Saturday 9 April 2011 – Campbell

I’ve never thought of Campbell as a military place. It was the home of my singing teacher, Lois Bogg (1933-2008), so to me it was a singing place. As it wasn’t far from the national university, it was also a party place.

My musical associations with Campbell go back to 1969, when I taught recorder for two days at a Young Music Society summer school at Campbell High. Judith Clingan (who founded the YMS, and many other musical organisations in Canberra and elsewhere) asked me to fill in in an emergency. Then as now, I could play C major on the recorder, and I knew how to do F sharp and B flat, so I wasn’t bubbling over with confidence.

YMS logo

Everything turned out well, apart from the day we took the children on a cruise on the lake. I was flummoxed by my group: ten-year-olds who sat around discussing their latest European trips and had no time for the lovely sights we were passing. When we got out into the middle, one of the girls suddenly remembered the seasickness tablets she’d been supposed to take before we embarked. I can still feel my guilt and horror, even though she made it through the cruise without being sick.

You’d think I’d have learnt something about forward planning from that, but I took a little longer. In 1976, as a student music teacher, I told a Year 7 class that we were going outside to make a soundscape. Before I could mention what a soundscape was or how it was done or that we’d need pens and paper, the whole class had taken off out the door. I spent half the lesson rounding them up and getting them back inside and starting again.

I was exposed to an entirely different aspect of Campbell by the Canberra Community Walk. Now I learn from ACTPLA and Wikipedia that all the streets in Campbell are named after “defence personnel”. The suburb itself is named after Robert Campbell (1769-1846), the owner of Duntroon station on which Campbell is now located. The Australian War Memorial,  the Royal Military College, Duntroon and the Australian Defence Force Academy are all in Campbell, and it’s full of memorial parks.

Canberra Community Walk, Campbell

I’d been putting this walk off for a while because of the extensions, which are described in the brochure as “more challenging”, with no footpaths and no signage. There was actually no need to venture onto either extension, although it might be nice to go back one day and give them a try.

Quite appropriate that I find myself writing this walk up on Anzac Day. “Campbell was chosen as an ideal site to develop a community walk due to the unique opportunity to link the memorial parks.” A memorial park walk is a good idea, and we soon found ourselves in the first of them: George Cross Park. Not strictly military at all: the George Cross is the civilian counterpart of the Victoria Cross.

At George Cross Park

Nice and big so you can see St George and the Dragon. (They’re everywhere, symbolising the triumph of Good over Evil, as discussed in Ribe 3: The Cathedral in my 2009 travel blog.)

Dac and I agreed that the George Cross was the award Jack Frost had in his bottom drawer in the TV detective series A touch of Frost.

George Cross explanation



On 23 September 1940 King George VI announced the creation of a new honour, the George Cross, for acts of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme danger. [The walk brochure tells us that it was inspired by the bravery shown during the London Blitz.] Although intended primarily for civilians, members of the armed services are eligible to receive the award for acts of courage not covered by military decorations. Eight of the 14 Australian awards have been posthumous.

The George Cross consists of a plain silver cross with a circular medallion in the centre, bearing a representation of St George and the Dragon, surrounded by the words ‘For Gallantry’. In the angle of each arm of the cross is the royal cypher ‘GVI’. The reverse is plain and contains the name of the recipient and the date of the award. The cross is suspended by a link from a silver bar adorned with a laurel leaf design, and the ribbon is dark blue, 38  mm wide.

In addition to the 14 Australian awards, a further eight Australians have upgraded an earlier award to the George Cross. When the George Cross was created in 1940, the Medal of the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry (EGM) was abolished and living recipients including two Australians exchanged their medals for the George Cross. In 1971 surviving holders of the Albert and Edward Medals became George Cross recipients. Six Australians exchanged their Albert Medals for the George Cross.

The Cross of Valour is now the highest civilian award for valour in Australia.

So Campbell needs a new park!

Neither the explanation above, nor the one in the walk brochure, clarified what had happened to cause the George Cross to stop being issued to Australians. I found the answer on Wikipedia:

Australians received the George Cross under the Imperial Honours System until the establishment of the Australian Honours System in 1975. The George Cross was replaced by the new award, the Cross of Valour, which was created by letters patent within the Commonwealth of Australia and its Territories on 14 February 1975. One further award of the George Cross, however, was granted after this date to Constable Michael Kenneth Pratt in 1978.

Next on the agenda was Edmondson Street, which proved to be a hill. We then turned onto a pathway (another hill – well, the same hill in a different direction, I suppose) and found ourselves in a strip of bushland!

Suburban bush with helicopter 1

This is where we became aware of a helicopter flying back and forth nearby.

Overhead throughout the walk

I wasn’t too bothered by it: I was busy being bemused by the strip of bush in the middle of Campbell, and the mountains…

Suburban bush with helicopter 2

 …to say nothing of the stairs we were going to have to climb to get to the rest of the walk. The photo doesn’t show how steep they are.

