The Nazi plan to destroy Bayswater Subway

bayswater-subway

Once, crossing the railway at Bayswater was difficult, with vehicles forced to travel some distance away, and school children having to dash across the track in a dangerous manner. So the local council decided the best course of action was to go underneath it.

The first plan for a subway at Bayswater was as early as 1903 when the council asked for one to link King William Street to Coode Street. Nothing happened as a result, so they asked again in 1908. By now the problems associated with draining such a subway had been raised, and the council offered its engineer to sort these out.

Despite having promised a subway, the Government now claimed it was short of money but said they would do what they could. Some people, though, questioned if it could be done at all. After all, to get the road low enough it would have to be underneath the water table, and so drainage was impossible, and it would become a small lake with any amount of rain.

These misgivings were ignored though, and on 14 February 1910 the Chairman of the Board, Mr I. C. Granville, drove his horse and sulky through a ribbon held up by two young women and on into the new Bayswater Subway. It doesn’t seem to have flooded, at least not to any noticeable extent. However, the open drains from the subway flowing down King William Street did keep making that road subside.

Terrifyingly, in 1942 a group of Perth’s Nazi sympathisers planned to blow up Bayswater Subway to paralyse both rail and road networks. The plotters included a Post Office employee, an insurance agent, and a dairy farmer. While their intention was to establish a National Socialist government in Australia, they were infiltrated by the police and arrested before any of their schemes came to fruition.

Today, of course, the subway is best known for being repeatedly struck by trucks. We don’t mean to suggest the drivers are just trying to finish off what the Nazis couldn’t, but so far they have failed to destroy a 108-year-old underpass and bridge. And let’s hope it stays that way.

Is the Hartog Plate a hoax?

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Close-up of the Hartog Plate

The Dodgy Perth team loves a good conspiracy. So we were delighted to find one about the upcoming 400th anniversary of Dirk Hartog’s trip to Western Australia, and the famous Hartog Plate which will be on show at the Maritime Museum.

This is the mother of all conspiracy theories: the Hartog Plate is fraudulent. Before you accuse us of having gone loopy, versions of this theory were promoted by an expert on European discoveries, George Collingridge, and by our very own leading historian, James Battye.

According to this version, the Hartog Plate was faked by Willem de Vlamingh in 1697 to ‘prove’ the Dutch had landed in WA first. If Hartog ever landed, there is no evidence of it. The British were sniffing around WA, and de Vlamingh was under orders to find proof of prior Dutch landing, by whatever means necessary.

Is there anything to back this up? It’s important to realise that there are no independent accounts of Hartog’s explorations other than the mysterious plate and a 1627 Dutch map labelling us as ‘Eendracht Land’ after Hartog’s ship.

When de Vlamingh visited Hartog Island in 1697, he said he removed the old plate, fixing another in its place. The Vlamingh Plate copies Hartog’s on the top with a new addition by de Vlamingh below. In the ship’s journal, published in Amsterdam in 1704, the key entries read:

On the 1st of February, early in the morning, our little boat went to the coast to fish… Our chief pilot, with De Vlamingh’s boat, again went into the gulf, and our skipper went on shore to fix up a commemorative tablet.

On the 3rd de Vlamingh’s chief pilot returned on board. He reported that he had explored 18 leagues, and that it was an island. He brought with him a tin plate, which in the lapse of time had fallen from a post to which it had been attached, and on which was cut the name of the captain, Dirck Hartog… who arrived here in 1616, on the 25th October…

How could the first commemoration, fixed up on 1st February, contain words only discovered two days later? They can’t have been added after, because they would be below de Vlamingh’s message. Did he rip the first draft down and put up a new one? Or did he have a copy of Hartog’s inscription before he arrived in WA? If so, where could he have got it from, since it was never published?

Or did de Vlamingh just make the whole thing up to prove prior claim over the Brits? All very mysterious. As is the subsequent history of the Hartog Plate, which only arrived in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in 1875, where it now resides.

Dodgy Perth is sure all of this can be cleared up by someone answering the following questions:

  1. Is Hartog’s Plate capable of being dated as to whether it is early or late 17th century?
  2. Other than taking de Vlamingh’s word for it, what other evidence is there that Hartog ever landed in WA?
  3. How can Hartog’s words on the Vlamingh Plate be explained, if the original wasn’t found until two days later?

