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Alice Springs transformed by war

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Alice Springs is a town that was transformed by World War II. Described by a visitor in 1929 as "Sleepy Hollow ... all shade and silence and tranquility (sic), Alice Springs developed rapidly from the outset of the war. A new power house was constructed, water storage tanks were erected on Billy Goat Hill, the 1939 hospital was taken over as 109 Australian General Hospital, large camps sprang up to accommodate a military on the move and the civilian Allied Works Council, while the railway siding was expanded to meet the huge logistic needs of the military in the north.

From 2 September 1940, Alice Springs grew from bases at the foot of An3ac and Spencer Hills for the Darwin Overland Maintenance Force (DOMF). It became the centre for military convoys supplying Darwin to a central troop reserve, the southern railhead and the arsenal for operations in the north. It also became the Administrative centre for the Northern Territory following the arrival of Administrator C. L.A. Abbott from Darwin in March 1942.

Over the war years Alice Springs hosted about 200,000 troops who passed through on their way north while the DOMF of around 8,000 troops used some 3,000 vehicles to transport some 498,000 tonnes of supplies over 133 kilometres from 1940-1944.

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Darwin Overland Maintenance Force Camp at Alice Springs in WWII. (Lewis Collection)