George John Bull
Lt Colonel George Bull, born in Willowie in 1898, was a veteran of World War 1, a Soldier Settler at Willowie and a member of the 9th Light Horse between the wars. In World War II he was a Major in the 2/48th Battalion who served in North Africa and Palestine, a Rat of Tobruk, the Lt Colonel of the 15th Motorised Regiment based in Western Australia and, among other duties towards the end and after World War II, Commandant of Loveday POW Camp from 2 September 1946 until 23 April 1947.
He replaced Lt Colonel Edwin Theyer Dean, who had commanded Loveday over several years when it contained civilian internees. Bull’s primary tasks in taking on the command of the camp were the repatriation of 2475 Italian POWs to Italy in late 1946 after they were assembled at Loveday, followed by the repatriation of 276 German POWs brought to Loveday, and then the subsequent dismantling of the camp.
Few family stories survive about his time at Loveday apart from the memories of his younger children on the farm at Willowie, who appreciated his visits with fresh vegetables and a few chickens. One of his sons, Ron Bull, told the story that he took a truck to Hay and returned with 3 tons of boots for the POWs. There is nothing to corroborate this story so far, but it raises some questions about why a Lt Colonel would need to go to Hay in a truck to collect boots.
Throughout November and early December in 1946 approximately 1,600 Italian Prisoners of War were sent by train from Loveday to Outer Harbour.
The first group of 552 Italian POWs departed Loveday by train at 7.30 am on Thursday 7 November 1946, clad in burgundy uniforms. They were part of the first large scale embarkation of Italian POWs when they boarded the Strathmore in Outer Harbour, joined by 31 officers from Melbourne. The Strathmore sailed at 4.35 pm on Friday 8 November on the first stage of the journey. An escort of 50 soldiers from Loveday accompanied the POWs to Naples.
The final boat to leave was the Moreton Bay which sailed on Saturday 14th December with 660 POWs from Loveday on board. The last of the POWs left Loveday on Monday 20 January 1947, when 276 Germans were sent by train to Melbourne for repatriation to Germany.
Caretakers were put in to look after the agricultural enterprises. Eventually an auction was held with the sale lasting for days. Many articles such as axes and spades were sold in lots of 10. Horses, harnesses and wagons were sold to farmers who had travelled long distances to attend. Things that were not sold were dumped in a quarry and covered.
Eventually hired workers dismantled the fences, light poles and wiring. According to the Murray Pioneer of 8 May 1947, the buildings of the Loveday Camp were bought by the State Government of South Australia. Some buildings were kept by the government but others were sold. Many ended up on soldier settlement farms at Loxton, in the South East or on Kangaroo Island. The timber in the buildings was mainly jarrah. Very little remained at any of the campsites.
Written and Researched by Geoff Bull.
NAA: B883 SX10305, BULL GEORGE JOHN : Service Number - SX10305 : Date of birth - 24 Jan 1898 : Place of birth - WILLOWIE : Place of enlistment - WAYVILLE SA : Next of Kin - BULL PEARL
The News, Friday 8th November
The Adelaide Chronicle, Friday 12th December 1946
Personal Collection, Geoff Bull.