THE paddocks gradually reveal their past. Rising like ghosts from the sun-bleached ground are remnants of an extraordinary time in Australian history.
There are the footprints and ruins of barracks, shards of porcelain strewn around a former toilet block, kerbing and guttering slicing through the fields, and mounds of earth that once held gun crews.
This private property a few kilometres outside the Hunter Valley village of Greta may be grazing land for cattle, but it also provides a harvest of memories for Brett Wild.
"The defence of the nation started here really," Mr Wild murmurs, as he looks at the brickwork of part of a hut. "If only these walls could talk."
Instead, Brett Wild is trying to bring the past to light. As the president of the Central Hunter Business Chamber, he has been involved in organising the "Celebrating Greta Army and Migrant Camp, 1939-1960" weekend, which is being staged on this site on November 9 and 10.
The weekend commemorates two chapters in the life of this land. It is the 80th anniversary of the army camp's establishment, and it is 70 years since the site began a new role as a reception centre for migrants from post-war Europe.
Brett Wild is hoping these fields will be populated with about 14,000 visitors on November 9 and 10. Yet as he stands here, listening to only the wind whorling around the ruins, the former Australian army warrant officer can imagine what it was like during the Second World War, when it was a home and workplace for tens of thousands of young men and women in training to serve their nation.
"You can think of the hustle and bustle of this place," Mr Wild says, pointing out markers of another time. "Over near the treeline, that was a tented area, that paddock was an open training field, and the brick building in the distance was an ammunition storage bunker."
Soon after war had broken out in 1939, about 1200 hectares of this land were compulsorily acquired by the government to build the military camp. The site was chosen, Mr Wild says, because it was close to a railroad and Newcastle harbour, and it provided plenty of land on which to learn to fight.
Greta would grow into a huge camp, with hundreds of buildings. Part of the camp was nicknamed "Chocolate City", because of the brown timber buildings, and another section was "Silver City", owing to the steel Nissen huts that were installed.
"It was basically a self-contained town," Mr Wild says.
Among those training in the camp was a young soldier from Western Australia, Sergeant Keith Smith. Many years later, Brett Wild would marry Keith Smith's daughter, Charmaine.
Greta would become one of the most significant and largest training facilities in the country during the war.
"It's one of those names that pops up, if you're interested in Australian military history, or in the stories of individual soldiers," says Australian War Memorial historian Dr Karl James.
"This is the first point where many went from citizens to soldiers. Their first real taste of army life was at Greta."
After undergoing military training here, soldiers were deployed to theatres far and wide, from North Africa and Greece to the jungles of New Guinea.
"When you look at the men and women who spent time at that camp, you're talking about the history of the Australian army during the Second World War," says Dr James.
After the war, the Greta camp was used to train soldiers who were to serve in the occupation forces in Japan.
In 1949, the site began its new life as a migrant camp, introducing thousands of Europeans to Australia, including the Meskauskas family.
"You had a lot of comfort because you had a lot of people around," recalls Henry Meskauskas.
He was just two when he arrived at the camp with his parents, who were from Lithuania and Estonia.
While the soldiers had moved on by 1949, Mr Meskauskas, a long-time Maitland councillor, says the camp may have influenced his future life.
"It's probably why I joined the [army] reserves in 1967," he says.
On the commemorative weekend, the camp's military component will be honoured with armoured vehicle displays, a parade, and a pop-up museum.
The event will be officially opened by a distinguished former army man, the Governor-General of Australia, David Hurley.
"Linda and I are delighted to be joining the local community to recognise the anniversaries of the camp," the Governor-General has said in a statement.
"It's a special moment for the community, and an opportunity for all of us to reflect on key moments in history that have shaped the nation we are today."
As well as reflecting on the past, Brett Wild is looking to the future, with some sadness. He says this is likely to be the last major event on the property, as the land is to be sold.
To honour those who trained and lived here, Mr Wild intends to collect the bricks from the ruins and build a memorial on the site.
"I just want to get their story told," Mr Wild explains. "Sixty thousand men trained here. They were the first defence of Australia, and they trained here in Greta."
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