Army Museum, WA
A little gem of a museum lies quietly in a Fremantle back street, on Cantonment Hill, near the old Stirling Highway/Canning Highway intersection. Look out for khaki museum signs that point to the old Artillery Barracks in Burt St. They house time-themed galleries, while outside there is an interesting collection of “better-than-new” restored armoured vehicles, together with a sprinkling of artillery. A recent acquisition is an M113A1 Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC/LRV 134175), repaired after an altercation with a mine in Vietnam.
Heritage buildingsThe buildings themselves have a significant history. Built in 1910, they were the first major Commonwealth-funded defence works in Western Australia. Currently, the museum shares the barracks with the WA University Regiment, but that force is expected to move out shortly. The collection started towards the end of WW II and public galleries were opened in 1977 in East Perth. Relocation to the present site occurred in 1995.
Two of the many interesting external exhibits are the 105 mm Pack Howitzer, and the General Lee medium tank. The howitzer is an Italian designed L5 version, and it proved a most versatile weapon in Vietnam, firing the same ammunition as the American M-101 and M-102 out to 11,500 yards. Importantly, it could be underslung on a medium-lift helicopter. The Australian General Lee tank (aka General Grant to the British) weighs 23.9 tonnes and carries six or seven crew. This version mounted one 75 mm gun and 46 rounds, one 37 mm gun with 178 rounds and a .3 Browning machine gun. Its 340-400 hp Wright Continental engine drove it at 49 kmh (road) and 26 kmh off road.
Apart from the “outside” displays, which range from a WW II Bren gun carrier to a Vietnam-era 105 mm howitzer, the five major galleries display memorabilia, maps, and weaponry from the pre-1914 era, the Great War, WW II, the Cold War and more recent times.
Australia’s commitment to the Boer War and other eras is discussed in accurate detail by eager volunteers, including at least one ex-RAN sailor.
The extensive WW II and POW galleries vividly display the victories and hard times experienced by Australian servicemen. These range from the brilliant successes in the Western Desert to the debilitating Prisoner of War camps. Naval sacrifices are not forgotten. In the Crete evacuation display we are reminded of the loss of no less than 2000 sailors, three cruisers, five destroyers and damage to larger units when evacuating 11,976 valuable soldiers between 28 May and 1 June 1941.
If you are in the Fremantle area and have time over after visiting the Maritime Museums, you will not regret a visit to the Army Museum of WA at the “other end” of Fremantle. Admission costs $5 and the museum is open 1100 to 1600 Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Check www.armymuseumwa.com.au for details.