Pillar 10 - Safety beach bay trail

U.S. Marines in boats and crew
practised here in ‘forty-two
following a battle true -
A turning point would soon ensue -
and thousands fall.

This ‘Jingle’ was written by Tom McCullough in 2015 to mark some Second World War manoeuvres by the U.S. 1st Marine Division at Safety Beach in 1942-43.   The veteran U.S. Marines arrived for rest and retraining at the Australian Army’s Balcombe Military Camp in Mt Martha before Christmas 1942, after being relieved from heavy fighting at the Pacific warfront of Guadalcanal Island. At this time the Japanese Imperial Army was rapidly advancing across the Pacific area. The Japanese captured the Philippines in 1941 and then took Singapore from the British and Australians by February 1942. American troops and equipment were welcome as a joint operation because Australia was struggling to try and stop an invasion after Japanese air attacks on Darwin and other Australian ports at that time.

The U.S. Marines were here to regroup and then train for secret plans to counter-attack Japanese bases on various Pacific Islands. The 1st Division at Mt Martha were seen practising landings on the sandy shore of Safety Beach as well as climbing the cliffs near Tassell’s Creek, in day and night-time assaults. Amphibious tanks and small landing craft were taken to Dromana Bay by a passenger liner renamed  H.M.A.S. ‘MANOORA’ and a U.S. freighter ‘ALUM’.  Armed Marines were then ferried ashore where they practised fighting ‘enemy’ troops hidden in trenches and behind barbed wire defences along Safety Beach foreshore.

Despite strict warnings about prohibited areas and armed sentries, a few local people were able to see some of these secret exercises at Safety Beach. No one, even the US Marines themselves, knew where they were targeting or exactly when they would cross the Pacific again to tackle fierce Japanese resistance.  

Suddenly all U.S. Marines left Mt Martha Camp in September 1943, and eventually there was news of many great but costly battles, and some Allied victories in the Pacific. The turning point of war in the Pacific came on the infamous islands of Iwo Jima in February-March 1945, where some of the U.S. Marines from Safety Beach manoeuvers helped overcome Japanese resistance after intense fighting and very heavy losses on both sides.     

Mornington Peninsula Shire funded these poetry pillars that were designed* by Safety Beach Foreshore Landscape Committee Inc., in 2016 (*copyright T. McCullough).

There are 11 of these pillars with different ‘Jingles’ on each one. The pillars are spaced at intervals of about 200 metres apart, alongside the Bay Trail at Safety Beach foreshore. Marine Drive is parallel to the Bay Trail which runs from the south at Nepean Highway intersection, to the northern end at the Mt Martha cliffs (or Tassell’s Beach) opposite Bruce Road intersection, Martha Cove Marina’s channel entrance and S.B. Sailing Club building. Each Pillar has two red ‘port’ squares or two green ‘starboard’ triangles on it, similar to most navigation Channel Markers. They are meant to reflect our Eastern Channel markers in Port Phillip Bay leading northwards to Melbourne.

Picture: HMAS MANOORA rigged with landing craft for taking troops ashore in the Pacific Islands.

W. Calder, Mt Martha Lands & People,145-151, Jimaringle Publications 2008.
Wikipedia: see Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal and 1st Division of U.S. Marines.

For further information or questions, please write to: The Secretary, Safety Beach Foreshore Landscape Committee, 65 Victoria Street, Safety Beach, Victoria, 3934.