1940-1943: The Early War Years

The pall cast over the school by the War in the early 1940’s was compounded by a number of other severe problems.  1940 was a drought year with serious effects on every aspect of the farm.  Grain reserves were exhausted, all crops were affected, dams were dry, parrots attacked the reduced fruit crops, salinity increased all the wells and the Narrogin Water Supply was rationed.  There was a measles epidemic raging amongst the students and staff were being called into militia camps. In 1941 quite a lot of students withdrew to assist at home due to labour shortages.

The school was still progressing however, the old wooden silo was replaced by a concrete one and plans for new residential quarters were released. War time use of the school by military authorities then brought all development to a halt.

In 1942 two prominent teachers left; Gordon Appleton transferred and Pat Cullen left to take up full time military duties.  Shortly after, Principal William Shelton who had been in poor health died on July 2, 1942.

During 1942 there was a real threat of invasion with the rapid movement of Japanese forces towards Australia. The boys took part in air raid precautions by digging trenches using pick and shovel in the orchard. They also filled and stacked sandbags around the town’s hospital operating theatre to protect it from possible bomb blasts.  Then almost without warning the General Officer Commanding, West Command announced the requisitioning of school buildings for a military convalescence hospital and the boys were sent home.  After much consternation from the parents and community, the education department who were determined that the good work of the NSA be resumed set about finding another location for the school. This was not easy as the boys not only needed boarding facilities but access to a farm research station, eventually arrangements were made and the boys were invited to return to school which was to be re-established in Denmark.

Alterations were made to the buildings at NSA and at the end of April 1942, the Victorian 109 Convalescent Depot moved in. The town people made the men who convalesced welcome. In return the men from the depot staged concerts in the town hall. After barely a year the 109 Convalescent Troop moved to Northam and the then heavily guarded school grounds were used as a base for the Victorian 109 Anti-tank Regiment.

After the military abandoned the school in March 1943 the return by the students seemed unlikely, although groups of five or six students were being sent up from Denmark by train for two or three weeks at a time to help with general farm work. The Education Department was endeavouring to have the NSA re-opened and this was achieved by 1944 with Captain Pat Cullen as principal and Hugh Ritchie as farm manager.


< The 1930s: Continued Improvement | 1944-1954: Resuming Under Difficulties >