Woonona ‘invasion’: Thousands of soldiers take part in mock battle to defend Australia

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Slide Show: The soldiers camped at Nicholson Park, Woonona, and taking part in the drill at Woonona beach. Note the Bellambi Jetty in the background of a number of pictures. Pictures: State Library of NSW.

THOUSANDS of military men made camp on Nicholson Park, Woonona in February and March 1939 to take part in a mock battle. The battle would see an attempted beach invasion of Australia, that the men of the Australian 9th Infantry Brigade would successfully defend. The Sydney Morning Herald reported the spectacle on Monday, February 17, 1939:

Attack from the sea

Beach defence

Woonona camp, Sunday

When most citizens are sound asleep early on Tuesday morning an “enemy” will be attacking the beach beside which Woonona camp is situated.

The “enemy” consists of six motor launches, owned by members of the Volunteer Coastal Patrol, and the defenders will be the 9th Infantry Brigade.

The launches left Sydney at midnight on Friday and arrived at Wollongong yesterday morning proceeding to Port Kembla later in the day. They will return to Wollongong tomorrow.

The voyage from Sydney was made in stormy weather which tested the sea qualities of the cruisers.

There will be a sense of reality in Tuesday morning’s beach defence exercise.

It will be the duty of the 9th Infantry Brigade to repel the invaders who represent the mythical enemy seeking to occupy Australian territory by a successful landing at Woonona Bay


The coastal patrol will move out to sea at 2.30am. But its first duty will be in defence of Australia. It will be on the lookout for the “enemy,” which later, will be reported to brigade headquarters as engaged in placing troops in boats to be towed to the beach The patrol will then change its tole and become the “enemy, approaching the coast while the 9th Infantry Brigade will be entrenched along the beach ready to repel the invaders. Umpires, placed in strategic positions will decide the fate of the “battle” which should be over by 5am.


The work of the coastal patrol was warmly praised yesterday by Colonel A. J. Murray commanding officer of the 9th Infantry Brigade at a reception held at the Wollongong Town Hall. Colonel Murray said that the Volunteer Coastal Patrol provided serious and vital training. It was bound on a serious mission and was most valuable as an aim in Australia’s national defence because it would act as a sea scout and would give warning of the approach of an enemy.

This morning the troops in Woonona camp were inspected by the Divisional Commander, Major-General I. G. McKay, who praised them on their excellent discipline. Although they had been in camp only a short time, they showed an efficiency worthy of better-seasoned troops.

The Minister for Defence Mr Street who then arrived to inspect the camp told the men that those who had enlisted had the satisfaction of knowing that they were doing something to help in the defence of their country.

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