We look forward to hearing some answers when the 400th anniversary of Hartog’s voyage is celebrated next month.

The case of the missing hubby

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If these walls could speak, they would say bad things about James McLeish

When you lose a building you lose an opportunity to tell the stories about the people who lived there. Sure, the stories still exist but they are so much more real when connected to a place.

The above building, 11 King William Street in Bayswater, probably doesn’t have long for this world. Bits of the façade might be saved, but that will be all. Currently occupied by a number of businesses, the best of these is a small coffee shop run by two brothers who are evidently trying to out-do each other in the who-looks-most-hipster game. But they are only the most recent part of the story.

The left hand side of the building was built, probably in 1905, as a general store for Robert and Mary McLeish. The right hand side of the store and the façade are probably 1920s, when Bayswater’s main shopping district expanded with all the new people moving to the area.

The couple had come over from Adelaide in 1902 to set up business in Bayswater. They were evidently a good match, since they eventually celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary.

This story isn’t about them, but son James. He married a Melbourne lass, Ethel, in 1920 and came to WA three years later. Dad, Robert, helped set James up in business, and eventually (four kids later), the younger pair took over the running of the King William Street store.

But in February 1940, James declared he needed to go on holiday to the South West for a weekend. However, as Ethel explained four years later:

First he said for a weekend, then a week, and finally changed his mind and said he’d take a month. I’ve neither heard from him nor seen him since.

She took over the running of the shop and quickly realised he’d never meant to return, having taken all the cash with him, leaving her only with unpaid bills.

Fortunately, Robert McLeish stepped in and settled the debts, and let Ethel and one of his daughters run the store.

You won’t be surprised to discover she got her divorce when she asked the courts for it.

Relatively speaking

Not such a genius as to find a decent barber

Not such a genius as to find a decent barber

If you are the sort of person who likes to wear a white lab coat with pens sticking out the pocket, Western Australia was the only place to be in 1922. It was here one of Einstein’s most controversial theories was proved.

The closest we at Dodgy Perth ever get to science is watching reruns of Ghostbusters, but bear with us while we stumble through the technical bit.

Einstein said that light didn’t just travel in straight lines but was affected by gravity. So the light from a star passing near the heavy mass of the sun would make the star appear in a different place than if there was no sun. Smart bloke this Einstein fellow.

Anyway, scientists from all over the world gathered at Eighty Mile Beach between Broome and Port Hedland. Although the beach was called Ninety Mile Beach at the time, and is in fact 140 miles long. Go figure.

Here was the best place on Earth to see the total eclipse of the heart—sorry, sun—and check out the stars on either side of it. But the isolated Eighty Mile Beach was not easily reached by a large group of nerds, along with all their astronomicky gadgets. It is worth noting that five of the geeks were lady scientists.

The group left Freo on-board the Charon, along with a film crew to make a documentary of the trip. Eventually they reached Broome, and unloaded some 60 tons of instruments into the lugger Gwendoline.

Because of the tides, they had to anchor 3km offshore, and the heavy equipment put into whaleboats to take to land. Here, local Aborigines were waiting, and it was they who did all the hard work packing the boxes onto donkeys to travel to the camp sight. This process took more than two days.

Trenches were dug for concrete foundations for the astro-sciencey stuff, and eventually telescopes and cameras were in place, along with aerials so the team could stay in communication with Europe and America. Also included were darkrooms, so the photos could be developed on the spot.

Finally, on 21 September 1922, the observations were made and Herr Einstein was proved—unsurprisingly—to be completely right. The sun did indeed make stars move about. Light was odder than we’d thought.

And that was WA’s role in proving the 20th century’s most important scientific theory.

When alien threads fell from the skies

itwasaliens

Now this is just plain weird. In 1961 ‘angel hair’ fell from twelve UFOs which were sighted near Meekatharra. A number of witnesses were able to verify the mysterious visitation.

On 5 August Edwin P., a 37-year-old shearer, was working in the shearing shed at Mt Hale Station, around 100km west of Meekatharra. At 8.20am, the owner of the station came into the shed to ask Edwin to take a look at objects in the sky.

