I want you to play the following; don’t skip past because you wont get the idea. Scroll down and click on the song and read the content while the music plays.
Okay so what on earth is happening here? We have a very old Australian song, Waltzing Matilda, about the First World War and the video shows US Marines going off to Afghanistan. This is all about the United States First Marine Division. Stop, give me a chance.
If I have a chance to totally confuse you all then let’s make it clear that this is about Ballarat. My town in country Victoria, Australia. Below is an aerial map of my town.
The other day I showed you places in Ballarat where there was little traffic. Today I want you to look at the map and I will take you for a quick drive from where I live to a part of the Black Hill reserve. I just want to show you some totally untouched scrub that is in the middle of the city.
This is untouched scrub. No majestic trees, nothing spectacular. Maybe a red melaleuca bus that in, a garden, would have been tended and pruned but in the wild is just a little scraggly.
And while I am endeavouring to confuse you here is another little musical interlude.
Do you know that tune? Every Australian does. However, back to the Ballarat bush.
From the same spot as before I walked around a hundred yards where there were some large old cypress growing and I looked through the trees and below is the city. A closer look…..
… and there is the Ballarat Base Hospital. Now go back to the map.
If you follow your eye from where the camera was and pass the hospital you will come to Victoria Park.
It was in Victoria Park that following the Guadalcanal campaign, the men of the First Marine Division, United States Marine Corps were shipped to Melbourne for nine months recuperation in January 1943. Greeted with warm hospitality, these 15,000 young American men found a ‘home away from home’. They formed enduring friendships with Australian families, and romantic attachments with young Australian women. A lot is forgotten of the little-known story of the U.S. Marines’ ‘friendly invasion’ of Melbourne during World War II. A large part of the Division were based in a camp at Victoria Park. First they came to Melbourne and camped in Royal Park where the Royal Melbourne Hospital stands. Then many of them came to Ballarat.
With so many of their own men still absent overseas, Melbourne women greeted the visiting Marines with considerable excitement. The feeling was clearly reciprocated. Many veterans equate Melbourne with a ‘coming of age’ and their first romantic and sexual relationships. And at the end of the war, as many as 15,000 Australian war brides journeyed to the United States.
Australian men weren’t quite as understanding as their womenfolk were. Hence the saying, oversexed, overpaid and over here.
But such was the feeling that the Division felt that they took Australia’s unofficial anthem as a way of thanking Melbourne and Ballarat for their hospitality.
Here are some of the men in the reading room at the Ballarat Mechanics Institute.
I wonder, when the men of the First Marine Division of the United States Marine Corps march out to the tune of Waltzing Matilda do they know why? I don’t imagine many do.
And there is a lot more to the story