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Author Archive | Keith Maxwell

WERE YOU THERE at SPLENDOUR ROCK

You or your club may be able to help in a fabulous project.  Michael Keats and Keith Maxwell are researching Dawn Services at Splendour Rock on ANZAC Day.  There are few details for many years as to whether a Dawn Service occurred at all.  We are calling on clubs to fill in the gaps, if possible.

A book is well advanced that will contain a wealth of information about Splendour Rock but we would like to confirm details for the years below.  You could help make this publication an even better book.

Splendour Rock was dedicated on ANZAC Day in 1948.  Contributions from various club magazines and individual club members have resulted in some truly great recollections which will be included in the text. There are significant gaps in the record, such as an incomplete set of logbooks in the State Library of NSW, and anyone who can help fill these years would be most welcome to send us their stories or recollections or field notes. Years for which we seek stories are –

1949 1953 1957 1970 1977 1981 1987 2020
1950 1954 1963 1974 1978 1982 1990  
1951 1955 1964 1975 1979 1984 1991  
1952 1956 1968 1969 1980 1985 1992  

 

Please contribute your records or memories to Michael Keats at mjmkeats@easy.com.au

Keith Maxwell.

REMEMBRANCE at Splendour Rock 2021

At 6am on 25 April (ANZAC Day 2021) there will be a short ceremony of remembrance at Splendour Rock to recognise the thirteen fallen bushwalkers from WWII.  This will return the pattern of remembrance from at least 1992.  Every year since then (and perhaps even 1990 but there is insufficient evidence) on ANZAC Day there has been a Dawn Service of remembrance at Splendour Rock.  Naturally, due to the pandemic, there was no dawn service in 2020.

Bushwalkers who have previously been to Splendour Rock for ANZAC Day will know that Mt Dingo is a dry campsite that can be subject to high winds.  However, when the weather is right overnight camping on Mt Dingo can be an unforgettable experience.  Splendour Rock is in the Wild Dog Mountains whose nearest access is the Dunphy Carpark at the end of the Megalong Valley Road from Blackheath.

It is now an NP&WS requirement that you must REGISTER your intention to camp overnight in a National Park of NSW.  Please be COVID safe in your camping.  More information can be found here – camping 

The memorial plaque at Splendour Rock was installed in February 1948 by a combined group of Sydney Bush Walkers (SBW) and Coast & Mountain Walkers (CMW).  The plaque was dedicated on the following ANZAC Day.  Both clubs each lost four (4) members while the YMCA Ramblers Bushwalking Club lost two (2) members.  Three other bushwalking clubs each lost one member being the Campfire Club, Rucksack Club plus the Trampers Club.  Background details for all of these fallen service personnel can be found on the Bushwalking NSW (BNSW) website – here.

Splendour Rock photos

Splendour Rock in the Wild Dogs of the Blue Mountains with its fabulous location is a unique war memorial that has attracted visitors from all over the world.  There is value in old photos.  Your help could make a planned book on Splendour Rock even better.  I am after photos of Jack Cummings as the Convenor of ANZAC Day Dawn Services.  Jack started the current series of an annual Dawn Service at Splendour Rock but it is a tragic tale.

Around 1990 Jack lead his first Dawn Service as a member of the (ex) Nepean Bushwalking Club.  He did so each ANZAC Day until his tragic death in 2001.  Now 2001 was not a good year for the Cummings family as on Christmas Day their family home and hence many bushwalking records were destroyed as a bushfire engulfed the town of Warragamba.

I am also after photos of something that is easy to overlook.  You camp on Mt Dingo but do you take photos of it?  Photos of camping on Mt Dingo before an ANZAC Day Dawn Service would also be appreciated.

Photos must be of the highest possible resolution.  All photos that are used will be acknowledged but (of course) not all photos will necessarily be used.  The aim is diversity in photos so please look through your old photo albums for relevant photos.  The more to choose from the better.

This small memorial raises many questions.  Who were the fallen bushwalkers?  Who cast the plaque and how / when was it installed?  Which bushwalker found this site and why was it chosen for the memorial?  When were Dawn Services held and do we have any old programs?  Who were the bushwalkers who served in WWII and returned?  What was the “Bushwalkers Service Committee”?  What about the “MATES” memorial?  The planned book by Michael Keats and I will answer these and many other questions with a wealth of information about this memorial plus several other memorials in the immediate area.  Hence, it should become a valuable reference for any bushwalker.  The story of Splendour Rock and the other memorials is a fascinating part of the history of bushwalking.

