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Title: Coomalie Meals - 1942
Name: Smith, Tom
My Story: In the Northern Territory bushfires are rampant after the "wet" season concludes. People don't worry unduly because they say it will burn itself out. It is just too bad if anything is in the way before it peters out. People generally refer to them as "burn offs". Soon after establishing camp at Coomalie, a rather big "burn off" bore down on the camp about 2200 hours. Everybody was placed on the alert because the camp was in direct line of the fire. Some of us were taken off protecting our tents, to protect the Canteen. It was decided to start a back burn off around the Canteen as a protection. Unfortunately the fire break got out of control and the canteen was burnt down. Within 10 minutes of the camp being burnt out, the wind changed and the fires direction altered to miss the camp by the narrowest of margins. The only casualty was the canteen and the contents which the officers had stored for the party that coming weekend. The officers became distant from the men after the incident, suggesting the canteen fire was deliberate. However a short inquiry ruled otherwise. After that incident conditions became worse. Some of the meals were atrocious. One morning the boys lined up for breakfast. On offer that day was a piece of bread and a dessert spoonful of sardines. When one of the boys saw what was on offer he withdrew his plate and put his bread out to accept it. The orderly wasn't happy and dropped it on the ground. The chap stood there while the orderly said "pass on mate, you've had your breakfast". Lunch and dinner didn't improve. At the evening meal, one of the more conscientious officers was orderly officer. He was an English Major and was conspicuous by the "swagger stick" he carried everywhere. As he walked into the Mess (with the Orderly Sgt) he asked that anyone having a complaint about the meal, please stand. Everyone stood up. He promptly decided that things had become serious, so he paused at an occasional table and sampled a spoonful at random. At the conclusion he asked everyone to be seated. He confirmed the meal was not fit for consumption and informed the chaps he would visit the cookhouse with his inspection group plus two representatives from the men. The inquiry was put on an urgency report for an immediate improvement to the meals. He informed the two mens representatives that he and other officers would be served an identical meal that evening and he expected most officers would refuse to eat.
Place: Coomalie Creek
Appears in Collections:Territory Times Gone By

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