The Registry Of Ex-Military Land-Rovers Au, NZ, etc REMLR Recreational Run pages The Registry Of Ex-Military Land-Rovers Au, NZ, etc


Our 2002 R & R at Stockton Beach NSW was run on a sunny weekend,
September 7th & 8th, ...and a good time was had by all.

How would you feel if you had spent 12 months anticipating, promoting and helping to organise an event - and then life conspires to put you off enjoying it? A friend of mine ended up having his funeral set down for the very same Saturday as the first day of the R & R --not that my friend actually picked the day or anything. That's life I guess. So come 9am on a perfectly fine Saturday morning a group of Land-Rovers formed up having prepared for the beach... and the 2002 R & R began without me. One of the REMLR members brought some Legacy Pins for me though. The Legacy man raised $240, an amount which was down on last year's amount, and a total that didn't match the numbers of entrants on the R & R either (?). At 9.30am the Legacy man left. The R & R waited for some latecomers and then set off.

The members who went on R & R in 2002:

  • three Series 2A ex-Australian Army ¼ ton General Service Land-Rovers:
    • Graeme Dunlop's Sawmill,
    • Dennis McLaughlin's Chloe, and
    • Ross & Kay Carswell's Castrol, (all from the Hunter region of N.S.W.)

  • two Series 2A ex-Australian Army ¾ ton Land-Rovers:
    • Warwick Lord in a 1966 Ambulance (Hunter region N.S.W.), and
    • David & Tracey Turner in a 1964 General Service Roo (with Sydney, the first dog to come on R & R, from Sydney N.S.W.),

  • one Series 3 ex-Australian Army ¾ ton General Service:
    • Stuart Richter accompanied by Scott xxxxxx (from Central Coast of N.S.W.),

  • two Series 3 ½ ton Lightweight Land-Rovers:
    • Peter & Robert Lawrence in a ex-German ex-Danish cammed diesel Lightweight (from the Southern Highlands N.S.W.),
    • Ana & Darren in a ex-Brunei drab petrol Lightweight (also from the Hunter).

At 10am the REMLR convoy headed down south to Silver City just like last year. They continued south, passing the World War Two era rusty steel pickets (or what remains of them) and bits of barbed wire. The wartime fences had reached from one end of the bight to the other during the early 1940's. About 1.5km further southwards they reached the original end of Tank Trap Track, a landmark since it is a different colour to the other sand dunes. What a difference a year makes. The scene was completely changed. The high dunes seen around the ramp last year had been flattened out and now the sands all but buried the top of the ramp which had less width at the peak and really only looked like a raised path wide enough for a motorbike at the most. As well, there were only about 14 tank traps of the north-south line sticking up out of the sand whereas in 2001 there were about 20.

After a lunch stop the convoy continued south, looking for the way up to the "toTTT Camp". Well, that was not going to be easy. I had the maps with me and I wasn't there. Dennis stayed around and kept looking around in Chloe with an ear on the UHF radio while the rest of the convoy kept driving south to see the sights. One idea they had was to scout around for the southern exit track off the bight, a track that runs westward to Williamtown called Lavis Lane. It is used by all the people who ride unregistered bikes, quads, trikes, and offroad racers on the large, generally flatter expanse of the southern bight designated for their use. The plan was that come Sunday afternoon the R & R would exit using Lavis Lane and cut out the return trek back up to Birubi Point. The time saved could then be put use in Warwick's shed at Salt Ash.

Speaking of trying to save time, I also set about using Lavis Lane to save time. Rather than going up to Birubi and then driving south to find the R & R convoy, I thought I would gain an hour or so at least by driving onto the southern end of the bight and heading north looking for them and hailing them on the UHF. A good friend in a Toyota Prado accompanied had me and even lent me a couple of new UHF handheld radios. So it was that about 2pm we arrived in Castrol, deflated the tyres, and headed onto the dunes. I must mention here that Lavis Lane was a essentially just a sandy track through the scrub but that it had an annoying corrugations; not small ones, but large ones. It was a non-stop series of ups and downs; it was like riding a camel. The lurching and sea-sickness-inducing track lasted a couple of kilometres. If you were a tad hung over... anyway we came out of the end of the track and onto the wide area of the dunes. Sure enough, there were quads and noisey things carting teenagers all over the place.

