Select Page

History of Farina Settlement

Historic Timeline

Farina was a main base for camel drivers in the 1880’s.

The stones laid in Farina for telegraph office.

Early days of Farina: 100 adults and 50 children living in Farina.

Farina became railhead and centre of a network of trade.

Farina became the main base for camel drivers.

Government gave free pass for travel by train to Farina to increase settlement.

The population had grown to about 300 with 2 butchers, storekeepers, hotels, fruiterers, colt breakers, 3 blacksmiths, 4 saddlers, 8 teamsters, 2 debt-free churches and 1 accountant.

Brief times of flood.

Population of 300 in 50 houses, 2 butchers, 3 blacksmiths, 4 saddlers, accountant, 2 fruiterers, 2 store keepers, 2 colt breakers, stockyards, 2 hotels, train 3 times a week to Adelaide, 8 teamsters, 11 labourers and 8 railwaymen.

Families started moving into other rail locations.

Closure of school

Closure of post office

Closure of store

Photographs by Barry Cox

Railway line moved west of Lake Torrens, through Tarcoola and Farina rail workings fell into disuse.

Photographs of township buildings by Brenda Claridge (Moffatt family) – see below.

Farina was referred to as “ruins” on the maps.

The Farina Restoration Project Group was formed to restore parts of the town.

The images and text below were supplied by Barry Cox. 

(Click on any image to enlarge.)

I first visited Farina in July 1966 when returning from Ayers Rock and Alice via the Oodnadatta Track.

I did the Birdsville Track in 1972. That’s when I took a handful of colour photos of the ruins. I have recently digitised them.

The ruins today appear similar to those of 1972, but less complete perhaps. I enjoy looking back on those shots, I took them nearly 45 years ago. I was gobsmacked at Farina then, just as I am today, seeing shots on the internet.

The images and text below were supplied by Brenda Claridge.
Brenda is related to Bob Moffatt, who was a prominent resident of Farina in it’s day.

(Click on any image to enlarge.)

The original  photos were taken in December 1981 when my parents, my two brothers and I visited Farina. A hot time of year to travel there ! I think it had to fit in with our annual leave.

My dad lived in a house diagonally opposite Bob Moffatt, and he always said that he was able to throw a stone from the front of his parent’s house and over the road to the front of his Uncle Bob’s house. Dad said that when his family moved out of their house it did not take long for people to remove any galvanised iron from his house etc. to be used elsewhere eg. their own house repairs.

According to Dad – the last intact house in Farina was lived in by an aborigine.

The two boys in front of Moffatt’s house are my brothers. They can also be seen looking out of the windows of the Post Office, I’m standing in the doorway and Dad is standing on the right of the photo.

My grandmother, Ruby May Moffatt & known as ‘May ‘ ( Dad’s mother ) had several brothers. One of these was Francis Moffatt.
Francis is Bob Moffatt’s ( my relative who lives in St. Peters, Adelaide ) grandfather. Bob and I may be second cousins ~ I’m not quite sure.

The last mission of Flight Lieutenant J. N. Bell RAAF

One of the servicemen commemorated on the Honour Roll at the War Memorial at Farina, is John Napier Bell.

His story is out of the ordinary, and it’s conclusion, even more so.

John was borne in Adelaide on April 25th 1916, to Jack and Eva Bell. Jack, with his brother Richard, took over what was Mansfield’s Store at Farina. The store was renamed Bell’s Store, and by the 1930’s, had become the centre of the town.

On July 15th 1935, John enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force at Point Cook, Victoria.

No. 10 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force was formed at Point Cook in Victoria on July 1 1939. At the end of July, a small number from the squadron was sent to the United Kingdom to collect and train on new aircraft, and then fly them back to Australia.

On the outbreak of World War 2 on October 7 1939, the Australian Government ordered the squadron to remain in the UK to assist the war effort. John was posted to that squadron.

No. 10 Squadron RAAF’s role using Sort Sunderland flying boats, was to locate and destroy German submarines and engage in air-sea rescue.

In June 1940, it was given another task. The Admiralty requested that an aircraft and crew from the squadron be made available immediately for a secret mission. John Bell volunteered for the mission.

The mission was so secret, that none on 10 Squadron’s base knew where the aircraft was going or why. Only John and his crew were briefed.

At about 11.00pm on June 17th, the Duty NCO was instructed to see that a Walrus Amphibian aircraft was prepared for the mission. He was to see that an armourer fixed a gun in the rear hatch. He was also to brief a nominated Wireless Electrical Mechanic who understood the radio set, but had never operated one in the air. He gave the operator a quick course in operating the set, and also a quick gunnery course.

The Walrus did have a “sort of ring” for mounting a gun – but no gun. So a gas operated Vickers Machine Gun was borrowed from a Sunderland aircraft. It didn’t fit, so a rough modification was made.

John took off with his quickly selected crew at about 3.00am on June 18. They were expected back after dark the same day. Nothing further was heard from the aircraft.

Please follow this link to read a report on what has since been unearthed.

The above text is an extract from research papers provided by Lindsay Gould.

The images and text below were supplied by Peter Harris.
They record the ceremony enacted in June 2014 in France, commemorating the loss of the Walrus aircraft and all those aboard.

(Click on any image to enlarge)


Bell’s parents operated the general store at Farina. They had 4 sons and one of them, John Napier Bell, was the first Australian pilot to enlist in World War 2.
He was sent to England to pick up some planes but subsequently told to stay.

In June 1940 France capitulated to Germany and President de Gaulle flew to England and talked to Churchill.

Unbeknown to de Gaulle, Churchill directed Bell (24) to select a crew and fly to Brittany to save Madame de Gaulle and her children.

The plane was a little amphibian called a Walrus with a top speed of 135mph and a bottom speed of 50mph.
The plane crashed in a little rural town called Ploudaniel. Madame de Gaulle didn’t know about this and escaped just beforehand by boat.

On 18 June 1940 Gen de Gaulle gave his famous 18 June speech and this has become the special commemoration day. Diana and I went to the ceremony in Ploudaniel.

A flag was placed in the field where the plane crashed , there were pilots from the 10th Squadron in Adelaide and England and masses of banners.

A fly over of loud planes was included (it is a very important ceremony for the 10th Squadron too which still operates).

Also there were choirs, bands, old pipe bands and hundreds of people commemorating the occasion with Gendarmes and a General representing de Gaulle and family.

The ceremony was in 3 parts. A long march to the field were wreaths were laid on a menhir (cairn) representing the crew. Back to the Chapel were the crew are buried and then to a museum room especially established by the Ploudaniel Council to display the crash wares, photographs and memorabilia etc.

The main theme of the Mayors speech was to thank the crew for their lives but more importantly to thank them for the hope and stability they brought.

He said that they had come all the way from Australia to save France and will be remembered in perpetuity.