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Remembering the war-time Hop In centres

14 October 2015

Remembering the war-time Hop In centres

The Salvation Army Red Shield Defence Services (RSDS) has been serving Australia’s Defence Forces for more than 100 years.

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During World War Two, Red Shield Officers, better known as “Sallymen”, established the now-famous "Hop In" centres at war zones from Tobruk to the Kokoda track, providing on-the-spot comforts and a home away from home for soldiers. The centres ranged from large marquees in major staging areas to hastily erected flies – all displaying the familiar “Hop In You’re Welcome” signs.

True to The Salvation Army’s reputation of “Christianity with sleeves rolled up”, the Sallymen also provided spiritual and emotional support, writing letters home for men, preaching Sunday sermons from the trenches, praying and counselling.

Many years later, a Salvation Army Trekking Company team walked the Kokoda Track. They trekked to the spot where the longest-established Hop In centre was set up near Goldie River, north of Port Moresby.

A permanent reminder of what the Sallymen did to assist the soldiers was established, including the unveiling of a 200mm x 800mm x 7mm thick stainless-steel plague near the Goldie River barracks.

The plaque reads:

The Salvation Army Red Shield Memorial
On the 21st of July 1942 , the Japanese forces landed at Gona Beach and set out for Port Moresby. With the arrival of reinforcement troops from Australia, The Salvation Army Red Shield representatives, who came to be under the leadership of Major Albert Moore, set out to support the morale of the soldiers and airmen in PNG. During the early stages of the Kokoda Campaign, permission was granted to Major Albert Moore to progress along the Kokoda Trail to the forward positions. Going as far as Mayola, they offered assistance, to the weary troops. Upon receiving advice on the 2nd of September, the team withdrew to the northern foot of the Golden Stairs, where they continued to serve the troops moving forward, and those returning from battle. On the 15th September, again within earshot of Japanese fire, they were forced to withdraw back along the track, and on the 18th a post was set up near Uberi, where they welcomed and refreshed the soldiers. Later on the 20th September with a ‘Hop In’ flag flying, the Rouna Falls Red Shield centre was opened and operated for many months and served the needs of all who passed that way. This was just the start of many Red Shield posts that were set up in areas all across PNG. Captain John McCabe, taking with him only what he could carry, became the only philanthropic rep to traverse the entire length of the Kokoda Trail, and rendered valuable assistance with the regimental Aid Post. Tirelessly working, over 264 Red Shield representatives served throughout WWII. They served in countless positions, gave refreshments, stationery, socks, aid, entertainment, counsel, and prayer to many soldiers. The Salvation Army wishes to acknowledge the Red Shield men and women who out of their love for God and heart for others, have served, and are serving in war and peace keeping positions. Special acknowledgement is given to the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels who carried supplies, and assisted in the setting up of ‘Hop In’ centres in PNG during WWII. None of The Salvation Army’s involvement would be possible without the ongoing support of the Australian Defence Force, to whom we are eternally grateful. Thank God for the Salvos. Lest we forget.

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