After heading east toward the ocean for 5 minutes I stopped and got out the binoculars. I could see what looked like a Lightweight Landy ahead, away in the distance on top of a dune. We had found the R & R alright - it was unbelievably good luck! The Lightweight turned out to be Ana & Darren. Darren was scouting the way and fairly flying over the sand. Obviously the ignition problem it was suffering last year had been well 'n truly sorted out. As we drove closer, another Lightweight, Mr Flat, appeared over the crest, and then a Series 3 ¾ ton GS. Then a Series 2A ¾ ton GS and a Series 2A ¼ ton -Sawmill- sporting a new canvas canopy... and then a Series 2A Ambulance having trouble with a hill. It was Warwick Lord, who I hadn't seen since his move from up near Mudgee to Salt Ash.

After saying hello all around and meeting members I hadn't met outside of cyberspace before (David & Tracey in the Series 2A ¾ ton and Stuart & Scott in the Series 3 ¾ ton), and checking over their Landys, we lined up for some pictures. (I also caught up on the story of the R & R so far). Just like 2001, some people hadn't turned up on the day. Nevermind, we ended up with a great bunch of people and Landys anyway. I found out that they were looking for Lavis Lane to see if it was going to be a drama. I told them I had 'just tested it out' and I said that it was good as long as you hadn't eaten for at least an hour beforehand. I asked whether Dennis and Chloe were on the R & R and I was told he was busy looking for the toTTT camp. We decided to go and find him and see if he had found the dune from last year that leads up to the toTTT.

A few kilometres later, with the aid of the 2001 mark and Peter's GPS, we knew we were close to finding it and called on the UHF for Dennis. It turned out he had found a track further north but it must have been Boyce's Track from what he was saying. Dennis arrived not long after we had located the marker stick on the beach using the GPS mark recorded last year. But where was the big steep dune that took an hour or so of hard work to conquer in 2001? No wonder Dennis went by without recognising the toTTT dune and gully. Apparently the sand had been moved to another postcode. It was gone. History. There was the usual middle dune section and then the higher back dunes but it looked a lot lower and easier to drive up. Was the deep gully through the high dunes to the scrub and the flat bit at the top of Tank Trap Track gone as well?

We sent Darren up into the dunes to blaze the trail for the rest of us. He went into big dune area and disappeared from our view. Using the UHF he told us he had sighted the camp area. We all proceeded up the high dune with no trouble at all. The gully through the dunes seemed sort of shorter than last year and the profile of the high dunes was very different. The back dune immediately in front of toTTT was definitely a couple of stories lower.

We all got up to the flat area we knew to be toTTT. Some of us then drove down into scrub along Tank Trap Track (TTT). We turned around and then went north on the track. The track here was unused and overgrown. We stopped and legged it, following the line of old Tank Traps and wire a further 200m north to where TTT goes under the high dunes. We recorded the GPS mark and took a photo. We met some people riding horses in the scrub and had a cool drink thanks to David & Tracy. We talked with Stuart & Scott and then my son (another Scott) went exploring the dunes in an arc back to the toTTT camp. We backed up the Landys and returned to the toTTT to set up our camp stuff as well.

Back up at the toTTT camp, Warwick Lord and the others had started setting up camp. We all looked around and spread out a bit. David & Tracey set up their brand new South Afican made rooftop tent and awning. Scott and I began unpacking Castrol. We had arranged with David to pick up some parts he needed at Peter Haylock's store. It was a front hoop and other canopy hardware. We walked over and delivered David's door hoop, top rails and side rails.

