Introducing Dad’s Army
The volunteers at Woodstock West Retirement Village in Bunbury WA are transforming their village with the power of lawn mowing and good old-fashioned mateship.
The famous British sitcom Dad’s Army, which was broadcast on the BBC from 1968 to 1977, portrayed the British Home Guard during World War Two. The British Home Guard consisted of homegrown volunteers who weren’t eligible for military service, whether due to age or occupation. As a result, the cast was almost entirely made up of senior British actors – preparing for a German invasion in a fictional English seaside town. Closer to home, in East Bunbury’s Woodstock West Retirement Village is another Dad’s Army. Their sense of camaraderie matches that of their British counterparts, but in place of bayonets and war-related wise-cracks, they have lawnmowers and hearts of gold.
It all began a few years ago, when a group of residents volunteered to help out the gardener by mowing the lawns. It could take one person up to two or three days to mow the lush grass covering Woodstock West’s numerous lawns and so the Dad’s Army came together and got to work, leaving the gardener free to focus on other projects.
Long-time Woodstock West resident Ken Tucker, who has resided in the village for over a decade is just one of the men who volunteers his time, skill and muscle to keep the village pristine and the residents happy. “We do general maintenance and, of course, mowing the lawns which means they don’t have to pay contractors. We have five lawnmowers – all of which have been named after the people they originally came from – and 123 lawns to mow, as well as out the front of the village,” he explains.
“It’s a wonderful feeling knowing we’re helping other residents out and giving something back to our community. There are quite a few single ladies in the village, so we’re also able to assist with things like tap leaks and flat batteries. I had a busy life before I came into the village so it’s important to me to keep active. That aside, it’s also a rewarding way to spend our time.”
Look up the word ‘camaraderie’ in the dictionary, and you get a pretty good idea of what the Woodstock West Dad’s Army is all about: mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together. The group inevitably meet on lawn mowing day, but living in the same community, the bonds of mateship have been tightly forged. They rev their motors, mow the lawns and have a good laugh in the process. But there’s more to it than simply cutting grass. Some of the men also undertake other jobs around the village including gardening, maintenance, pool testing, cleaning bins and looking after the bowling green to name just a few. It’s incredibly useful work that benefits not just the appearance of the village, but its spirit too.
“At Christmas, we put up Christmas lights on around 80 of the homes and the Clubhouse. It takes a couple of weeks to do but once they’re up it looks beautiful, and attracts a lot of people,” he says. “On Australia day, we make a big breakfast for everyone and the ladies don’t have to do a thing, except sit back and enjoy their champagne and orange juice. We prepare, cook, serve and wash up.”
Yet there’s no denying it’s a mutually beneficial exercise. For the village, it strengthens the sense of community and also saves residents pots of money annually by not having to fund a lawn mowing contractor or maintenance men for odd jobs. For Dad’s Army, it’s about camaraderie, friendship and the physical and mental benefits of having a meaningful job to do, working up a healthy sweat – and basking in the glow of goodwill.
Pictured Dad’s Army members: Geoff Harris, Bruce Reece, Brian Anderson, Trevor Newman and Ken Tucker
Find out more about Woodstock West Retirement Village.