LENGTHS OF COURAGE: Swimming carnival at Dalrymple Creek, Allora Queensland ca. 1908. Before concrete pools were built, the swimming club trained in the rivers around the town.
LENGTHS OF COURAGE: Swimming carnival at Dalrymple Creek, Allora Queensland ca. 1908. Before concrete pools were built, the swimming club trained in the rivers around the town. Warwick - Pictures From the Past

Southern Downs sends most swimmers to battle in WWI

FROM the banks of the Condamine to battle on foreign shores, there must have been something in the Warwick water when the call went out for young Australian men to stand up for their country.

Fit and ready to fight, an astounding 52 men from the Warwick swimming club didn't hesitate to dive in and enlist in the armed forces when Australia joined the First World War.

The surprising figure jumped out at Warwick Swimming Club life member Greg Murphy as he was compiling a history of the club.

"It was very surprising to see that number of enlistments for such a small town,” Mr Murphy said.

A newspaper clipping from September 28, 1916 shows the Warwick Swimming Club was lengths ahead of the rest of the state.

It far surpassed even the state's largest club, Toowong, which sent sent 35 of its swimmers to fight.

Established in 1910, the Warwick club barely had time to find its feet before Australia joined the war four years later.

Members of the club were reduced by about half during the war era, according to Mr Murphy.

CREEK OF COURAGE: Children swimming in Dalrymple Creek at Allora during a swimming carnival around 1908. The Club shed can be seen on the bank at the right.
CREEK OF COURAGE: Children swimming in Dalrymple Creek at Allora during a swimming carnival around 1908. The Club shed can be seen on the bank at the right. Warwick - Pictures From the Past

But why the number was so high is a mystery even to Mr Murphy.

"The original thrust for army recruitment was towards fairly fit people,” he said.

Even so, the number stands out across the state.

Allora Swimming Club also had a significant number of enlistments comparative to its size, with seven men volunteering their services to the war effort.

The two Southern Downs clubs continued to operate over the war years, despite a big reduction in numbers.

But with the brave men away from home, female membership spiked dramatically.

"The increased involvement of women in local swimming activities was pivotal in the resurgence of local competitive swimming after the war.”

The swimmers will be remembered among hundreds of others in tomorrow's Anzac Day celebrations.



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