The Volunteers and the Militia trained at various locations in Victoria, such as Werribee and Queenscliffe, but it became apparent that a permanent training ground needed to be established by the Victorian Government and, in 1886, land at Langwarrin was set aside for this purpose. The land had gentle slopes, natural water supplies and a variety of vegetation. The reserve eventually consisted of 549 acres or 222 hectares.
The first Langwarrin camp was held at Easter in 1887. The first buildings at the Reserve were stores for the Commissariat Corp; other buildings included caretakers quarters and stables. Roads, Parade Grounds, and a rifle range were other structures erected. Numbers at some camps were large - in the 1890s some camps had over 3, 500 men, plus hundreds of horses. Langwarrin was used to train contingents of Victorians who went to the Boer war (1899-1902).
Originally, access to the Reserve was by trains which stopped at Frankston - after that troops, all supplies , horses etc had to be carted or travel down bush tracks to get to the Reserve. An extension of the Frankston line was established and this reached the Reserve, with the station being called Langwarrin, in October 1888.
The Reserve was handed over to the Commonwealth Government in March 1901 and various training camps were held intermittently and in declining frequency until World War One. The Reserve was not used to train men in World War One but it was used to house prisoners of war or internees i.e. German, Austrian and Turkish nationals that were in Australia after war was declared, and the crew of any German ships. The Internment camp was first occupied at the end of 1914 Huts were built, a gaol was built for those that were deemed to need it. Most of these internees were removed to Liverpool in New South Wales in August 1915.
Langwarrin was then used to as a hospital for men infected with venereal diseases, as this was a problem amongst soldiers. At one stage, over 800 men were housed at the Langwarrin Reserve. The Hospital complex had an operating theatre, a dispensary, kitchen, engine house, dental surgery amongst other buildings. The Langwarrin Camp was closed in February 1921. It was used occasionally for grazing, some training exercises during World War Two, the Frankston small bore rifle club had the lease of some of the land from 1960; various sub-division proposals came and went and were never acted upon. In 1980 the Victorian Ministry for Conservation took over about 207 hectares of the land, in 1982 the remaining land was purchased and on December 11, 1985 the land became the Langwarrin Flora and Fauna Reserve.
Most of the information in this post comes from the book Australian Aldershot: Langwarrin Miltary Reserve Victoria 1886-1980 by Winty Calder (Jimaringle Publications, 1987) The Library no longer has a lending copy of this book, we only have a reference copy in the Local History collection, which can be accessed by appointment
Hastings Western Port Historical Society has copies for sale, if you wish to acquire your own copy of this interesting book.