THE PORT MACQUARIE WAR MEMORIAL
A History of The Port Macquarie War Memorial COMPILED BY Colin Purbrick
EDITED BY David Meidling
HISTORICAL RESEARCH BY The Port Macquarie Historical Society
COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHY BY Chad Payne Port Macquarie RSL Club Ltd.
PORT MACQUARIE CITIZENS WAR MEMORIAL COMMITTEE 1997â€”2001 Colin Purbrick RSL Port Macquarie Sub-Branch Chairman
Wayne Richards Mayor Hastings Council
David Meidling Executive Officer City of Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce
Mrs. Joan Cook President Port Macquarie Historical Society
Hon MarkVaile MP Federal Member for Lyne
Rob Oakeshott MP State Member for PortMacquarie
Port Macquarie' Soldiers Memorial. "They crossed the ocean." Memorials to those who served overseas during the Great War of 1914-1918 take pride of place in almost every suburb and town throughout Australia. Most were established in the early 1920s following the allied victory when, in a period of outstanding patriotic fervour, citizen committees were formed to raise funds to establish suitable artefacts. Memorials were designed to demonstrate the honour that local communities bestowed on
those from the locality who were known to have followed the flag to those far flung battlefields. Some towns settled for practical projects such as parks, sports grounds and halls to commemorate the servicemen while others settled for traditional carved statues or stone monuments. In 1921, Port Macquarie's citizens settled for a memorial that was intended to be of a sacred and inspiring design and of a permanent character. Today, this fine edifice can be visited in its most serene position on Port Macquarie's Town Green with the Hastings River providing a magnificent backdrop.
The names of the 254 personnel who were known to have enlisted in the First World War were graven into the stone in the form of an Honour Roll. The edifice is also a memorial to the 51 local servicemen who paid the supreme sacrifice and they are especially recognised by a star which has been carved following their name. During the Great War, and prior to the memorial being constructed, a temporary Honour Board had been established. At that time a promise was made by the local citizens to establish a fitting permanent memorial to "the boys who had fought for them". Even before the armistice was signed in 1918, moves were made to form a Citizens Committee to manage the erection of a suitable monument. The Port Macquarie News issue of 12th April 1919 reported that, on the 17th March "a further meeting had been held" at which it was reported that the committee was "well on the way with the planning".
Committee meetings were held under the title "Port Macquarie Soldier's Memorial" and their primary purpose was to organise the collection of donations for the erection of "a suitable monument". The cost of the memorial was settled at ÂŁ600 ($1200) but this price did not include the cost of inscribing the names of the expected "soldiers". As required at the time, sketch plans of the intended memorial were forwarded to the War Memorial Advisory Board based in Sydney, together with a sketch of the proposed site. Permission for the proposal to proceed was also obtained from the local Council. During October 1920 it was reported that subscriptions were forthcoming and a meeting of all interested parties was held. The Committee instructed its Secretary to inform the
contractor, Mr Goode, of the acceptance of his plan and estimate and to ask him to proceed with the construction, with the proposed completion date to be 1st April of the following year. It is interesting to note that no consideration was given at this time to recording the names of previous sons of Port Macquarie who had served the Empire in
other conflicts. Records showed that at least 27 local men and boys. served in the Boer War of 1899-1902 but no memorial had previously! been erected to commemorate their commitment and apparently no consideration was given to including their names on the new memorial. The site chosen for the memorial at the junction of Horton and Cla-
rence Streets with a backdrop of the Post Office, was considered to be the prime position in the Port Macquarie township at that time. Being | at the northern end of the main town thoroughfare, the monument complemented the vista of the pioneer cemetery which was located on The Memorial looking the knoll at the southern boundary of the town. Northwards At the time of its unveiling in 1921 the chosen position could be seen by almost every
the Pacific High-
way, which then ran through the town. Many driv-
ers and passengers broke their journey for welcome relief and a cup of tea in Port
Macquarie before proceeding out to the punt at View looking South along Horton Street
Point to cross the
Hastings River. A picnic site adjacent to the memorial, looking onto the Hastings River and well shaded in 1921 by tall pine trees, provided an excellent spot for weary travellers to enjoy their
break. In an endeavour to compile an accurate list of those whose names should be inscribed on the memorial, the Port Macquarie News published an invitation to parents or other citizens to forward to the committee the names of "soldiers" from the town and district
It was not made clear whether the word "soldier" was meant to include men from the local area who had enlisted in the Navy or the infant Australian Flying Corp or, indeed, the
young women who served in the Nursing Corps . Research by the Port Macquarie Historical Society has revealed that two volunteers from
the local area served in the little known Australian Naval and Military Expedition Force which was raised and sailed from Australia to serve in New Britain, only days after the declaration of war.
