Bill Rowe shares some memories of the Red Cliffs soldier settlement.
After WW1 hundreds of returned soldiers were relocated to Red Cliffs. Allocated blocks of Mallee scrub, with sometimes little or no farming background, many of these soldiers, some with post-traumatic stress disorder, were ill-equipped to deal with the arduous conditions of the area.
Bill Rowe: The Government decided after World War I that they would settle soldiers back on the land.
And some were settled on... dairy farms and some were on wheat properties out west of Red Cliffs here and it was on pretty poor country, mallee country that they'd cleared and lots and lots of those chaps, they cleared their own land with teams of horses and tore the mallee stumps out of the ground and planted the wheat and lots of the men weren't really suited to the country life and farm life and some of them didn't even plant up their property, you know, or take up crop off it.
Some of them weren't capable or they had serious health problems to stop them from working. They had it pretty hard and it was pretty hot here.
But as I said, they made three or four allocations and by the time they'd made three or four allocations of property, there were about 700 properties here through the Soldier Settlement Commission and that was at the time the biggest soldiers' settlement area in the whole of Australia and probably the world, returned soldiers from the First World War.
But they weren't acknowledged after the First World War of having these problems and they played up a fair bit in this district and they were committing suicide and it was just sort of a thing that I accepted when I was a kid and I never thought about it and sort of took it in the... Gave it the consideration that it deserved that these chaps had a war neurosis and wasn't being acknowledged.
For instance when I was probably about five or six, I was staying with my grandfather out on his property out near the pumping station and it wasn't unusual to hear shotguns go off and I heard this shotgun go off and the next day my grandfather told me that a chap about two blocks away had shot himself, you know, with a...
And so, this was something that was going on in this district that as a lad, I took as a normal thing and yet it wasn't. It was a pretty terrible thing in retrospect when I think about it now.
Copyright Red Cliffs - Irymple RSL and Bill Rowe