Coast and Mountain Walkers (CMW) have provided many excellent early history photos.  Other clubs must also have photos.  I am keen to balance this CMW contribution with more diversity.

Send your scanned photos to history@bushwalkingnsw.org.au

Splendour Rock Memorial 1948

Places of Pride – Australian Register of war memorials

Splendour Rock Memorial 1948

Splendour Rock is a special place that remembers bushwalkers from Clubs of Bushwalking NSW (BNSW) killed during WWII with that wonderful phase “THEIR SPLENDOUR SHALL NEVER FADE” and it seems that it is getting better known outside Australia.  Bushwalkers / walkers who go to Splendour Rock, in the Wild Dog Mountains of the Blue Mountains, are rewarded with an amazing wide vista of the southern Blue Mountains from Kings Tableland in the east to the Blue Breaks and Lake Burragorang (southwards) then finally to Kanangra Walls in the west.  Splendour Rock was chosen for its location but also as a bushwalkers war memorial so it does require a bushwalk to access it.

In 2014, on behalf of BNSW, I had Splendour Rock placed on the register of NSW war memorials maintained by the State Library of NSW.

From an incomplete series of visitor logbooks in the State Library of NSW we can see that Splendour Rock has always attracted bushwalkers, Scouts and others.  It is just not groups from NSW but groups from within and outside Australia (not just Europe).

Similarly, “Places of Pride” is a virtual register of war memorials from all over Australia maintained by the Australian War Memorial (AWM in Canberra) as it aims to keep the memory alive of all Australians who died in past conflicts.

Recently, again on behalf of BNSW, I added Splendour Rock to this virtual list, of Australian war memorials, maintained by the AWM.

See https://placesofpride.awm.gov.au/memorials/263171

Entries on Places of Pride are more concise than the State Library of NSW register so a link was added back to the BNSW website for more information on the thirteen (13) fallen bushwalkers remembered and so consequentially to the State Library of NSW register of war memorials.

Splendour Rock is obviously a little different and probably unique in Australia and NZ.  In the Places of Pride text box for information on Splendour Rock I had to stress that access was only possible via a bushwalk.  The registration process with Places of Pride required a location given as a decimal latitude and longitude.  Since, the interactive map could not find a recognised road it suggested that access was possible via a dirt road.

Splendour Rock is now remembered as both an Australian “Place of Pride” as well as a NSW war memorial.

Keith Maxwell.

Honorary Historian BNSW

Chardon Award 2020

The Chardon Award was established in 2017 to recognise bushwalkers who have made a significant contribution to bushwalking or Bushwalking NSW (BNSW).  They had to be more than well known in their own club.

Harold Chardon was the bushwalker in 1932 who called the bushwalking clubs together to form the (now) BNSW as part of the campaign to save Blue Gum Forest.

The pattern each year has been to recognise a past bushwalker plus a very much alive bushwalker.  Hence, two bushwalkers were recognised with the 2020 Chardon Award at the Bushwalking NSW (BNSW) AGM on 18 August.  See the notes below for comments on these worthy recipients; Brian Walker and Belinda Keir.

BRIAN WALKER

Snippet from the Bushwalker – Vol. 32 #2 Autumn 2006

The above drab comment that Brian Walker was at least Secretary (1991) and President (1996) of Confederation does not give credit to the energy he brought to Bushwalking NSW (BNSW).  As Public Officer the NSW Federation of Bushwalking Clubs became “Confederation” inc (incorporated, with the legal role of obligations and safeguards that brings).

In 1993 Brian excited Sydney newspapers from his sighting of a missing light plane across a valley in Kanangra Boyd National Park.  “An Eventful Weekend“ (of this find) was the lead story of the November 1993 (Vol. 19 # 2) Bushwalker newsletter.

My last memory of him is on the exit of the Harbour Bridge when he went by on a recliner bicycle in a ‘Sydney Cycle’ event.  A cheery hello as always.  He was a friend to many in Confederation and his sudden passing left many walking friends in shock.  Shortly afterwards CMW held a wake in his honour at a member’s holiday cabins in Blackheath.

