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.


HISTORY MATTERS autumn edition

The latest edition of Torquay Museum Without Walls HISTORY MATTERS magazine is now available for members to read. It has been delivered to the email address supplied when joining.

The March edition is our ‘Bells Beach’ issue, and contains a feature article the early history of Jan Juc and Bells Beach, early surfing at Bells Beach, the competition that made the beach internationally famous, and profiles of early surfers.

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

The Go Cart Track

Memories of the Torquay Go Cart track

From “History Matters” Vol 1 no 4

1966 was the year Australia sent a task force to the war in Vietnam. The Youth Revolution was in full swing. The laws to end six o’clock closing were about to be abolished and decimal currency was about to be introduced. The Beatles “Rubber Soul” was rocketing to the top of the billboard list.
For many young people getting a summer job down at the one of the beach towns served a double purpose, it enabled you to get some cash in your pocket and it also provided the opportunity to get out of the city for the hot summer period.   For many with a beach holiday job it was their introduction to the more casual and free life of the small towns.   Some enjoyed just a single summer; some stayed on and made the coast their home. The is a story from Bryce Ferguson about his first time in Torquay
. During the 1960s a go-cart track operated on the front beach foreshore in the area now known as Elephant Walk where the children’s playground is.

The owners of the track advertised at Melbourne University for a student to manage the track during the 1965/66-summer period. Although I had never been to Torquay I liked the idea of a summer sojourn, and the money I earned would help a poor student make it though the winter, so I replied to the advertisement.

After a brief interview, I got the job to manage the track. I was a nineteen year old uni student without much experience at Go carting, but with a sense of adventure. So with a little a little trepidation I headed off down the coast.   Two locals were also employed to assist.  As well as managing the Go-carts, there was also a kiosk that sold drinks ice creams and chocolates.   I would run the track and the kiosk and the back of the little kiosk was to be my home for the summer period.

 The track operated daily from Christmas 1965 to the end of January 1966, and from the end of January to Easter in Mid April the track operated at weekends. It finally closed for the year after the end of the Easter holidays.

It was a basic set up. The bitumen track was a circuit, with a ‘pit’ area at the start; some ‘S’ bends on the way down around some old Moonah trees, to a sharp turn at the bottom. Aspiring ‘hoon drivers’ loved to gather speed heading into bottom turn.

The area became a meeting spot for teenagers mainly boys to test out their pre-licence driving skills.  Races, crashes, running off the track were common amongst the young drivers.

The Torquay go cart track provided me lots of challenges. The go-carts were bought ‘off the shelf’ in Melbourne and were just not up to the task of the heavy use that was asked of them. Dave, local mechanic, had prepared the fleet of go-carts for the summer period.  Over the off-season the go-carts had been strengthened and fitted with re-conditioned engines.  We started the season with 12-15 go-carts.  By the end of the season we were lucky to have 2 or 3 available. It was a constant juggling act to keep the Carts on the track The main issue was governing the speed.  Using the foot pedal only the carts would go at only a moderate speed, but by pulling the accelerator cable where it was attached to the engine, higher speeds could be achieved.  Despite efforts to prevent this, we were no matches for the local boys. Understandably as a result, engines blew up and wore out quickly.  Go- carts were push-started, and this got harder as the engines wore out.  One of the local boys had a home made car -really a chassis on wheels -and this was used to push start the carts until it met an untimely end going over the cliff onto the beach at fisho’s. Old motor-mover engines were found to replace broken engines.  Reconditioning engines was a continuing task.  Chain sprockets, tyres, brakes all wore out and were purchased in bulk to keep the go-carts on the track.

The summer of 66 was a hot one with above average number of day over 35 degrees. A really hot day provided a welcome break for me from working 7 days a week at the track, as when the weather was too hot there were no customers and the boys could knock off and go the beach below and have a chance for a swim and a bit of time off. The heat that summer brought the usual fire risk and when one hot March day smoke appeared in the sky above Anglesea drove for a look.  I had no sooner gotten out of my car than I was handed a fire beater and put to work bashing embers as they hit the ground  .I added fire fighter to my resume that day

The go track had no lights so it was a day time activity only and although the six o clock closing was still in place (it ended in Victoria on Feb 1st 1966) the licencing laws allowed for bona fide travellers to go to the pub for out of hours drinking, so after a hot trying to manage failing engines and local lads doing their best to flaunt the rules I was able to go to the Pub for a late beer.

Despite the challenges it was a wonderful time in my life. I made friends with visitors and locals. I had a wonderful sense of freedom as well as responsibility Apart from the interview in Melbourne to get the job I never saw the owners again and would deposit the daily takings and the bank in Gilbert St. Every time I hear the Beatles tune Michelle ma Belle I am take back to my one summer in Torquay.

Torquay history, Go Kart, History Matters


Bryce returned to Torquay to revive some memories for this story and took a tour of where the track might be. It is now under a lot of sand in the playground area but at the bottom of the hill he is certain a little digging would reveal the bitumen of the bottom turn.

If you have any memories of the Go Cart Track we would love to hear from you

Email  tmuseumwithoutwalls@gmail.com

Celebrating Florence Rosser

Its international Women’s day and we remember and celebrate Florence Rosser…..that’s her in the middle with her children…Florence, who was married to local fisherman Felix Rosser,  was one of the earliest settlers in Torquay and was active in community affairs. In 1896 she joined the lobby for a school to be built in town by sending petitions to the Education Department. In 1900 the first school was opened in the T.I.A Hall and Alice, Myrtle and Arthur Rosser were among the first pupils.  Florence Rosser served on the early Torquay School Boards.  Her 4th son Harold  who was born in Torquay and a pupil of the new school  was killed in France in 1918 shortly before the end of the war. Florence grieved this loss all her life. She is a woman in our history worth celebrating today


The launch of the Geelong Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience was held this morning for invited guests. It was a wonderful experience being immersed in Australia’s First World War story. www.togethertheyserved.com  contributed in a small way to the local information exhibited.

This travelling exhibition which is now in Geelong brings to life an infant Australia still finding its feet on the eve of war. It follows in the footsteps of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and nurses throughout the campaign, including a commemoration of Australia’s century of service in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

Driven by more than 200 artefacts from the Australian War Memorial, the Experience also integrates interactive environments and special effects to tell Australia’s story in new and engaging ways. Well worth a visit, entry is free but tickets must be booked online.

When:             Daily from 21 February 2017 to 27 February 2017   09:00 AM – 06:00 PM

Where:           Geelong Arena, 110 Victoria St, North Geelong VIC 3215

Costs:              Free





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