A Naval Lieutenant of this Force led a raid which destroyed a radio station used for communication with Germany and it was during this action that the first known Australian casualty of the Great War, a sailor acting in the role of a soldier, was recorded. The sailor was shot in the stomach and later died from his wounds. There is no record of why the Citizens Committee, formed to plan the intended monument, continued to call it "The Soldiers Memorial" or why no mention was made of those who served in the other services including the Australian Army Nursing Service. Following the compilation of names received by the committee, they were published in the Port Macquarie News during February 1921 so that spelling mistakes and any omissions could be rectified prior to the sculptor inscribing them into stone. In total 254 names were entered, with 51 of these bearing the dreaded star denoting "died on active service". Records show that the great sacrifices that were made by local women were acknowledged by three cheers which were given by the crowd at the time of dedication of the me-
morial, following an invitation by Mr. R.A. Price, M.L.A. The monument design was initially prepared by the contractor, Mr Alfred Goode but it was later modified under advice from the Ministry of Local Government.
As its centrepiece, the memorial consists of a traditional Doric column which was highly
polished and carved from a single piece of stone ten feet six inches (323 cm.) high and one foot six inches (457 mm) in diameter. Atop the column is mounted, on a carved stone base, a sphere representing the universe with the continents said to be depicted. This feature is not readily seen from the ground today.
The column is mounted on a pedestal with three steps, the whole being architecturally correct, both in design and proportion. The stone used is a combination of Bowral
trachyte and Aberdeen red granite, partly polished and partly fine axed. On one side of the base is inscribed "Erected to Commemorate the Great World War, 1914 -1919, and the Victory of the Allies" and on another side "Unveiled on Port Macquarie Centenary 30/3/21."
Current records do not show if the original plans included the erection of a complimentary stone and chain fence around the squared off base of the memorial. Early photographs depict rough carved stone corner and centre posts with smooth pyramid shaped tops, connected together with a steel link chain. Centre posts at the southern end formed a gateway to the base of the monument. The addition of the chain acted as a barrier to anyone using the memorial for any activity other than its intended purpose. The memorial was built on tune although the Committee had a shortfall of ÂŁ60 ($120) in its funds. However, on the afternoon of 30th March 1921, before a great gathering of local residents and dignitaries suffering heavy showers of rain, the imposing monument was unveiled.
Mrs Hill, wife of the Mayor, was granted the honour of the unveiling. With the crowd standing with bared heads, the haunting "Last Post", sounded by Bandmaster McKee on the bugle echoed through the streets
of the deserted town. The flag that covered the monument was lowered and the honour roll revealed. Whilst the crowd was gathered at the monument an appeal was made for contributions of cash to defray
the 60 pound ($120) shortfall and it was pleasing to note that this quite
The Dedication Ceremonyâ€”30 March 1921
considerable sum was collected in a few minutes.
The memorial, now free of debt, was then formally handed over to the Mayor, as the people's representative, with the expressed hope that the Council would always see that it was well cared for. The formal part of the proceedings terminated with a rousing rendition of "God Save the King" played by the Town Band. The presence of a good number of returned A.I.F. men and boys, some proudly wearing their uniforms, gave a sombre air to the proceedings. The time of the unveiling was planned to correspond with the celebration of the Centenary of Port Macquarie and the residents and visitors were able to use that occasion to enjoy the natural attractions of the town and the festivities put on by the Council and tradespersons.
