Land Rover mystery

KIDS could be playing soccer over the grave of a mysterious radioactive Land Rover rumoured to have been buried in East Fremantle after atomic testing in the 1950s.

Following the Voice’s story which proved a contaminated Land Rover was bought to Leeuwin Barracks after the Monte Bello tests (“Atomic riddle,” Voice, May 26, 2018) the Voice got a call from Melville handyman Kim Stewart.

Mr Stewart says that quite a few years back while working as a builder he was trying to sell a design to an elderly Willagee resident who’d been stationed at the barracks.

• Photographer Roger Garwood hams it up in his earlier days (above); he learned poetry from the father of the British nuclear bomb at his parent’s pub The Hind’s Head (bottom)


“I can’t recall how it came up in the conversation, but he said that he was part of the labour force that had been involved in burying the Land Rover,” Mr Stewart said.

“He was really upset about it, and said he was really angry that they’d then turned the area into soccer grounds.

“He said point blank that it was under the soccer ovals near the river.”

“I’ve got no reason to think he was lying; I was just some guy trying to sell him a building contract.”

That would fit with the recollections of former navy serviceman John Shotton, who told the Voice in 2015 that his mate Bob Smith “went behind the barracks, dug a big hole and buried it there”.

Back in the 50s the area now used as soccer fields was bush.

After stories about the Land Rover surfaced after Defence announced it was selling off Leeuwin, it ran ground-penetrating radar over a few sites identified by former servicemen but came up empty handed.

The department told the Voice this week that its testing was restricted to the Barracks site, meaning the soccer fields weren’t included.

The Voice was also contacted by local photographer Roger Garwood, who has his own quirky connection to the atomic tests through the “father” of the British atom bomb, William Penney, who was also instrumental in designing the US bombs that wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“Subsequently he headed the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in England,” Mr Garwood recalled. “My parents had a hotel, the Hinds Head, at Aldermaston. William Penney was a semi-permanent resident and in the evening, after dinner, he would sometimes teach me poetry.

“I must be the only person in the world who was taught poetry by the man who was instrumental in designing the bombs which effectively ended WWII.”


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