May the force be with us at Puck­a­pun­yal

Seymour Telegraph - - THE TELEGRAPH - Puck­a­pun­yal has been an in­te­gral part of the Sey­mour story. Here Gov­er­nor-Gen­eral Sir Peter Cos­grove in­spects troops there.

Puck­a­pun­yal might be a small re­stricted-ac­cess town but its his­tory has been an in­te­gral part of Sey­mour’s evo­lu­tion.

To­day the Army base is home to about 280 fam­i­lies of the Aus­tralian De­fence Force com­mu­nity sur­rounded by about 400 square kilo­me­tres of bush­land and for­mer pas­ture that is used for field train­ing ex­er­cises.

Pucka, as it has be­come known to ev­ery­one, is also home to the Aus­tralian Army’s School Of Ar­mour, School of Ar­tillery and School of Trans­port, along with the Com­bined Arms Train­ing and Devel­op­ment Cen­tre, the Joint Lo­gis­tics Unit, and two trans­port squadrons.

Its fa­cil­i­ties are also used by the Vic­to­rian Aus­tralian Army Cadets Brigade.

Back in 1946 an au­thor­ity was given by the Aus­tralian Army’s then South­ern Com­mand, Vic­to­ria, for the for­ma­tion of an Ar­moured Fight­ing Ve­hi­cles (AFV) mu­seum.

It was given to the AFV School of the Aus­tralian Ar­moured Corps lo­cated at Puck­a­pun­yal.

To­day’s Mounted Com­bat Di­vi­sion (for­merly School of Ar­mour) is the di­rect suc­ces­sor of that school.

The RAAC Memo­rial and Army Tank Mu­seum as the mu­seum is now known, was formed in May 1970 by group­ing to­gether a num­ber of AFVs which had been on in­di­vid­ual dis­play around the Ar­moured Cen­tre and the Puck­a­pun­yal Camp Area.

The mu­seum has oc­cu­pied two lo­ca­tions within the Mounted Com­bat Di­vi­sion be­fore its cur­rent po­si­tion.

The move to the lo­ca­tion where it is now oc­curred in 1985 when the old Ar­moured Cen­tre un­der­went a com­plete re­de­vel­op­ment.

The new fa­cil­ity now known as Hopkins Bar­racks af­ter Mayor Gen­eral RNL Hopkins, the ‘fa­ther’ of the Royal Aus­tralian Ar­moured Corps, was of­fi­cially opened by HRH The Prince of Wales on Oc­to­ber 31, 1985.

One year later, the in­door dis­play – now known as Chau­vel Hall – was opened fol­lowed by the Hall of Tech­nol­ogy in 1987.

As the ti­tle sug­gests, the Tank Mu­seum is much more than a col­lec­tion of old ar­moured ve­hi­cles and mem­o­ra­bilia.

It is in fact a liv­ing memo­rial to many of our fore­bears who made the supreme sac­ri­fice.

Within the grounds are memo­ri­als to the Light Horse­men, World War II, Viet­nam and to ar­moured sol­diers killed in train­ing.

Dur­ing the 1950s, Puck­a­pun­yal was also host to the 3rd Na­tional Ser­vice Train­ing Brigade and for the Viet­nam War, Na­tional Ser­vice­men con­scripted un­der the Na­tional Ser­vice Act (1964) out­side Queens­land and NSW were sent to Puck­a­pun­yal (the men from those two states were trained at Kapooka).

There they were trained by the 2nd Re­cruit Train­ing Bat­tal­ion, with as many as 4000 sol­diers at Puck­a­pun­yal at any given time.

The Na­tional Ser­vice bar­racks were trans­ferred to the Third Train­ing Group in the 1980s to pro­vide re­cruit and pro­mo­tion train­ing for Gen­eral Re­serve sol­diers and also pro­mo­tion train­ing for Re­serve Of­fi­cers at­tend­ing the Re­serve Com­mand and Staff Col­lege. This con­tin­ued un­til the clo­sure of the Train­ing Group in June 2000.

Dur­ing 1999 and 2000, at the height of the Kosovo war, ci­ti­zens from the tiny be­sieged Balkan na­tion, were housed in the Train­ing Group bar­racks (as well as at other mil­i­tary bar­racks around the coun­try) as part of tem­po­rary pro­tec­tion pro­gram Op­er­a­tion Safe Haven in sup­port of the NATO ac­tiv­ity in the prov­ince.

They re­turned to Kosovo once the sit­u­a­tion there had sta­bilised.

Pucka has had a crit­i­cal role in Aus­tralian mil­i­tary his­tory and Sey­mour has been part of that jour­ney through his­tory.

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