Militaria buffs head to Ballarat

Myles Keith, 13, checks out the gear at the militaria expo at Wendouree. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

Myles Keith, 13, checks out the gear at the militaria expo at Wendouree. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

ALMOST 200 years of military history squeezed into the Wendouree Sports and Events Centre at the weekend for Ballarat's annual militaria expo fair.

About 700 patrons poured through the doors to see everything from World War I bayonets to carry gear used by soldiers in the Vietnam War.

Co-owner and stall holder David Wright said the 100th anniversary of the Great War had bolstered attendance at the event.

"People come into to try and get stuff that their grandad might have worn, or just to get some information about particular campaigns during the war," he said.

Collector David Rees displayed carrying equipment used by Australian soldiers from 1903-1988.

Mr Rees, who began collecting 10 years ago, said his interest in military regalia stemmed from his family's involvement in conflict over the years.

James McCoy was decked out in a Waffen SS uniform accompanied by a replica M1 Garand rifle.

Mr McCoy, who is part of the Geelong Military Recruitment Group, has been collecting items online since 2009.

"I'm really interested in history. Everyone has got a different hobby and this is the one I like," he said.

Mr McCoy's grandfather served in World War I and was killed during an intense fire fight with the Germans at the battle of Ypres.

Australia's role in the American Civil War, which ran from 1861-1865, was on display at the sports and events centre.

In the last year of the war, Confederate warship Shenandoah was taken to Melbourne to have a damaged propeller shaft repaired.

The vessel spent four weeks in Williamstown, during which time 42 colonials were recruited to fight in the war.

President of the Shenandoah Crew of Australia Stuart Duff said four members of Shenandoah's crew were invited to Ballarat for a buccaneer's ball while the ship was being repaired.

Bruce Serjeant and John Miller, who have been coming to militaria expos across Australia for 30-40 years, were fascinated with the history and weapons used during various wars.

"Ï love the tall tales of the times," Mr Serjeant said.

Light horse re-enactors Chase and Keith Day said the event was "a good way to let people know about Australia's military history".

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