Surfing Torquay Early Years

Ray Wilson grew up in Torquay. He learnt to swim and surf in our beaches. In this clip he describes his experiences as a young Torquay Surfer.

Ray is also featured in our June edition of HISTORY MATTERS which can be purchased at the Torquay newsagents. Members receive a free digital copy.


Early Torquay

Ray Wilson has lived in Torquay all his life. Listen to the first of our clips where Ray describes growing up in Torquay.  His story is featured in the latest edition of our magazine HISTORY MATTERS available at the Torquay Newsagency.

1917 A Story Lost

1917 was the single worst year in Australian History. Almost 77,000 Australians were killed, missing or wounded. Passchendaele, Menin Road,Polygon Wood  and Bullencourt   have become household names as we, a century, later commemorate the sacrifice, tragedy and horror of that time.

I have been doing some research into a young soldier, Harold George Bell from Bell’s Beach who headed off for battle in April of 1916.

By 1917 Harold, known to his family as Sonny, was in the thick of it in Belgium. On October 8th that year he as killed instantly when his by the shell of a Howitzer in the battle of the Menin Road.

Harold has no grave and is remembered on the Menin Gate, the monument in Ypres to the missing- 54,000 names of those who have no formal resting place.

In doing my research among army records,  I came across this letter written by Harold to his sister Kathleen(Girlie) Bell who had sent him a pair of socks. Written on the battlefields of Belgium just exactly 100 years ago (July23rd 1917)  and only days before what would be his last birthday – Harold would turn 26 on  July 25th 1917.  It is poignant and beautiful reminder of what our young men went through.

I am giving a talk on the Bell family and their significance in our area on Thursday August 3rd at Mt Duneed History group, in the old hall at Mt Duneed at 7.30pm , come long and hear their story  and remember Harold and his sacrifice.


letter from harold




Need a box set?

Missed out on one of the early editions of HISTORY MATTERS?

We have had many requests for further reprints of our wonderful magazine HISTORY MATTERS so we went ahead and did another run of the early editions. Editions 1 – 4 can be purchased at the Torquay Newsagency.

Winter Edition of HISTORY MATTERS magazine

Just making the end of June for edition 6 of HISTORY MATTERS magazine!

The winter edition profiles Ray Wilson who has always lived in Torquay. Other articles include the follow up article on the first development of Jan Juc and the Jarosite Mining that occurred in the 1920s. There is also a story on the Torquay Football Club and its link with legend Geelong FC player Peter Burns. Mt Duneed Jane Walker is also included and how some of our locals in WW1 were in the push to the Hindenburg Line.

The magazine is also available for purchase from the Torquay Newsagency, Gilbert Street, Torquay

Please contact us if you have any suggestions for stories or if you have your own story, we would love to publish them.

The Little Bell

In 1922 the Jan Juc community decided to change the name of their township. Wynd (1992) notes it is unclear on why there was a need but there are suggestions that “drunken brawls at local wine cellars had given the area a bad name and lowered land values. Harry Rose, who was trying to sell property, is said to be the instigator of the petition to change the name.” A competition for a new name was held, a final six were chosen. Joseph Gundry chaired a meeting of residents in March 1922 where a ballot was held and the name “Bellbrae” was declared the winner by a large majority. The ratepayer’s petition went to Barrabool Shire Council and the new town Gazetted in September that same year.

The name Bellbrae was chosen in honour of John Calvert Bell, of “Addiscot” where he had lived for many years and ‘brae’ meaning “hill or hillside; slope”. The new name was the suggestion of Mrs Emma Bone (nee Rau).

In appreciation for the new name, John Calvert Bell who died in 1937, had a brooch custom made for Emma and her two sisters. This brooch has been handed down from Sophia Hunt (nee Rau), sister of Emma to Lorraine Jeffery.

The little bell has the word “Brae” engraved on it.


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