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On Walkabout In: Albany, Western Australia

The ANZACs of Albany

The environment once you reach the coastal area of southwest Australia changes dramatically from the interior bush land and outback. From the ocean to about 30 miles inland the coastal environment is composed of large, towering trees and thick emerald green bush. It is quite amazing to see so much greenery when we had been traveling for the past week in mostly a desert environment. The change of environment is very similar experience to traveling on I-90 from eastern Washington State to Seattle in western Washington. The eastern high desert once you hit the Cascade Mountains instantly becomes a thick forest. It is the same thing in southwestern Australia, but there is no large mountains like the Cascades.

The major city in this part of southwest Australia and our next destination is the city of Albany. Albany is one of the oldest cities in Australia and the first settlement in Western Australia. The British hastily established a colony at Albany in 1826 in order to preempt French attempts to colonize Western Australia. Could you imagine what a different country Australia would be today if the French colonized West Australia before the British?

Albany is located on the beautiful King George Sound:

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The area like most of Australia was first explored by the Dutch in 1626, however the first explorer to enter the sound was CPT George Vancouver in 1791 who named the sound King George Sound. When the city was first established the city’s natural harbor served for nearly 70 years as the only deep water port in Western Australia until Freemantle port near Perth was constructed in 1897. Because of this the ships from Britain first stopped in Albany before For most of the city’s history it has been the home of Australia’s whaling fleet. Whaling didn’t officially end at the city until 1979. The city’s economy today remains tied to the agricultural and logging industries.

Here is a view of the city today:

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The city of Albany has an emotional impact on present day Australians because it was the city that the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) soldiers departed the country to aid the allies during World War I. A little known fact about World War I is that the Australians sent more soldiers per capita to fight in the war than any other country. From a population of five million over 300,000 Australian soldiers enlisted to become an ANZAC. Over 60,000 Australians died and over 156,000 were wounded. If you do the math, roughly 1 in 24 Australians were either killed or wounded during World War I. It is an incredible number. Pretty much if an Australian didn’t fight in World War I at least one of their immediate relatives or friends did. World War I continues to have a deep impact on present day Australians because many of the Aussies consider World War I the moment they became true Australians. This was due to the fact that the returning Australian soldiers felt like they were treated as second class citizens by the British during the war despite tremendous combat bravery by the Aussie soldiers that fought in a war that had nothing to do with them. The war truly cemented the Australian identity that has led to the independent country of Australia that exists today. However, it is these shores in Albany that were that last glimpse of Australia for many of the young ANZACs who sailed from this harbor in 1914 to fight for the British Empire.

To commemorate the departure of the ANZACs the city has constructed a memorial on top of a large hill over looking the fort from where the ANZACs departed:

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Here is closer look at the base of the memorial:

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Near the statue these tree was planted from the seed of a tree on the beaches of Gallipoli:

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The memorial park was filled with mostly older retirees and they were quite surprised to see an American couple interested in the ANZAC history. I have always been interested in military history and it only felt natural for me to learn more about the history of the ANZACs. Below the statue you can see the beach where the ANZAC ships departed Australia from:

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View from Around Historical Area

From the park we next went and visited the actual military fort where the ANZACs were based at before departing Australia:

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There is a small fee to visit the fort that is operated by Australian military veteran volunteers. They were very informative and did a great job explaining the history of the fort. The fort actually has much more history than just being the departure point for the ANZACs. Albany during World War II served as a US Navy submarine base responsible for protecting the cities of West Australia between Perth and Albany. On the hills surrounding the fort there were large anti-ship guns designed to defend the harbor from Japanese attack:

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Tunnels that connected the various guns ran throughout the area:

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There was also plenty of ruins from ANZAC times that laid scattered around the facility:

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Additionally there was outposts manned by US naval personnel to spot any enemy ships or submarines trying to enter the sound:

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Near the outpost was a plaque commemorating the US submariners killed in action during World War II. The guide at the fort told me that 26 American sailors died during World War II in various engagements defending the cities of southwestern Australia from Japanese attack.

Soon after checking out the outpost, it began to rain. We would find during our time in this area of the country that rain is a common occurrence. So we then decided to go check out the downtown area of Albany. Albany is really a nice city with many old buildings. I wish I would have taken a few pictures of them but it was raining to heavily. The city has the population of over 31,000 people, but manages to keep the feel of a town even smaller than that. The city actually had the feel of one of the old logging towns in the American Northwest. Much of this area we would later on find out is very similar to the American Northwest as well.

Next Posting: Traveling to Denmark

Prior Posting: Video of the Stirling Ranges

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