Saturday, 25 October 2008

Woomera

Woomera from an Australian perspective

The migrant workers, the so called ‘Balts” ( here refers to true Balts from Estonia, Latvia and Estonia, as well as Germans, Poles, Ukranians and Yugoslavs) presented Security of Woomera with a major headache. Fresh from the chaos in Europe and with every incentive to conceal their past activities, the Balts posed an insuperable problem for those trying to check their political allegiances. Mostly Security had to deal with the Balts at Woomera as they found hem. In theory it should not have been too difficult, for the official edict was that no alien or ‘New Australian’ should be allowed anywhere near the ranges, Evetts Field or classified material. Since their was little sensitive material in those days it should not have mattered much what their political sympathies were if they were only doing rough labouring work. In practice, though, many of the Balts had invaluable skills. A capable draughtsman was worth his weight in gold. To the despair of Security Balts kept finding their way into the Technical Area offices.

In January 1949, 200 Balts arrived clutching their permitted 16 kilograms of luggage they were regarded with a jaundiced eye by some of their Australian workmates, who note enviously that the Balts were being given free handout tools while Australians had to provide their own. Generally the Balts were thought to be unpredictable and were treated cautiously by the Australians.

Fire across the desert: Woomera and the Anglo-Australian Joint Project 1946 – 1980
Peter Morton, Commonwealth of Australia 1989

Womera through Lithuanian eyes

Ten Lithuanians worked here from 1948, many are telephone linesmen, some mechanics and one First Aid officer. We lived in tents and ate with the soldiers. The food is good and there is as much fruit as you like. We had electric lights, hot showers and a small library. Three times per week you are driven to the pictures and sometimes the pictures come to us. Three of us have radios and we are able to receive newspapers from Europe and USA. Alas we had no cards to play with. The days are hot 113F, it has rained on occasion. We begin work at dawn till 12 and receive 10p 8 shillings for a 48 hour weeks wage. The mechanics receive 11p 1 shilling. Food and accommodation is for free. Relationships with the soldiers is good.

Liudas Jaronis 1948
Australijos Lietuvis 1948 Dec 20th no.8

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