School celebrates link with Diggers' camp

Greenmount Primary School principal Lucy Webb, centre, and Year 6 students Jack Greaves, Sarah Gerace, Emily Thomas, Angus Roach and Bianca Kassinas at the Blackboy Hill commemorative site. Picture: Danella Bevis/The West Australian

For 50 years, successive generations of students at Greenmount Primary School have had a unique link to one of WA's most important historical sites.

The school sits on a portion of what was the birthplace of WA's involvement in World War I - the Blackboy Hill training camp.

This year the link will come into special focus as the State marks 100 years since the camp was set up and the first soldiers marched and then sailed off to war.

The first volunteer soldiers set up camp at Blackboy Hill on August 17, 1914.

The 11th Battalion, the first raised in WA, marched out of camp on the morning of October 31, 1914, caught the train to Fremantle and departed on the transport ships Ascanius and Medic, which were joined on November 3 by a giant convoy carrying Australian and New Zealand soldiers which had left Albany on November 1.

By the end of the war in 1918, a total of 32,000 men out of a total State population of about 320,000 had trained at the Blackboy Hill camp.

In 1957, the RSL asked that a portion of the land be used as a commemorative site and Greenmount Primary School was built on a portion of the site in 1964.

The school has collected historic books and photographs as well as military insignias, equipment, bottles and buttons dug up on the site, and proudly displays them in its foyer.

Greenmount students attend Anzac Day services at the site each year and have been working on Anzac projects and profiles of soldiers that they will submit to the nearby Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers' Centre, which is working on a book about Blackboy Hill.

The school will be part of events to commemorate the departure of the first soldiers in 1914, which will include storytelling, music and memorabilia displays on the school oval on the evening of October 30.

On October 31, a commemorative service will take place at the site memorial, followed by a re-enactment by military cadets of the train journey from Blackboy Hill to Fremantle.

The Greenmount school choir will sing the school song at the Blackboy Hill service.

School principal Lucy Webb said that the association with the site helped students better understand Australia's history and identity.

Year 6 student Bianca Kassinas, 11, said researching the Anzac story helped students understand "why Australia is the way it is today".