Along the Strand beachfront, in TOWNSVILLE, North Queensland, a distance of 2.2 km there are no less than four swimming enclosures. But today we are interested in just one.
The Tobruk Memorial Baths.
The Olympic Connection
In 1956 and 1960 they were a training venue for the Australian Olympic Swim Team of which Dawn Fraser was a member.
Who is Dawn Fraser?
She is a much loved Aussie hero, who held the 100 m freestyle Olympic record for 15 years, and was the first woman to swim the 100m in less than one minute. Her 58.9 sec record was not broken for 8 years after she retired. The Australian Swimming Union banned her from competing for 10 years after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, because she walked in the opening ceremony against their wishes, wore an old swimsuit (because it was more comfortable) and allegedly stole an Olympic flag (which the Japanese later presented to her anyway!).
Photo by Arch Fraley.
In a contradictory turn of events, she was also named Australian of the Year in the very same year (1964).
Another colourful Australian, Laurie Lawrence, himself an Olympic Swim Team Coach, started swimming at the Tobruk Baths as a boy when his father managed them. He said of the 1956 season ‘If I wasn’t poolside collecting autographs I was watching the team train from the balcony above’.
Melton Hill which originally met the sea at this spot, was quarried from 1880 on, to provide rock for the Townsville Port’s Eastern Breakwater, freeing up land upon which to build the Baths.
Man made waterfall on the rock face opposite the baths, exposed by quarrying.
Back in Victorian Times, well before the new baths were built, men swam in the ocean despite the sharks, stingers and crocodiles. Ladies of the day entered the ocean in bathing machines resembling covered wagons. Entering the wagon on land, they changed into swimming attire within, were wheeled out into the ocean, and descended steps into the water – modesty intact.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Thank goodness times progressed and there came a succession of wire mesh and concrete ocean baths that didn’t capture the public’s approval.
The African Connection
In 1940 construction began on the Tobruk Memorial Baths, so named to honour the 1941 Australian Victory at Tobruk in North Africa. However as WWII ramped up in the Pacific during 1942, all work on the baths ceased and it was not until 1951 that they were completed.
Memorial Hall of Fame Photographs
The Baths Today
A walk through the Tobruk Memorial Hall of Fame leads to the baths that are:
- Set on the Strand, with a tropical garden and cool breezes
- One 50m 8 lane pool, one 25m pool (shaded) and one toddlers pool (shaded).
- A kiosk that opens both to the pool and the Strand Walkway.
- Dogs are allowed at the Strand Walkway Outlet.
- $4.50/Adult, $3.00 Child, $8.50 Family Entrance Fee
- Wheelchair Friendly Change Rooms, Toilets and Showers
Meet you at the Tobruk.