Brian Walker is a worthy recipient for the 2020 Chardon Award to honour his memory.

BELINDA KEIR

Belinda Keir has made a serious contribution to safety of bushwalkers from years of volunteer instruction in St John Ambulance First Aid to members of Bush Search and Rescue NSW (BSAR), bushwalking clubs, Scouts and the general public.

From 2003 onwards she has also served as a First Aid Officer at BSAR NavShield.  As such, she was an important part of the safety team that included NSW Ambulance Paramedics.

Belinda is a past active member of Sutherland Bushwalking Club and was an enthusiastic S&R volunteer during 1980s.  Hence, she responded to many S&R Callouts.  At that time Sutherland BWC was a strong supporter of S&R and would often supply a team of strong walkers whenever NSW Police had asked for assistance.  Through this volunteer service Belinda also become a good friend.

 

 

Belinda is pictured at centre with members of Sutherland Bushwalkers at a first aid training course she delivered  in 2005

 

 

Since well before 2000 Belinda was instructing in First Aid both at Senior / Provide First Aid plus Remote Area First Aid (RAFA) and is still instructing in First Aid.  The First Aid link on the BNSW website is for courses taught by Belinda on behalf of St John Ambulance.

The practical teaching methods of Belinda have helped to raise the level of First Aid knowledge within bushwalking clubs.  Hence, Bushwalking is now a safer activity from this training and her role as NavShield First Aid Officer.  Belinda Keir is a worthy recipient of the 2020 Chardon Award.

Keith Maxwell.

Learn more about the Chardon Award

Bushwalkers were there to (in WW2)

75 years ago there was genuine relief on two special days in 1945. On May 8 it was all over in Europe, VE day.   “Victory in Europe” – Hitler was dead and Australians serving there could come home.  Then, 15 August marked VP or VJ Day – “Victory in the Pacific” (or over Japan).  Thus, Australians serving in this theatre of war could also come home but the fate of some bushwalkers on active service was unknown as they were POWs (Prisoners of War).

World War 2 (WWII) was a different war for Australia compared to WWI.  The enemy was at our doorstep in New Guinea and nearby islands with multiple bombing raids on Darwin and other towns of the top end.  New Guinea was more than the Kokoda Track as the Japanese proved difficult to dislodge from many outposts.

At least 172 bushwalkers, men and women enlisted to meet this threat.  Our small nation of 7 million eventually had over 950,000 citizens in uniform.  Bushwalkers were spread through all three services of army, navy and air force.  Sadly, some bushwalkers were lost or became POWs in the ill-fated defence of Singapore with its surrender on 15 February 1942.

All POWs were not accounted for until well towards Christmas 1945 when finally, the bushwalking clubs could do a final count of their losses.  Thirteen (13) bushwalkers would never return to join their families and bushwalking friends.  The thirteen were remembered with short biographies in the 1946 Bushwalker annual magazine but what about a permanent memorial to honour their memory?

While we now know that these bushwalkers are remembered at Splendour Rock this initially was not an obvious choice.  A memorial park was even considered on Narrow Neck.

When Splendour Rock was dedicated on ANZAC Day 1948 access to this site was much more difficult than today.  However, the bushwalking clubs had chosen well.  Splendour Rock is unique.  There is nothing quite like it elsewhere in Australia or NZ to honour fallen bushwalkers (trampers).

So, 2020 is an appropriate time to update existing information on these fallen bushwalkers.  In 1945, the NSW Federation of Bushwalking Clubs (now Bushwalking NSW) was far smaller than today so their loss was keenly felt.  Some special bushwalkers never came back.

Take a moment to view this revised file here of these FALLEN BUSHWALKERS then reflect – “LEST WE FORGET”

TAFFYS ROCK MEMORIAL

The walk to Taffy’s Rock is a popular out and back walk from Cowan Station for many Sydney Clubs.  Access can be by train or car.  Details of the walk are not hard to find.  But who was Taffy?

Around the 8th January Dorothy Vera “Taffy” Townson made news all around Tasmania and NSW for the wrong reason.  She had died of snake-bite; twice on the leg and elsewhere on a multiday walk in Tasmania.

