May 2012

The truly extraordinary collection of military memorabilia, taking Bernie Dingle and his wife over 25 years, was a special experience for WOF members in early May. Following Anzac Day commemorations, this museum vist was more than fitting.

What appears as a simple sign to a ‘Light Horse Museum’ off the Freeway at Nar Nar Goon is no indication of the vast array of weaponry, wagons, saddlery, photos, honour boards, medical items and stories which Bernie has put together.

WOF members were silenced as they listened to profoundly sad tales of the losses of Australian horses sent to war, of dogs, carrier pigeons, mules, camels, and of course, of men and women.

The museum is a complex of tableaux and authentic horse drawn military vehicles, of uniforms and of so many reminders of the cruelty of war, then and now.

On a less emotional level, field catering for armies of men, as they fought in WWI front lines, proved fascinating. Bernie has found and restored a number of wagons, often pulled by mules, carrying huge panniers of hot food, baking bread and boiling the billy, for hungry and needy troops. Without adequate nutrition and clean water, men and animals at war are more than vulnerable to disease and death.

As the WOF members explored the sheds of artefacts, Bernie told story after story, quoting astounding facts of battle losses, of horse-laden ships at sea, of women nursing the injured under leaking canvas and of heroic acts. It was some vital acknowledgement of animals at war, to hear of the ‘Dicken Medal’ for animal bravery equalling the Victoria Cross.

Finally, WOF members were relieved to learn that legalities are in place to ensure the collection is kept together in the future for the sake of history.

WOF’s June event is a trip to Port Melbourne and the Docklands, with a cruise of the import/export shipping areas so important to the agricultural economy.

Women of all ages are welcome to join Women on Farms. The key criterion is an interest in farming and farming women. There is no need to be actively farming to participate. For more details contact secretary, Jenny Stephenson on 9700 0282 or visit our website at www.womenonfarms.org for the 2012 monthly program.

For enquiries about this article, contact: Mary Hughes, Ph. 03 5628 4195.