WW1 Trench Walk

These trenches were designed for attack and defence, and for the movement, housing, safety and support of troops. 

Mar 22, 2023

After 21km and 42km walkers pass the Carillon checkpoint, you will continue along beside Lake Burley Griffin and then beside the Molonglo River that was dammed to form the lake in 1963. 

You will cross the river at a bridge and follow the path beside a disused road. There are often cyclists speeding along the path, so you might find it easier to walk on the road. A few hundred metres on your right, you will come to an area known as ‘The Trench Walk’. The route goes in and around this area before continuing through the Jerrabomberra Wetlands.

Trench plan

The trenches were all been filled in decades ago, but this is what was in the area 21km and 42km walkers will go around.

For weeks on end in 1916 and 1917, this area hosted soldiers operating amidst smoke and explosions from bombs and grenades as they prepared for trench warfare on the Western Front.

Aboriginal people had frequented the riverbank setting through tens of thousands of years as part of the area called Biyaligee. 

After European settlement, its deep alluvial soils supported a lucerne paddock on Mill Flat within the Duntroon estate. In 1910, the Duntroon estate became the Royal Military College (RMC) and after the outbreak of the First World War, they put its riverbank paddock to an altogether different purpose.

Canberra was named in 1913, and the next year, was the outbreak of World War One.

Formation of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) marked participation in the conflict of Australia as one nation rather than as a collection of colonies. While the use of the word ‘imperial’ embodied our duty to the British Empire.

Because of the war, funding for Federal Capital development was withdrawn and the fledgling city was practically dormant, except for Duntroon, which experienced an influx of personnel for the AIF Officer Training School and the associated Trench Warfare and Bombing School.

entering the trench walk

Turning off the main path to enter the WW1 Trench Walk section.

trench walk experience

Above ground, they have built a structure to allow visitors to walk through a ‘trench’. Many walkers choose to go through the ‘trench’ and imagine what the area would have been like a century ago.

History Lost

When the war was over, the trenches were filled. Dairy farmers and took over the use of the land and its military use faded from memory.

Archaeological excavations in 2016 by Australian National University students confirmed that trench lines were still visible under the disturbed surface layers.

Walkers will see mown strips and markers showing where the buried trenches are. Excavations of parts of the system are planned over time.

bombing trench
Preparing for the Western Front

Trench Warfare & Bombing School

In September 1915, a Tasmanian-born British Army officer was seconded to the Colonial Forces to provide up-to-date advice and training in trench warfare and bombing.

Captain E.L.D. Brownell had been commended for distinguished bravery during the Boer War and served on the Western Front at Aisne, the Marne and Mons. Brownell established a new Trench Warfare & Bombing School which opened at Duntroon in March 1916. Its purpose was to train officers and Non-Commissioned Officers in trench warfare and the use of trench weapons, grenades and bombs. 

The Trench Warfare and Bombing School trained officers for the kind of warfare being employed in France and Flanders. so they could train their own companies.

The nature of warfare had changed, with a revival of old technologies of entrenchment, mining and sapping, and bombing with grenades. In response, the imperial War Office assisted Australia to establish nationwide training in grenade throwing and trench warfare tactics.

Instructional trench systems and schools were developed at army camps in Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania.

The School at Duntroon specialised in training only officers and senior non-commissioned officers.

The temporary 

trench walk sign

If you aren’t in a hurry, you will find several signs to read.

Whilst there were trench warfare schools in each state, this one was regarded as the best by the Governor-General of the day.

The training course ran for up to 20 days, with a written and oral examination. Twelve Schools ran over 12 months, most with 20 to 34 students, and the last, in March 1917, with a cohort of 118, capping off 438 students. The school used a ‘train­-the-trainer’ approach, with graduates qualified as instructors of Bombing Schools in Army camps and assisting in formation of grenadier (bomber) platoons for the Army.


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