Near the southeast corner of the island, there’s a shallow leveled depression behind sand dunes which reportedly was used as a parade and sports ground by the Australian Army during WWII. It was within a fortified area containing military infrastructure, traces of which still remain near the perimeters. For example things like lookouts, ablution foundations, air raid shelters, and even a chicken coop which provided eggs for the officers’ mess.
At the eastern end of the leveled area is Bickley Point, where a pair of artillery guns were placed atop a sandy hill to cover shipping entries into Gage’s Roads anchorage off Fremantle, either via Challenger Passage on the southern side of the island, or by the more usual access from the north.
The parade ground is now totally overgrown by native vegetation. The only immediate evidence of its war time use is a concrete half-length cricket pitch. The actual playing pitch would have been the regulation 22 yards long, but in times of austerity it was common to only provide a hardened or concreted area at the batting end so that the bowler could have a more devastating impact on his victims. Batting was always restricted to that end of the pitch with such arrangements. I know because as a kid I helped to build an almost identical concrete cricket pitch at Attadale Primary School in the early 1950s.
When I photographed the Rottnest pitch last October I thought of all the soldiers who must have played there over time. There would have been plenty of cheers of appreciation by onlookers as batsmen were bowled out, or they hit mighty sixes.
Now everything is quiet. It’s quite possible many of those wartime players were eventually moved to the islands north of Australia and perished, either in battle or as Japanese POWs. In my opinion, the Rottnest pitch should be interpreted as having sacred significance. A case of, Lest we forget.
In the folowing group of images, the one at top-left was taken from where the bowler’s end would have been. I paced the 22 yards out. My wife and two of our kids are standing at the batsman’s crease. The three images on the right are of the concreted wicket section. The bottom image shows were the three stumps were inserted.
The small pile of stones in the bottom right image was located eastward of the pitch. Their purpose is unknown, but for want of any other explantation, they could have once been used as boundary markers.
© MMIX Paul R. Weaver.
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Check out each month's subject index on the Calendar Page for my "common-man" monologues about survival in 21st century Australia – plus a little history occasionally. An original essay is added most days as part of an undertaking to write at least couple of million words. Zzzzzzzz!