They were round and coloured bright silver. Edwin estimated them to be around 2,500m altitude. They were travelling in pairs at immense speed, and in all twelve of them were seen, the last around 9.15am.

And this is where it gets stranger. ‘Angel hair’ used to be big in the 1950s and ’60s. Gossamer-like, it was an eerie substance emanating from UFOs. Sometimes it draped fences, utility lines, trees, and in a few cases, entire towns. Angel hair has been compared to ectoplasm, a substance made famous in the 1980s by Ghostbusters. (“He slimed me!”)

Just outside the shearing shed, fine mesh-like streamers began to descend from the sky. As it fell to the ground it took on various shapes. As soon as the astonished shearer touched this extra-terrestrial substance, it simply crumbled to dust in his hands.

By now a small crowd of farm hands had gathered, and all were later to swear that this extraordinary occurrence was all-too real.

When the incident was reported to the local police, Constable Jim Doyle checked with the authorities, but no aircraft were supposed to be in the area at the time. An official from the Air Force almost turned this into our Roswell when he announced to the media that this could be the breakthrough they had been waiting for in their UFO investigations.

It seems unlikely that this outspokenness was approved by his superiors, since this simply became another mysterious entry in WA’s very own Project Blue Book.

Above top secret

It's flying. It looks like a saucer. What shall we call it?

It’s flying. It looks like a saucer. What shall we call it?

In January 1953, the Daily News ran an amused, but very short, article on four Dalwallinu residents who saw a flying saucer. Well, it may have been amusing for the journo, but the authorities took it very seriously.

A letter was immediately sent from Air Force high command to the Commissioner of Police demanding that the cops immediately interrogate the witnesses. The letter also stated that the matter was top secret and that the four individuals must not know it was the Air Force investigating their story.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s go back to the original sighting.

Richard H. and Keith M. were foxhunting just northeast of Dalwallinu. A strange object appeared in the sky, surrounded by a ring of white light. It travelled north for a while, before changing direction to the west.

Richard and Keith were able to watch the alien craft for more than twenty minutes before it finally disappeared from view.

In Dalwallinu itself, Les A. and Kenneth J. also saw something weird, this time around 9.30pm. The flying saucer was once again surrounded by a halo, but even after the craft itself had disappeared the ring of light remained in the sky for several minutes.

Les was an excellent witness, because he was an ex-RAAF pilot, and very familiar with estimating speeds and altitudes of flying things.

Just another mysterious entry in WA’s very own Project Blue Book file.

The truth is out there, near Bridgetown

alien-ship

You really don’t want to know what’s in there

Charles B. was a sober sort of man.* An inspector with the Lands and Surveys Department at Bridgetown, he was definitely not the sort of person to simply make up a UFO for the attention it would bring him. Yet report an alien ship he certainly did.

On 28 November 1951, at 11.03pm he was sitting in his station wagon in Chowerup, some 60 km east of Bridgetown, listening to the ABC news broadcast. Suddenly Charles saw what he initially thought was an aircraft at about 600m altitude. It didn’t take him long to realise that this was definitely no plane.

It had no wings, but did have orange lights on the port side, with green lights on the other. Five portholes on the left glowed an eerie orange. It was impossible to say if there was a tail.

Charles first saw the mysterious object in the east and it was travelling as fast as any jet plane. Yet it made no noise

He got out of the station wagon to get a better look when it suddenly gained altitude and disappeared from view. Its lights were quickly switched off, as if the occupants didn’t want to be observed.

Being a good government employee, Charles reported this enigmatic object to the police. Remember this was the beginning of Cold War paranoia and enemy attacks could be expected any day.

The police referred the issue to the Air Force, who were very, very fascinated by what Charles had seen. They sent a list of sixteen questions that the witness needed to answer immediately. Whether or not this list had been created just for UFOs, or whether it was adapted from a document from WWII is not currently known.

Charles B. has, therefore, the honour of being the first Western Australian to be interrogated by the authorities about flying saucers.

Surely this deserves some kind of plaque out at Chowerup.

* We know Charles’ surname, but have chosen to obscure it here. If you really, really need to know, ask the Men in Black sitting outside our offices right now.