Mark Butz


‘The best system of trenches in Australia’:
World War I training site,
Duntroon Trench Warfare and Bombing School,
Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve, Canberra

Mark Butz

  ISBN 978-0-9945748-0-0

Paperback/softback B5; 70 numbered pages; colour;
147 images (21 WWI field sketches/diagrams)


Published 2017 by Learnscapes and the
Woodlands and Wetlands Trust, Canberra

Trench book cover

This is the story (so far) of one of the most surprising finds in the history of Canberra – a World War I trench system, within sight of Parliament House.

Through 1916-17, hundreds of Army officers and senior NCOs from across the country participated in the Trench Warfare and Bombing School at Duntroon, where a model trench system enabled practical demonstration of new technologies and ‘scientific warfare’ that were then in use at the Western Front. 

Participants engaged with complex trench designs, grenades, machine guns, bomb throwing machines, mortars, underground saps and tunnels, and barbed wire.  Most then went on to train tens of thousands of troops in trench systems constructed at major Army camps in six States. 

The Duntroon system came in for particular praise - being the last major system to be built, it included new technological and design developments.  In 1916 the Governor-General described it as ‘The best system of trenches in Australia’. 

This previously untold story explains why it was not the only instructional trench system in the nation and why it was indeed ‘the best’. 

Released for Remembrance Day 2017, the book marks the centenary of the Duntroon instructional trench system, describing how a long-forgotten place has been revealed and has come to be recognised as an important part of the heritage of the nation and its capital.  

       Brief Guide to Contents

  • Discovering and locating the place (initial 'detective work') 
  • Understanding the place
    • Specialised warfare (bombing, trenches, tunnelling)
    • A specialised trench warfare instructor  (E L D Brownell) 
    • Trench work on display around the nation (Enoggera Qld, Mitcham SA, Broadmeadows Vic , Liverpool NSW,
      Claremont WA & Greenmount/Blackboy Hill WA, Claremont Tas, lesser systems)
    • Trench training in moving pictures (Australia prepared: her part in the World's War)
    • "The best system of trenches in Australia" - Duntroon Trench Warfare and Bombing School 
    • A model trench system / The Duntroon trench system compared
    • The perils of 'No man's land'
    • Repair and evolution of the system
    • Instructors and inventors (J C Vines,  W H G Geake)
    • The human face of war
    • Note takers (J V Cobcroft, Wm Duns, C L Fox; A M Eichler)
    • The artist and those left behind (D B Fry)
    • The end of the School and system 
    • After the War: the trench system and site / other trench systems around the nation / instructors, inventors and note-takers
  • Revealing the place  (archaeological investigations)
  • The place today (physical context)
  • Valuing the place (historic themes)
  • Protecting the place / Presenting the place (access and interpretation) 
  • Appendix - the place through time  (changing land use and development) 
  • Glossary of terms
  • References  / Archive, library and Web resources  

All proceeds from the sale of this publication benefit the work of the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust

Available for purchase from this page

About the author
Mark Butz trained as an environmental scientist.   He has a particular interest in what we can learn from the past to enhance our understanding of the present and our choices for the future.  This reflects a lifelong interest in history and archaeology, and in the power of story.  
He has lived in Canberra since 1980, and now works as a freelance consultant, facilitator and writer.   

Read more about the writing of this book

Read more about making the Trench Trail and how you can take part in Trench Tours


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Last update 30 September 2021