A very prophetic speech was given by Mr Theo H. Hill, M.L.A. in which he said "I hope the memorial would inspire the young boys, if the time ever came, with the need for doing their duty as the men whose names were thereon had done theirs. "
Little did any of those present at the dedication, especially those young boys he referred to, realise that only 18 years later war would again claim some of the young people from
the district as they followed the flag to foreign shores. It may well be that some of the young lads witnessing the dedication in 1921 now have their names inscribed on the same
memorial as having served in the Second World War. The memorial has stood as a centrepiece of Port Macquarie for many years and has been used on many patriotic occasions such as Empire Day, Anzac Day and other days set aside for civic festivities. Photographs produced for the tourists to take home as souvenirs
of their holiday in Port Macquarie invariable showed views of the town centre with the tall monument holding pride of place. The Second World War began in 1939 and some of the soldiers who stood to attention at the dedication of the memorial in 1921 went on to also serve during WW11. Many old diggers falsified their dates of birth on enlistment, to enable them to serve a second time.
There was no move to form a committee following the cessation of hostilities in 1945 to arrange for the erection of a memorial to those men and women who served during the Second World War, However, the Port Macquarie News issue of 10th June 1944 contains an Honour Roll listing hundreds of names. Some families had multiple entries of sons and some had a number of daughters recognised.
By 1999 only a small bronze plaque, attached to the side of the memorial, recognised those local men and women who served in the Second World War and those who did not return. The plaque is engraved 'World War 11 1939-1945, Egypt Libya Greece Crete Syria Papua New Guinea Bouganville Borneo Malaya Singapore, on all the oceans and in the air ".
A similar plaque commemorates those who later served in Korea and Malaya- "Korea War 1950-1953, Kapyong 25 April 1951, Sarawon, Chong Ju, Pakchon, Chaum-Ni" and "Malaya Anti Terrorist Operations 1950-1957".
As Port Macquarie grew, traffic increased to such an extent that the Soldiers Memorial was causing congestion. Large road vehicles, of a size not envisaged at the time of its construction, began to knock down the corner posts and cause damage whilst negotiating the intersection of Horton and Clarence Streets. During the late 1950s it was found that the site was too small for the number of people who gathered for ceremonial occasions and neither shade nor room for the placement of chairs for the needy were available.
M A I N S T R E E T , PT. MACQUARIE
In 1961 plans were initiated for the removal of the monument from its then location to one more appropriate to the day by day traffic needs. The first recommendation by the
Council for a new site was on reclaimed land fronting Kooloonbung Creek, opposite the then RSL club. However, this was rejected by the Port Macquarie RSL Sub Branch as being "most unsuitable."
By 1969 a much more aesthetically appropriate location was identified. It was described as "beautiful and ideal" and one that would add dignity to the edifice. The present waterfront site on the Town Green was chosen approved by both the RSL Sub-Branch and Council. The dismantling and erecting of the monument was not without drama. One of the features of the column is a globe with the continents in relief, representing the world, cemented to its top. To the dismay of the contractors, the world was found to be upside down when it was re-erected and a lot of careful chiselling had to be done to put the matter right.
Preparing for Relocationâ€”August 1969
The memorial, now on one of the most picturesque sites in New South Wales, was altered when it was relocated. The stone and chain fence was removed and a concrete block was placed under the memorial, forming a "first step" to the structure. This base was painted green and gardens were laid at each corner and planted with rosemary, the flower of remembrance. On 7th November 1969 a re-dedication ceremony was conducted with three chaplains, Archdeacon Warr (Church of England), Father Mills, (Catholic) and Rev Allan, (Presbyterian) officiating. A moving tribute was paid by the laying of wreaths of remembrance on the memorial, one by Mr P W Harrison late of the 1st A.I.F. and the second by Mr Ken Morrison who had recently returned, wounded, from Vietnam. The bugler sounded "retreat" and a flag, flying from the near by flagpole was lowered to end the ceremony.
