In a corrugated iron building close to the main street is the Terang RSL Sub-Branch. Though the building may appear unassuming, a difficult-to-miss attraction within its grounds draws attention from far and wide to this remarkable rural Sub-Branch.
Two hours’ drive south west of Melbourne and within a local population of just over 2,000, it is remarkable to consider that the Terang RSL, which was established in 1921, has flourished in recent years when many have struggled to survive.
“The land was gifted to the Terang RSL by two World War One veterans,” explains Terang RSL Sub-Branch President, Terry Fidge. “It was our First World War and Second World War veterans that built our hall.”
“It’s only an iron building, but it’s a reasonable-sized hall, and they used it for smoke nights for the veteran community.”
More recently, the Sub-Branch has transformed, with members slowly changing the building and its surrounds into what is now a fascinating step back into wartime history.
“The memorabilia display is more recent, in the last six years,” says Terry. “When we started losing our Second World War veterans, who were the main supporters of our Sub-Branch, our numbers dropped, and we were on our knees regarding members and funds.
"We knew we couldn’t maintain the hall with just the veterans, so that’s when the memorabilia collection started. We got the community involved, and now they really are our main supporters."
Remarkably, a replica Western Front command post is included in the memorabilia display. The display even includes a secret tunnel, much to the joy of local school groups.
“The tunnel and the bunker have only been in for about five years. We now have lots of school groups come through, generally in April. The primary school students all have to go through the tunnel between the floor and the ground. The kids try on the slouch hats and get their photos taken. It’s great to see.”
Not only do the children enjoy a unique experience while learning about wartime history, but their excitement is shared with those around them, in turn generating interest in the Sub-Branch.
"It's great because they go home, and they tell their parents, who tell their friends, and before you know it, everyone is talking about the RSL."
Within the grounds of the Terang RSL is piece of Melbourne history – a W Class Tram secured by the Terang RSL Sub-Branch after the retired Melbourne trams were placed for adoption in 2018.
Taking possession of the tram four years ago, thousands of hours were spent restoring it, including obtaining the original colour codes from the tramways authority to bring to life the tram's iconic green and yellow colours.
What might seem at first glance to be a random inclusion in their memorabilia collection, the W Class tram has a fascinating link to wartime Australia and to one of the Terang RSL's own veterans.
“We have one World War Two veteran at Terang RSL, Len Pomeroy. During the Second World War, our tram started working in the 1940s, and Len went to Melbourne from Terang to join in the Second World War.
"During the war, the main workhorses around Melbourne were the trams. They used to have recruitment centres in the trams where, down the back, they’d be signing up new members of the forces as the tram went around the streets of Melbourne."
“So we’ve got one end of the tram converted into a replica recruitment centre. Most RSLs have an artillery piece or a helicopter or something, we have a 1940s Melbourne tram. The lights come on of a nighttime. It’s quite a piece!”
Given its link to the Second World War, the Terang RSL decided to name the tram “Len’s Tram” in honour of Len Pomeroy.