The Yallambie river had its springs in the hills north of La Trobe University, among the mad and distressed of the Mont Park Sanitorium and in the forest adjoining it. It flowed strong, true and mad almost due east, slicing Watsonia and View Bank apart, then swinging around the hills of Montmorency north toward Eltham then east and finally south as it followed their curves. Somewhere on the northern banks of the Yarra, not far upstream of modern day Fitzsimmons Lane, it finally reached the city’s mother river. The creek now known as the Plenty was a mere tributary of it, tending northerly from Montmorency.

But when the federal government was looking for a place to dump a few hundred members of the US Army’s Engineering Corps in 1942, the south bank of it between the railway and Lower Plenty Road looked like a good bet. As vital as the Engineers would be to the war effort, they weren’t needed just yet, and anyway, the fact that so many of them seemed surprised that Australia had such technologies as electricity, running water and the written word was just a touch insulting.

But a few hundred bored men with ready access to earth moving equipment and explosives, forbidden to date the local women and left with apparently endless time on their hands, could get up to not inconsiderable mischief. A few forged orders and a lot of hard work later, the Yallambie River was no more, and the Plenty had been realigned to the other side of Montmorency’s hills. Only Yallambie Road, which followed the line of the river (albeit much straighter in its course) remained to mark the watercourse’s existence. Local residents breathed a sigh of relief when the Engineers were sent north to build fortifications along the recaptured Kokoda Trail, and renamed their region to keep at least the river’s name alive.

Suburbs near Yallambie:

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