In the middle of chatting and fitting the canopy parts to Roo, David & Tracy's Landy, a Land Cruiser arrived at the camp. It turned out to be a local tour operator who knows all the bight's secrets. If I told you what he said I'd have to kill you: to sum up; DoD stores, and beach cleanups, UXB and Toyota tales from beyond. I think it was a nice thought to come and fill us in on what is happening up there. (Thanks G.S.)

Once the canopy was secured with the help of Dennis and Graeme we all went our separate ways to cook up some food. Dennis had already boiled the billy and now he got his BBQ going too. The snags and bacon appeared from inside the eskies. Dennis' BBQ cooked for 4: Dennis, Graeme, my son Scott and me. Peter & son Robert used a gas campstove and Stuart & his mate Scott used one as well. Anna & Darren with Christian, their young boy, drove home to Anna Bay to enjoy a good night's sleep and return in the morning. David & Tracey... what do you say? They cooked up what was the best meal ever made on R & R: hot corn cobs and potatoes, grilled steaks, etc. There was plenty to go spare food to go around too. They had a space age looking BBQ unit which was large looking but folded down to a compact size. Their little dog Sydney had his own food too and kept us entertained. We all checked out their impressive rooftop tent which was cosy and secure looking. It had a rear access ladder that doubled as the supported the back half of the tent.

About a half an hour after the sun went down on that perfect blue day, we all made our way down to Dennis' camp fire. It was in the same spot as 2001 and he remembered to bring two bags of sawn hard wood just like last year as well. The forethought paid off and was much appreciated by all. Is there anything else half as good as conversation around a good fire under a clear night sky? At one point we all stopped when a lonely 'plane with landing lights glaring came out of the dark. It seemed to coming right at us, even though it was on its way to the RAAF runways. We talked about how the world has changed since last year's R & R and how 'planes can make people very jumpy. A few drinks went around as well as the stories. Meanwhile David walked back to Roos and returned with a camp oven. He shovelled hot coals under it and on top of it. We were all curious as to what he had in the oven... Anyway, after a fair while David opened the oven up... Ever had a serving of hot Peach Cobbler whilst camped up in the dunes after a big day out? It really topped the night and added something extra to the R & R. Some people like me didn't know about this dessert (Peach Cobbler uses 2 cans of sliced peaches and a packet cake mix), but when you smell it, taste it, and eat it out of a kidney cup -you'll just love it like I did. Most of the people on the 2002 R & R will remember that hot treat for a long time.

Later on people drifted off to their sleeping bags. Peter was pretty tired, since he had left Mittagong at 4am to successfully evade Sydney traffic. Warwick slept in his Ambulance. There were a couple of tents amongst the Landys and there was a tent on top of David & Tracey's Landy as mentioned. Sawmill and Chloe got their back ends fitted with extra bits of canvas to act as awnings over their open tailgates. Thats how Graeme and Dennis bunked down. Scott and I slept on a hootchie on the sand beside Castrol in our sleeping bags. We counted shooting stars for an hour... I woke up with a cold face about 0430. (My beenie had come off). I noted the time because I watched some odd lights in the sky at the rate of one every five minutes or so. At that time of the morning the best explanation I could come up with was that it was just sunlight from the other side of the terminator line reflecting off things in orbit. All the lights were tiny and moving (way faster than jets) on different courses. I dunno for sure, but as the first light arrived they became harder to see until they couldn't be seen anymore.

I got up and -yes! Another clear blue sky day had arrived. Not a cloud to be seen once again - beaut. The group stirred their coffees and had their breakfast and made ready to get going by 9am when Anna & Darren were due to return. The only thing to go wrong was that Castrol's front tyre had deflated overnight. Warwick connected his 12v pumper to it and the air pressure was quickly restored to 8psi. End of problem.

We had a short meeting, looked at map and made a fairly casual plan to spend a bit of time -once again- north of Silver City looking for that lost OP we tried to find last year. From there we would go all the way south to the Sygna and then exit through Lavis Lane, pump up the tyres at Williamtown and convoy to Warwick Lord's new place for a bit of a sticky-beak.