Taffy joined the Rucksack Club in January 1944 and must have been an independent woman who was 39 in 1948.  In 1948 the Rucksack Club was a strong club with around 100 members of whom 33% or more were women.  The Hikers Club of Sydney became the Rucksack Club in November 1936 but unfortunately faded away around September 1973.  A strong portion of the club had served in WWII as service women and men.

In 1947 the Murwillumbah area was her home where she may have been the proprietor of a hair dressing salon.  She approached Alfred Watkins and Sam Hinde to join a Rucksack Club multiday walk from Waldheim Chalet (Cradle Mountain) to Lake St Clair in Tasmania.  Well into the walk beyond Pelion Hut her friends went ahead while she was left alone for a toilet break.  Unfortunately, she disturbed a Tiger Snake which struck three times.

Extreme efforts were made to get medical assistance from Sheffield, outside the National Park, to no avail. Survival may have been unlikely anyway.  Two only of the bites were attended to via the basic treatment methods of the time.  Taffy may have had to walk to join her friends plus (it is said that) she was too modest to say that a third bite had occurred when her underpants were down.

Taffy died about 4.30am on 8th January.  Bushwalkers from Sydney University Bushwalking Club (SUBW) helped carry her body out of the National Park.  The track could only allow two at a time to carry the improvised stretcher in 10 minute bursts.

Taffy now lies in Devonport Cemetery.  At the Rucksack Club General Meeting on 14th January those present stood for a moments silence to remember this well-respected member. Plans were started almost immediately for a memorial to Taffy. Tasmania would not accept a memorial but on 20th March a memorial walk was held with the hope that in future the Lands Department would accept a nomination for a location to be named in her honour.

Minutes from May 1948 show that member Ted Sloane was delegated to seek such a spot.  At the General Meeting of January 1950 a quote from Raynore Pty Ltd of £8.8.0 was accepted for the manufacture of the current plaque at Taffy’s Rock.  The Club to bear the full expense.

So, when you are next at Taffy’s Rock spare a moment to reflect on the unlucky Taffy and her snake bite.

© Keith Maxwell

Contacting Emergency Services

with the Emergency+ smart phone app

Some advice to consider regarding contacting Emergency Services from an experienced bushwalker and engineer.

The Emergency+ app is highly recommended for bushwalkers. It lists all the important emergency phone numbers – 000 (triple zero) of course; but also, the SES, Police assistance line, poisons information and many others. It also has a simple clear display of your location as a latitude/longitude which can identify your position anywhere in the world, which is of course important for bushwalkers as the usual “street and nearest cross street” location is not useful in the bush.

But there are some limitations and misconceptions about the Emergency+ app you should be aware of.​

​Firstly, in an emergency, if you dial 000 (triple zero) using the Emergency+ app it is no different to dialling 000 from a normal phone. It does not send any special information and it does not send your position to the 000 operator. You will still have to tell the operator your position, and that can be the GPS coordinates from the Emergency+ app if that is the best way to do it. On the Emergency+ app it gives your GPS coordinates in a box titled “Tell the operator your location” – you have to tell the operator your position as the operator cannot read it from the phone directly.​

​Secondly, the Emergency+ app uses the GPS (or GNSS system to be more precise) in your phone to get your position. If the GPS is having difficulty in getting a position – maybe you are in a damp area, under a thick tree canopy or near cliffs – then the GPS will return the last position it got a fix on the position until a new fix is determined. This old fix could be anywhere you have been recently; maybe at home before you left, maybe on the drive to the start of your walk; but this fix will be displayed until a new fix is determined. The old fix could be wrong by kilometres, or even in the wrong country if you have just done an international flight!​

​To make sure the location fix it is displaying is a current fix and not an old fix there are two things to look at. The simplest is the little map next to the position. Check the maps shown is correct for where you are. But as this is a street map it is not very helpful in remote areas as there might not be any streets nearby so nothing will be shown.

Page 2 or “+” page of app

A better way to check your fix is a current one is to go to the second page of the Emergency+ app (the “+” with a circle around it on the top or bottom bar) and in the red box at the bottom it says “GPS COORDINATES (Address updated XX secs ago)”. Make sure your address has been updated in the time you have been at your current location, and preferably only a few seconds ago. If it shows that your address has only been updated hours or days ago you should be cautious that the position it will display will be an old position which could be miles away.