Not what you expect to encounter on an accessible walk

All of the Canberra Community Walk brochures – apart from Campbell – feature the following statements under the heading “Safe Community Pathways”:

  • Routes have been selected with preference for gentle to moderate gradients and wide access ramps (keeping in mind those just getting into walking or who have small children in prams).
  • Canberra Community Walk paths are multi-purpose COMMUNITY PATHS, to be enjoyed by pedestrians, joggers, cyclists, roller bladers, skateboard riders, pram walkers and people using wheelchairs. So please be aware, be courteous, share the path and keep to the left-hand side of the path.

Under the same heading, on the Campbell brochure, only the second statement appears (minus the words “pram walkers”, “please”, and “-hand side of the path”). I can only conclude that it was early days in the Community Walks scheme, and linking the memorial parks was seen to be more important than actually making sure the path was multipurpose.

If you squint really hard at the map (which is reproduced at its actual size) you may be able to imagine that the minuscule blur beside the bridge symbol says “Footbridge/Steps”. I just thought it was a bridge. A cyclist could probably carry a bike up and down those stairs; at a pinch, a pram walker might be able to bump a stroller over them; a wheelchair user would have to turn around and go home.

When we emerged into the streets of upper Campbell, we saw these:

Possibly a group house?

Next, we arrived at the park  containing the Victoria Cross memorial.

The Victoria Cross Memorial commemorates those Australians who have been decorated with the Victoria Cross. The medal, recognising acts of valour, was instituted in 1856 and made retrospective to 1854 to cover the Crimean War. The Victoria Cross may be awarded to civilians, if serving with the armed forces, or awarded for acts of bravery undertaken in peace time. Queen Victoria stated that she ‘… expressly desired that the decoration should be highly prized’.

Of the 96 crosses awarded to Australian service personnel, 28 have been awarded posthumously. The memorial consists of two crescent-shaped stone walls. A plaque on top of one of the walls lists the names of all the Australian recipients of the Victoria Cross, and the wars and campaigns in which they were awarded. In the centre of the paving is a design of the Victoria Cross; a Maltese Cross bearing the Royal Crest (a lion upon the St Edward Crown) and below, a scroll bearing the words For Valour.

Military Memorials in the National Capital

At Victoria Cross Park

Wikipedia tells me that the 96 Australians commemorated here received the Victoria Cross under the Imperial honours system. In 1991 a new but equivalent award was established: the Victoria Cross for Australia. The Victoria Cross for Australia has been awarded only twice, both to Special Air Service regiment members serving in the war in Afghanistan.

In this park I saw a rabbit – quite an orange-coloured one – hop by. Dac was looking at some trees at the time and missed it. We searched as we proceeded through the park but couldn’t see where it had gone. I always feel that I am not believed about rabbits, especially around Easter time!

We trundled downhill and back to the car, at Campbell shops, through the well-tended but (apart from the red car house above) unremarkable houses. No dogs crossed our path, no letterboxes cried out for commemoration. It had been another perfect autumn day. On the morrow we were to ride a “tin hare” through the rain to Bungendore with Dac’s sister Julie and her partner Gez.

Our Sunday ride to Bungendore

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4 Responses to Saturday 9 April 2011 – Campbell

  1. dac says:

    The whirring of helicopters during the walk was a constant noise, waxing and waning as each helicopter maneuvered around the suburb. As I recall, it got quite warm on that walk, those steps were a killer, especially after the quite steep alleyway leading to it.

    You omitted the rabbit you saw in Victoria Cross Park.

    At the Campbell Shops, I bought a 1.25 litre bottle of diet coke, because it was precisely half the price of a 600ml bottle. Go figure.

    It was a real week for Campbell – we passed through there on the Courtesy Bus from your car-maintenance trip, we went there on our walk, and we passed that very same road again when we took Julie and Gez up Mt Ainslie to see the Canberra Nighttime View (which was pretty good).

    Considering I hadn’t been there since that disasterous ‘lets get pissed on Oban whisky’ night at Pip Warrell’s flat with Juliet and Nina back in the 1990’s.

    • valkyrie1 says:

      You somehow missed my mention of the rabbit, two paragraphs under the photo of the Victoria Cross plaque.

      Strange serendipity, visiting Campbell so much all of a sudden!

  2. albertine says:

    Hmmm. Helicopters (or ‘Hollycopters’) are a favourite of Holly’s. (Mike and Anna’s daughter). We saw one doing helicopter rides at a village fete on the weekend, so Holly was delighted and terrified to watch it going up and down from her Daddy’s shoulders. Mike says she nearly pulled his hair out. I always find them a bit sinister and wonder why they are watching me. I’m innocent, I tell you!

    • valkyrie1 says:

      “Hollycopters” is nice.

      Dac and I definitely felt followed, although the helicopter was quite a long way away. Paranoia seems inextricable from them. I blame Apocalypse now.

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