Meanwhile my son Scott had caught some small sand crabs. While he was out finding them he had noticed some more Tank Traps up in the high dunes about 400m to our north. It should turn out to be more of the Tank Traps along the line of the old track, pointing in the direction of the northern end of the TTT. At about 8.30am nearly the whole group legged it for 500m to the north. The other Scott stayed behind to watch the Landys. We could see the small number of Tank traps exposed at the bottom of a gully. They were in line with the others further east (the other 14 near the exposed end of the TTT ramp visited yesterday and last year). I took a photo of Scott standing beside the top of the old ramp to show how much of it had been buried. With the GPS marks we could accurately 'see' the buried sections of the TTT on the map.

Back at the toTTT camp once again, we finished packing up whilst waiting for Ana & Darren to return. Castrol filled in time trying to get up the top of the highest bit of sand in the area. The summit was just too soft and steep so Castrol stopped about two lengths short and reversed back down -very slowly.

Right on time we all left for the beach, with Dennis going ahead to video the convoy. We all went back up through the gully and climbed over the top of the high dunes. Again, the Ambulance had no problems at all. We were all impressed with the ability of Warwick Lord's Ambulance. We arrived down at the beach and lined up for the "Concors D'Grot". Our authoritive and learned Judge, Graeme Dunlop Esq. L.R.A.B.E. (Land-Rover Absolute Bloody Expert), did his annual rounds and then handed out the six R & R awards and we applauded his excellent choices. He also explained a bit about next year's R & R which is planned to be somewhere different... more about that later.

It was getting pretty warm by the time we got underway again. The Land-Rovers crossed the middle dunes and went northwards to find the track that Dennis had seen on Saturday. We found it and duly logged the GPS mark. It is used by horse riders as well. Some of us drove down into the scrub looking for any cement foundations or steelwork. We used the UHF radios to good effect here, but found nothing except some rubbish and galvanised roofing sheets. We gave up on that area and headed north to do a quick run around north of Silver City and check to see if any OP relics had been exposed by the winds. Anything was possible, as the dramatically different dunes around the end of Tank Trap Track showed. But it was a waste of time. We drove into 5 or 6 gullies and looked around. There were only some dead tree tops sticking proud of the sands. On two occasions I thought we had found 'something' but they were false alarms.

Well, maybe next time. It was time to start back down south and start thinking of the trip home and the end of the R & R. We passed the Tank Trap Track marker, the place where we saw some of the Sabre Jet wreck last year***, the drug dealer's gravesite marker, and pulled up on the beach, roughly adjacent to the Lavis Lane exit to Williamtown. Dennis and Graeme stayed behind with Warwick's Ambulance. The rest of us (Warwick with Scott & me, Stuart & Scott, Peter & Robert, David & Tracey, Darren & Anna) went down to pay our regards to the Sygna. If anything the ship seemed to have been tilted to the left side even more and the rusting wheel house superstructure looks like it has collapsed further. We lined up the Land-Rovers for photos and had time to have a good look around. The spot was very popular and it seemed every four wheel drive for miles around had come to visit the Sygna before it loses shape completely and looks like a pile of rusty steel. Also my son Scott found a mobile phone (a turn around from last year on R & R when he very nearly lost my phone at Birubi).

We drove back to where Dennis had parked. While we were gone a number of other four wheel drives had been attracted to their Series 2A Landys; the Ambulance certainly sticks out on the beach with that big red cross. Several admirers had accumulated there and when we all appeared from the south in convoy it got even more attention. After a brief stop we headed westwards towards the Lavis Lane exit. However, there was one last problem...

