War on the Streets

WHAT'S in a street name? Residents in many suburbs may wonder about the curious names of some of their streets and how they came to be.

An area south of Riversdale Rd along Elgar Rd, opposite Wattle Park in Melbourne's mid-eastern suburbs, was sub-divided in late 1916, when the tram service arrived at Wattle Park.

How is it possible to know this after 85 years? The names themselves tell the story. Hamel, Begonia and Inverloch Sts started out with the original names of Haig, Birdwood and Jellicoe Sts.

Who were they? Sir Douglas Haig was the British commander on the Western Front in 1916, General Birdwood, commander of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, and Admiral Jellicoe, commander of the British Grand Fleet, which fought the battle of Jutland that year.

One reason the names were later changed was because in the late 1920s someone surveyed a second set of Haig, Birdwood and Jellicoe Sts south of Canterbury Road and east of Station St in Box Hill South, barely a kilometre away.

They also added three others at the new locale: Kitchener St, the British field marshal drowned when his cruiser hit a mine in July 1916; Asquith St, the British Prime Minister who resigned at the end of the year, and a Foch St, after the French field marshal.

The joker in these street names, however, is south of Wattle Park: Neville and Cadorna Sts. `Neville' is a little baffling, but the French General Nivelle, hero of the 1916 Verdun campaign, became much less popular with the disastrous 1917 general offensive which lead to the mutiny of the French army. Melbourne street directories have no less than four Verdun Sts.

Who or what was Cadorna? Events later in the century tend to make people forget that in World War One, the Italians were on the Allied side, though their showing against the Austro-Hungarian army failed to make much impact.

General Cadorna was the Italian commander from 1914 until a major defeat (Carporetto) early in 1917 caused him to lose his position, but his name lives on in this quiet Wattle Park street.

The process of naming streets after generals and battles isn't a new one, though a Schwarzkopf or Kuwait St has yet to appear in the Melways. Older areas of Melbourne, however, sometimes show their age with military precision.

St Kilda has Alma Rd, Inkerman St and Balaclava Rd, all battles in the Crimean War of 1854-56; if you look closely, other locales and the generals who fought there: Raglan St, Cardigan St, Redan St, Sebastapol and Malakoff Sts, and an Odessa St.

World War One, apart from those noted above, produced 20 or so Anzac Sts around the city, several Gallipoli and Amiens Sts and a Suvla Grove in Coburg. Broadmeadows has its own little collection, including Joffre St (French field marshal) Deakin St (Australian Prime Minister) and Nicholas St (Tsar of Russia). They're all off Camp Rd, the camp in question the Army's, established in 1915.

Heidelberg Heights and West Heidelberg are unique in being developed after their respective World Wars. Politicians and generals, Lloyd George, Bonar-Law, Monash and Haig are found one side of Waterdale Rd, later battles like Narvik, ships HMAS Perth, HMS Exeter, HMNZS Achilles, and aircraft on the other.

The suburb of Alamein was laid out as a low-cost public housing precinct in 1948. Locations Australian soldiers fought in feature prominently: Buna, Gona, Lae, Morotai, Tobruk, Bardia, Samarinda, Derna, Benghazi, Tarakan, Wewak, and on a sadder note, Ambon.

Victory (there is a Victory Boulevard) covers many sins, so military disasters such as Singapore remain uncomemorated; there is a Crete Ave, but no Darwin St.

Many aircraft were immortalised in Alamein: Mustang, Liberator, Anson, Catalina, Sunderland, Halifax, Lancaster, Hudson, Beaufort, Mitchell. Ventura for the street wise was a not very successful American bomber used in the early stages of the Pacific War.

Other conflicts produced less impact on our suburban environs. The Boer War of 1899-1902 failed to produce any Mafeking or Ladysmith Sts anywhere in Melbourne, though there's a number of Spion Kopkes around Victoria, and a Mafeking in the Grampians. Footscray and Richmond have Khartoum Sts from General Gordon's battle of 1885.

Likewise, the Maori fracas of 1860 and more recently Korea and Vietnam failed to excite namers of streets. Hankerings back to earlier conflicts produced a few street-names, however: Nelson Place in Williamstown, St Kilda's Wellington Parade and Waterloo St, and seventeen Trafalgar Sts.

So the quiet suburban street you thought you knew everything about may be linked to some long forgotten general or clash of blood and thunder. Cruise Missile Crescent, anyone?

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