Today the monument is central to the Town Green environment. A carefully maintained pathway extends parallel to the waterfront on the south side and visitors and locals, who stop to read the names of those who served and reflect on the nature of the edifice, have their gaze directed to the expanse of the Hastings River to the north. Not readily discernable and not common knowledge to most, is an interesting adjunct to the memorial. If the sun is at the right angle and not overshadowed by the nearby trees, it is possible to discern lettering carved onto the globe representing the world atop the monument. A close inspection reveals that the letters form part of a sentence that runs at an angle across the map - "THEY CROSSED THE OCEAN"
In the years following the resiting of the memorial, and probably ever since the first of the veterans returned from the Second of the World Wars, citizens have expressed concern that the names of local people who served in later conflicts throughout the world, were not being recognised in any permanent manner. In 1990 an attempt was made to rectify the situation by a local veteran, Jack Harker, who submitted plans and attempted to obtain community support for those plans. Unfortunately the project did not proceed past the planning stage. In 1997 a Commonwealth program titled "Their Service Our Heritage" was established with the intention of encouraging local communities to commemorate the memory of all those who served Australia during times of war. Small cash grants were made available for projects that met the criteria. In September 1997 the Port Macquarie RSL Sub-Branch formed a sub-committee with the purpose of researching the best way of having our local men and women, who served in all the services and in all conflicts recognised publicly in a permanent manner.
A decision was quickly reached to apply for funding to have the present memorial, still historically called the "Soldiers Memorial", restored to a suitable condition and to be enhanced with the names of all those who served in the forces in all conflicts both before and since the original dedication.
Following the receipt of a Commonwealth Grant of $3000, the project was launched publicly through the formation of a Citizens War Memorial Committee. This was done
because the Memorial belongs to the citizens of Port Macquarie and not to the RSL Sub-Branch. Research by members of Port Macquarie Historical Society confirmed that the names of several local citizens who served in the First World War had not been recorded on the original Soldiers Memorial. This situation could now be rectified and their names added along with the names of those who had served in later wars or conflicts or in support of more recent United Nations activities as well as the names of those who served during the Boer War during 1898-1902. As there was no space available on the existing Memorial a suitable adjunct had to be designed. The Citizens War Memorial Committee commenced the task of gathering additional names in September 1997 and the support of the Port Macquarie News and Port Macquarie Express, radio stations 2MC, ABC and 2-Way FM and TV Stations Prime (Channel 7), NBN (Channel 9) and the ABC, was of inestimable value. Not only was the media of great assistance during the name gathering task but they
also assisted with the publication of names for validation. Even so, some additional names have been submitted to the Committee after the closing date when the names
were sent for bronze casting. Those additional names appear elsewhere in this booklet. The Committee decided to conduct a design competition, offering a prize to the value of $1,000.00 donated by Foxy's Luxury Country Resort, at Piggabeen in the Tweed Valley, with return air transport from Port Macquarie donated by Impulse Airlines. From the several excellent entries that were submitted, the design of local artist Mrs Gloria Muddle was selected. Mrs Muddle's original concept was slightly modified to
meet criteria laid down by the Citizens Committee and then it was further developed by Hastings Council into a construction specification which culminated in the design now gracing the Town Green. A circular pavement of "Kempsey Cream" exposed aggregate and paving blocks, following the same colours used in the Town Centre enhancement, were added and the four garden plots removed. A further eight pedestals were constructed from "Imperial
Black" granite and placed on the northern side of the original Memorial. The additional names were cast in bronze and attached to these pedestals.
The Memorial now takes account of all conflicts involving Australians from the Boer War, which was still being waged at the time of Federation, through World War I and H and includes the INTERFET Operation in East Timor (1999-2000).
The restoration and enhancement cost $32,000 which was met from the Commonwealth Grant of $3,000 and donations from the local community. The work was completed during October 2000 and the whole structure was again re-dedicated on 2 November 2000.
ANZAC DAY 25April 2000
The Vintage Cars in the foreground have for many years been used to transport disabled veterans to the parade and ceremony