The 'play area' for the quads and buggies, etc, was largely flat with scrub acting as a border on it's southern and western sides and high back dunes on its northern side. In our way was a steep section of sand. It is hard to describe. It wasn't a track up a hill, it was a wide rise from one flat area to another that the joyriders use as a launching ramp. It stretched about 200m in a north-south line across our path and there was no fall off on it's shoulders. Darren was flying around and had no trouble. The other Lightweight, Mr Flat had to have several goes. I stayed back and watched the fun for a few minutes before going up with Castrol using a long run up and High ratio 2nd gear like everyone else. But for Warwick's Ambulance and David & Tracey's GS ¾ ton, nothing would work. David headed off up into the higher dunes to the north looking for a long way around. While he was out of sight in the gullies all the Landys except for the Ambulance (which had now made it nearly all the way up the rise) formed up in a line. David's detour up onto the high dunes to skirt the problem paid off. He found a way around. David then showed Warwick the way around that he had found so that the Ambulance ended up parked in the line for photos with the rest of us.

We again drew some admirers. I was on the very end of the line taking a photo when an overly expensive brand new looking four wheel drive stopped. The electric window slid down and all in one breath, the air-conditioned-distinguished-looking driver introduced himself and told me he could help if someone needed medical attention. Was someone seriously hurt? I told him everything was fine and we were all okay. Presumably he was in the Medical Profe$$ion and thought the Army Ambulance was 'on duty'...

The R & R started up once again and continued along to the end of that bouncy and sandy track called Lavis Lane. When the last bit of sand disappeared it was replaced in turn by dusty gravel and then the good 'ol bitumen. We drove slowly to one of the new service stations at Williamtown, looking for fuel, snack food and air for the tyres.

We queued for the air hose and (unlike last year) finished inflating all our tyres without much delay. David & Tracey got away from us here. They wanted to leave an hour or so early so as to minimise the fight in the Sunday afternoon Sydney traffic. Roo can now comfortably do 100kmph on the freeway and keep up with traffic because it now has a special high ratio transfer box, but it is all for nothing if the traffic is bumper-to-bumper from Mt. White to the southern end of the Sydney freeway.

About 1pm the R & R began it's last leg up to Warwick Lord's new house. For a number of members the convoy north was a real highlight, as we looked for all the world like the real thing. After 15 minutes on the bitumen we pulled into Warwick's front yard and then walked around the back to see his ex-military 'general store'. He had a number of ex-military trucks for sale as usual. Dennis liked looking over the ex-Army 6x6 ACCO Mk5 Wreckers that were for sale. They are Vietnam era of course and they have familiar switches and maplights. Then we went to look inside Warwick's shed. To say that it is full of rarities is a bit of an understatement. There are many curios, both little and large (some money changed hands too). I looked at all the goodies on exhibition. The one that got my attention was the complete Army CES kit for an Australian Army Land-Rover Series 2A. It was packed in crate dated 1968 and it had some heavy items in it (such as the set of snow chains). Warwick also had a Bamford winch and some cab canopies. There were other Land-Rover bits too.

Sometime after 2pm we all said our good-byes and drove homewards. It was all over 'til next time. How wonderful to have a cloudless weekend for the R & R and how good was it that no-one had got bogged or had a mechanical hassle.

Before the end of the afternoon I had put away all the gear and hosed off Castrol inside and out. While I was working my mind was full of memories about the people who had come on the 2002 R & R. And that campfire. And the stars. And I thought, 'What a great night'. Later on, about to email around news about the R & R weekend, it occurred to me that we should get rid of the "toTTT" name which is bit of a tongue twister: how about we rename our camping spot and call it Camp Cobbler from now on? It sounds good to me.

Postscript: A day or so after this year's R & R, Dennis rang me and read out a news item saying that Lt-Col Dick Mort had passed away on the Sunday of the R & R. He was the wartime CO of Fort Wallace and the other batterys along the bight. He was 96 years old. I had interviewed him about the bight in 2001. He had contributed information years before on the Fort Scratchley project as well. R.I.P.


***A few weeks after 'R & R' 2001, all remaining pieces of the Sabre Jet wreck were removed from the crashsite and put in storage at Fighter World, RAAF Williamtown.

© 2002