 

Finally, remember that the position displayed on the Emergency+ app is just one way to give your position. If you know your position as a grid reference from a map, another GPS, a street address or even some nearby landmark then feel free to use that to give your position to the 000 operator. Speak slowly but remember that all calls to 000 are recorded. Any position reference is acceptable, just make sure it is accurate.

Get the Emergency+ App here now

Chardon Award 2019

Two bushwalkers were recognised with the 2019 Chardon Award at the Bushwalking NSW (BNSW) AGM on 20 August.  See the notes below for comments on these worthy recipients; Jim Callaway and Linda Groom.  In 2017 BNSW established the Chardon Award to recognise bushwalkers who have made a special contribution to bushwalking.

LINDA GROOM notes

Linda comes from a Queensland bushwalking family who studied at the University of Queensland before moving to Canberra around 1975.  Since then, she has been a very active walker in Canberra Bushwalking Club where, among other things, she has served two terms as President but now is the current Walks Secretary.  She has been honoured with life membership of CBC.

So, Linda is well recognised within CBC but now Bushwalking NSW wants to recognise her for a contribution to bushwalking with the Chardon Award.  Like many others the author is well aware of the impact of feral horses in the Snowy Mountains.  The difference is that Linda sought to raise awareness of this damage by a long bushwalk.  She was the driving force in a highly publicised event where walkers went from Sydney to Kosciuszko National Park.  Bushwalkers from towns along the route would join her for short sections to swell the numbers.  Along the way these walkers spoke to the general public and where possible local MPs about the impact of feral horses in the Snowy Mountains.  She presented a report of this walk as the guest speaker at the November 2018 General Meeting of BNSW.  This was her second visit as a guest speaker when she spoke of exploratory bushwalks in Central Australia.  A remarkable achievement and definitely worthy of recognition with this award.

JIM CALLAWAY & BNSW notes

On 30th January 2018 my wife and I represented BNSW at the Engadine Catholic Church for a Mass of Thanksgiving for Jim Callaway.  We joined many other bushwalkers for this memorial service.  Over many years we had known Jim as part of Bushwalking NSW (BNSW) but he eventually also became a good friend.  During his time of distinguished service to BNSW he represented the Catholic Bushwalking Club and Sydney Bush Walkers.  In his prime, as a bushwalker, he was known to avoid tracks to go off track at a pace that dubbed him “tearaway Callaway”.

From newsletter archives of BNSW I can say he was Treasurer from 1978 to 1987.  He kept a tight rein on finances as BNSW had an historically low affiliation fee.  In 1992 he was Public Officer for the very new Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs (now BNSW).  Before serving as President in 1998 & 99 he was the 1997 Vice President, a role he took up again from 2000 to 2004.  Records from 2004 are less clear but until the end of 2014 he was continuously on the Management Committee of BNSW (while living at Heathcote; true dedication)

Jim Callaway is definitely worth remembering as a special bushwalker since he gave more to bushwalking than bushwalking gave to him.  On behalf of BNSW I would like to express our thanks for his dedicated service to BNSW.

Keith Maxwell.

 

Bushwalker recognised with O.A.M.

Well know bushwalking historian, rogainer and conservationist Andy Macqueen has been recognised with an O.A.M. in the latest Queen’s Birthday Honours list.  It is great to see bushwalking being recognised.

Over many years Andy has been busy in so many ways from rewalking the routes of early European explorers (to determine where they really went) to weeding of invasive willow in remote sections of the Colo River Gorge to delving deep into NSW State Library archives to research the early history of bushwalking and Bushwalking NSW (BNSW).  So, BNSW extends its congratulations to a past BNSW President.

In a way Andy is being honoured for being a bushwalker.  While the O.A.M. newspaper citation is for “service to conservation and the environment” the full citation at the “Its an Honour” website lists –

# Foundation Member, Sea Spurge Remote Area Teams (SPRAT), since 2007.

# Foundation President, Friends of the Colo, since 2000.

# Member, Blue Mountains Regional Advisory Committee, National Parks and Wildlife Service.

 

These extraordinary activities are only possible by being a bushwalker.  Hence, congratulations to Andy Macqueen for being a bushwalking conservationist.

The link below to the Blue Mountains Gazette has an excellent profile of Andy Macqueen O.A.M.

https://www.bluemountainsgazette.com.au/story/6200917/environmental-activist-andy-macqueen-honored/?cs=1432