When newlyweds Alfred and Margery West arrived at a soldier settlement farm near Dundonnell in 1925 they must have thought they'd landed on a different planet.
What greeted them as they arrived on a rented horse and cart was more like a moonscape than the profitable farm blocks they had been promised.
And they were a far cry from the lush green countryside of Cornwall they had come from.
"You never saw a more desolate-looking place than this," Margery wrote home to her mother that first summer.
The couple tried to make a go of it but the volcanic plains they were trying to farm did not live up to the promises being made by the government. History will show that the idea was doomed from the start.
It's a story that for more than 40 years Mary West tried to have published and after two years' work by the Mortlake Historical Society it is finally being told in a new book.
"We've been working on it the last couple of years to try and bring the whole thing together which has culminated in the book," the historical society's Sue Potter said.
At 95, Mary can't come out from her home in England for the book launch on December 12, but a copy of the book titled Mount Violet: Hope and Despair on an Australian Farming Settlement has been sent to her.
The letter and telegrams that Mary, a journalist, used to help write the book, are now housed at the Mortlake Historical Society - the exact same house that was used by officials running the closer settlement.
Much has been written about the success of the solider settlements in the south-west after World War II, but it was lessons learnt from the disaster north of Mortlake that helped make sure soldiers-turned-farmers didn't suffer the same fate.
The events of the 1920s saw many kicked off the land while others just simply walked away.
The disastrous episode became the subject of a Royal Commission which eventually found the land at Mount Violet was not suitable for a closer settlement.
After years of enduring the harsh extremes of drought, winter snow, a tornado while struggling to put food on the table, the couple returned to England along with their two infant children three years later.
But even returning home wasn't without its drama. Because of the mounting debt racked up under the failed scheme, their passports were seized.
They were eventually allowed to board a ship home to England where they built up a prosperous farm.
Two years later, as a result of the Royal Commission, they were awarded 500 pounds compensation and their debt of 500 pounds was wiped clean.
That money was enough to buy a new tractor and install a bathroom and indoor toilet with running hot water on their Cornwall farm.
After the horrors of World War I, England was suffering. Millions were unemployed, so the lure of a farm in far away Australia seemed too good to be true for Alfred and Margery West.
"There were solider settlement blocks up at Mount Violet, but very few Australians wanted them because they could see what it was like out there," Ms Potter said.
"They advertised these blocks and said how wonderful these blocks were."
The young couple sailed to Melbourne ready to start a new life at Mount Violet.
"When they first picked their block the grass was knee high. They thought it was wonderful," Mrs Potter said.
"The grass was lush and lovely and after three or four months they bought some furniture in Melbourne and had it all carted out here.
"By then the grass had died. A bit different to Cornwall."
Mrs Potter said the reason Alfred West chose the block was because there was a spring on it.
Their letters home tell of their optimism "there is a spring starting on our block ... so we shall never be without water". How wrong they were.
"He didn't realise that come the dry weather the whole thing dried up," she said. "Without water it is basically like a moonscape," the historical society's Florence Charles said.
When the couple, who by then were expecting their first child, arrived at Pura Pura railway station they found their luggage had been vandalised.
"It was a terrible start for them," Ms Charles said.
There was a modest house already on the land, but they had to cross someone else's property to get to it.
"They had struggles trying to feed themselves. Any cream they got from the dairy, all the money virtually had to go back to the closer settlement to pay for the block of land and house and the animals."
Ms Potter said they, and other couples, started selling their cream on the side just to get some money to feed themselves.
"They just struggled because of the drought and the sheep messed up what little water they had. The sheep used to muddy all the water and the cows wouldn't drink the water, then they started to lose the cows," she said.
"Alfred put in for a couple of other blocks thinking he could make a go of it. He kept writing to the settlement board saying 'my water supply is really down and I'm barely surviving'."
The board kept saying they would think about his requests and get back to him, but they never did.
"In the end, he and his neighbour pulled up stumps and shifted the house and sheds and everything to these new blocks. They tried everything but they just couldn't make a go of it," Ms Potter said.
But despite the hardships, the couple had their good times out on the land.
"They made friends out there and they had kids out there," Ms Potter said.
"They were here for three or four years. They did try to make a good go of it. He worked hard. He was one of the few successful ones."
When word came through that Alfred's grandfather had died and there was a farm they could put their name down for back in England, the couple jumped at the chance to return home.
Ms Charles said during WWI they didn't really know what they were doing. The blocks were too small to make a living.
During the Royal Commission hearings in Camperdown, eight of the Mount Violet settlers said they had been induced to leave England as a result of the publicity.
Those that arrived in Australia with money in their pocket ended up with heavy debt under the Victorian government scheme.
Mortlake councillors had sounded the alarm on the project right from the start, and of 69 blocks available just 10 Australian soldiers had signed up. So they looked to England
Knowing that Mary was 95, the historical society made the effort to get the book finished so that piece of Western District history wasn't lost to time.
The volunteers at the society helped edit the book and get it ready to be printed.
Tilt Renewables helped fund half the printing costs, the society chipped in the rest to make up the $2500 cost of printing.
"Because she was born here and she did make friends here, she has been back a few times," Ms Potter said of the author.
"They were never forgotten and people still ask after her."
The book launch will be held on December 12 at midday at the Derrinallum Hall. To attend or to order a copy of the book contact Ms Potter on: 0435 508 684.
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