May the force be with us at Puckapunyal
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.