School excursions and camps are a way of life for most students these days, and while they are as instructive and informative as ever, those of a century ago were vastly different.
Nowra and Berry were popular venues for visiting schools during the first decade of the 20th century, and it is interesting to learn that they operated with military precision.
In early October of 1908, a group of 148 boys from a dozen city and suburban schools arrived on the midday train at Bomaderry, from where they marched to the Recreation Ground at Nowra.
There they moved into the 20 bell tents that were to be their homes for the next week, under the care of 12 teachers.
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The boys each paid 11s 3d, which covered all expenses for the week, and they had a hectic schedule that was run along military lines.
Reveille was sounded by the bugler each morning at 5 o'clock, followed by an early morning parade, breathing exercises and bath before breakfast at 5.45am.
Instructions were given at the 6.30am parade, and divided into groups, the students were marching off for observation work by 7 o'clock.
They generally walked around the district, unless their destination was more than five miles away.
Lunch was taken punctually at noon, and all units were back in camp by 4.30pm, in order to move baggage back inside, and to have their notes written up before dinner at 5.30pm.
The teachers ate a little later and had their meeting before the Last Post and lights out at 8.30pm, so that everyone was ready to do it again next day.
The "observation work" involved the students visiting rural industries as far afield as Foley Bros' butter factory at Meroo, Shepherd's tannery at Cambewarra, Price's Warra Warra Vineyard, and the Bomaderry Bacon Factory.
Then there were the leading herds of Ayrshire, Holstein and Jersey cattle that were proudly shown by their owners.
Each night sentries in shifts patrolled the ground with vigilant eyes, but there were few problems.
Apart from the tents used by the boys, there was one for the teachers, along with the writing and store pavilions, the latter including a quantity of sweets for boys with spare pennies.
Anyone off-colour was taken to the hospital tent which was each day attended by the district government medical officer.
One of the students acted as postmaster of the site, selling stamps and postcards, and to take advantage of the Sydney mail that closed daily at 7pm.
The Nowra Leader reporter was impressed that 80 letters home had been written on the first evening.
Nowra Municipal Council laid on water for the duration, and local residents were welcome to inspect the site, meet the campers and perhaps enjoy afternoon tea together.
On the Saturday night there was a camp concert given by the boys and assisted by Nowra Town Band and other locals, with some 35 items of entertainment.
The various group leaders expressed their appreciation of the courtesies extended to them while at Nowra.
The general supervising officer, Mr T.S. Lobban described Nowra as "an ideal place for a rural camp".
When that camp had run its course, the tired party returned to Sydney by train, and it was followed by a second contingent arriving on the following day.
Information thanks to Shoalhaven Historical Society.