The opening of the Victoria State Emergency Service museum on the 4th December 2011, located at the Craigieburn LHQ, was a fantastic milestone to a project that has taken numerous months of hard work by Craigieburn SES volunteers and friends – that went well beyond the call of duty – to produce an exhibition that reflects the story that is VICSES.
The Museum Team has worked hard to try and tell the story of VICSES. The collection comprises a great deal of equipment, documents and photographs dating back to the very early days of Civil Defence; particularly the threat of nuclear conflict – geiger counters, radiation calculators, fall out zones, dosimeters, respirators, uniforms, flash hoods, pamphlets and manuals detailing the construction of fall out shelters.
The collection also reflects the changes of the equipment used at the formation of VICSES, with a great deal of communications and road accident rescue equipment. Arguably our pride and joy is the Schermuly Rocket Launcher, used to fire a rope across a wide open space such as a gorge. Four members of the Unit can remember it last being used at a Mid-West Exercise at Trentham Falls in the early 1980’s. The collection also includes early models of the ‘Jaws of Life’, uniforms, rank insignia and badges. Craigieburn is always on the lookout for new and interesting items for the collection. Also, VICSES members have an open invitation to visit the Museum – bookings to be arranged by contacting us on the Contact page above.
This all began long before Craigieburn became involved, growing from one man’s desire to see the history of VICSES preserved. Brian Rickard’s vision was to see valuable VICSES artifacts placed upon public display. Despite his dream appearing far from being realized, Brian patiently kept collecting equipment, documents and photographs. Records that included a considerable hoard of Ash Wednesday photographs.
Brian’s retirement in 2003, accompanied with his ill health, meant that he had to either find a champion for the Museum or dispose of the collection. Lacking support to establish a Museum, Brian was about to dispose of the collection in 2010 when he heard that Craigieburn was converting a surplus vehicle bay into a Museum. Therefore, rather than dump the collection, Brian used his long association with Craigieburn to offer the artifacts to us. As one who was there at the beginning in 1981, he well knows Craigieburn’s love of history.
So began one of several trips to Ballarat to transfer the collection to its new home. Our first trip to collect things came as a bit of a shock – A storage unit absolutely crammed with items, several of which dated from the 1940’s. We had uncovered a veritable treasure trove. Over several months the collection was professionally catalogued and photographed by the Unit’s Museum Committee. We even had to procure an ISO container to store the larger more bulky items. It was a delight, on subsequent trips, asking Brian about some of the items. Not only could he identify every piece simply from its description, but was able to provide its history.
At times we thought we would never meet the opening deadline of 4 December 2011 set by Alan Ker. The opening would be Alan’s final act prior to retiring as Controller. On many occasions Brian would turn up in his 4 wheel drive, broad smile upon his face uttering the fateful words (which we were to hear MANY times) – “I’ve found a few more pieces for you!”. To Brian, a few more pieces normally meant a car packed to the roof lining with more items, and for us, more importantly, more stories!
Running parallel to establishing the collection was the construction of display cases, lining the old vehicle bay with plaster, fitment of a lighting system and the fastening of numerous plaques and signage upon walls. While the Museum is now officially opened, the hard work continues.