overseas port) do not qualify for duty-free purchases. Under a longstanding concession, a ship that making a notional stop in Willis Island waters is treated as having visited an international port, thus allowing cruise passengers to purchase duty free goods.

No Barrier Reef?

You may be wondering as to why I haven’t mentioned visiting the Great Barrier Reef. Special excursions were available for those who wanted to spend a day at the reef. Instead of taking a tender to the shore, those going on the reef tours ($$$) were collected from the ship by large catamarans which took them out to the reef. I’ve pencilled in a winter  holiday to these parts for 2025 and if this happens will revisit the reef then.

Day 9: Behind the Scenes tour

Expensive (A$186=~£100) but I enjoyed it. This small group tour took us round parts of the ship that passengers usually don’t see: the galley, stores, laundry, engine control room and bridge. A similar tour on the Queen Elizabeth also took in the theatre backstage, print shop, anchor room and medical centre – that was pre-Covid, so perhaps all or some of these were omitted as a safety measure.

Day 11: Sydney

Up super early to watch our final approach to Sydney. I was one of the last to disembark but this didn’t matter as I wasn’t in a hurry.

As if ten days cruising wasn’t enough, I dropped my case at the hotel and spent the day riding Sydney ferries to Parramatta and Manly!

Then up early next morning to get the XPT back to Melbourne and reality.

My favourite YouTube cruising channels

Emma Cruises
Tips for Travellers
Paul and Carole love to travel
CruiseTipsTV
Life Well Cruised

Barrier Reef cruise map
Barrier Reef cruise map (Global Journeys)
Celebrity Eclipse moored at Eden
Celebrity Eclipse moored at Eden
Celebrity Eclipse stateroom 8254
Celebrity Eclipse stateroom 8254
Celebrity Eclipse main dining room
Celebrity Eclipse main dining room
Celebrity Eclipse theatre
Will Martin performing in the theatre
Celebrity Eclipse liquor stores
Behind the Scenes tour – liquor stores
Behind the Scenes tour - on the bridge
Behind the Scenes tour – on the bridge
Killer Whale Museum, Eden
Killer Whale Museum, Eden
Airlie Beach
Airlie Beach, market stalls in background
Kuranda Railway Station
Kuranda Railway Station
Barron Falls
Barron Falls
Stoney Creek Falls
Our train passes the Stoney Creek Falls
Celebrity Eclipse seen from Port Douglas
Celebrity Eclipse seen from Port Douglas
Wedding chapel, Port Douglas
St Mary’s by the sea wedding chapel, Port Douglas
Willis Island
Willis Island
Celebrity Eclipse back in Sydney
Celebrity Eclipse back in Sydney

2023 cruise #2: Burnie, Tasmania

My second 2023 cruise started off as a 2021 cruise on the Queen Mary 2 from Fremantle to Melbourne, booked in  May 2019 – I like to book as soon as cruises go on sale. With Covid it was just a matter of time before it was cancelled: I was given the option of getting a full refund or carrying forward 125% of the deposit paid as a future cruise credit (FCC). I chose the latter course and booked a similar cruise for March 2022. This in turn got cancelled, with the FCC rolled forward again.

With two longer cruises already booked I settled on a three-night cruise from Melbourne to Burnie and back on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, treating myself to a Princess Grill suite. I’d previously enjoyed an upgrade to PG so knew what to expect. Burnie is on the north coast of Tasmania, approximately 500km/310mil from Melbourne by sea.

The day before the cruise I was surprised to get an email from Cunard saying that although the cruise would be going ahead, we might need to skip visiting Burnie as further hull cleaning was required before the QE’s New Zealand cruise which was to follow ours; if this was to happen we would each receive 100% FCC and $150 onboard credit (spending money), a more than generous offer.

What happened? The hull cleaning had to be abandoned because of rough seas, we did go to Burnie (to the regret of those hoping for the FCC) and those who joined the ship on Feb 14th expecting to go round New Zealand found themselves on a cruise to Queensland and back! If you’re interested, read the story on Cruise Critic.

Back to my cruise: I won’t say much about the ship since I’ve done this before. Day one was spent at sea. Plenty to do, including the Sunday church service conducted by the captain – a Cunard tradition – and a superb lecture given by Julie Bishop, Australia’s Foreign Secretary 2013-18 and now Chancellor of Australia National University – lots of great stories about her meetings with many world leaders.

At the end of day one I fell into bed not knowing what was to happen on day two. I’d assumed that the messaging was to prepare us for missing Burnie so it was a big surprise to wake up, draw back the curtains, and see that we were docked with a huge woodchip mountain in front of my balcony.

So after a quick breakfast I set off on my booked cruise ship excursion, to the Don Valley Railway excursion, Bass Strait Maritime Centre and Home Hill.

The Don River Railway is a volunteer-run preserved railway that runs trains on a 3.1km stretch of track that was once part of the Tasmanian railway system. We rode on a two-carriage train hauled by V2, a 1947 diesel built in UK by Vulcan Foundry, Lancs. Trains are steam-hauled on Sundays and public holidays. I rode in their 1908 ex-Hobart suburban carriage. After the train ride we were given a tour of the impressive workshops. Excellent friendly volunteers – I hope we do as well at Newport.

On to the Bass Strait Maritime Centre, Devonport. Not huge but lots to look at.

Our excellent tour guide, Colleen, had promised us that she’d saved the best till last. And so it was. We drove to Home Hill, the home of Joseph Lyons (1879-1939), Australia’s only (so far) Tasmanian Prime Minister (1932-39) and his wife Enid (1897-1981) who became a notable public figure in her own right after her husband’s early death – she was the first woman elected to federal parliament. After Dame Enid’s death the house now preserved and open to the public. As elsewhere, the volunteer guides were excellent.

The house was built in 1916 when the Lyons married and extended as the family (12 children!) grew. It remains largely as it was when Dame Enid last lived there in 1981, complete with her original furnishings and memorabilia. It was interesting to see these, and I came away with my knowledge of Australian history significantly enhanced.

Then back to the ship for dinner. On my New Zealand cruise solo travellers like me were assigned individual tables at dinner as an anti-Covid precaution; this time I was glad to be put on a shared table with seven other solos who were very good company and we were more than well looked after by our table steward, Thando. Then back to Melbourne. All too soon the cruise was over.

Next: 2023 cruise #3.

* * *

Queen Elizabeth at Melbourne
Queen Elizabeth at Melbourne
Queen Elizabeth funnel
Queen Elizabeth funnel
Burnie woodchips
Burnie woodchips
Julie Bishop jogging with Boris Johnson
Julie Bishop jogging with Boris Johnson
Bon Valley Railway
Don Valley Railway
Don Valley Railway workshop
Don Valley Railway workshop
Maritime Centre former Harbour Master’s House,
Maritime Centre former Harbour Master’s House,
Maritime Museum inside
Maritime Centre inside
Home Hill, Devonport
Home Hill, Devonport
Home Hill, Devonport
Home Hill, Devonport