Sunday, June 16, 2019

Isolation Camp, Ascot Vale

Guard, Isolation Camp, Ascot Vale, 29 September 1916.  Quite prepared to shoot any measles outbreak.  Courtesy of drakegoodman on Flickr.

Owing to outbreaks of serious disease in the various military camps, there was a clear need for isolation camps, or quarantine stations, where any troops who had been in contact with a sick man would be removed for observation.  There was an isolation camp operating at the Broadmeadows Camp as early as February 1915, possibly earlier, and as the numbers of men requiring isolation grew, another Isolation Camp at Ascot Racecourse in Ascot Vale was established in about August 1915.

Men would spend three weeks in the camp having daily throat swabs to look for any signs of disease.  Being isolated here might mean the men would miss the embarkation of their battalion and the men with whom they had trained for months.

Although unable to leave the camp, and outsiders unable to enter the camp, the men were provided with a weekly high tea by the ladies of the Cheer-up Brigades, delivered to the guard office at the front gate.  In the early days they may have been catered for by the Maribyrnong Cheer-up Brigade, but a new Ascot Vale Cheer-up Brigade was formed in September 1917 to cater for the men at the Isolation Camp and the camp in the Showgrounds nearby.

Local residents were none to pleased to have a camp with numbers of men whom they assumed to be sick dropped on their doorsteps, and the military was obliged to stiffen their upper lips and bend to the demands of the Essendon Council for the Health Officer to be allowed to inspect the camp.  The Health Officer, however, determined that the camp was in every way satisfactory and not a danger to the health of locals.

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