Tuesday, 19 November 2013

War Memorials in the Landscape - Part 2

War memorials in north Queensland are surprisingly varied.  Many are practical or functional, and there are some that are actually unique in their design, or function.  The types of war memorials that have been dedicated from around the turn of the twentieth century up until the present day have included (and this list is certainly not meant to be exhaustive) – but they include:  memorial gates, arches, fountains (both decorative & for drinking), flagpoles, gardens, swimming pools, trees, sports ovals, halls and public buildings.  Also honour boards were often erected as well as the memorials themselves. 
Honour Board inside the former Townsville Railway Station.  Photo: T. Fielding, 2013.
Three unusual memorials

In other parts of Queensland - in Gigoomgan in the Wide Bay region there’s a memorial wooden bridge (which was privately funded and erected on a public road), and in Mount Morgan there’s a memorial bell hanging outside the local scout hut.  It’s called the Mafeking Bell and it commemorates the Relief of Mafeking, during the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902).  The bell itself was cast from pennies that were donated by local school children, so it’s quite unusual as a war memorial.  In Springsure, the state school there is home to the only World War I memorial fountain located in the grounds of a state school in Queensland.  The fountain is dedicated to past students of Springsure State School who served in World War I.  The names are listed on plaques at the base of the fountain, 79 in total, and somewhat unusually, the list includes first names as well, instead of just the usual initials.
Springsure Memorial Fountain. Photo: Queensland War Memorial Register
War Memorials in Townsville

Being home to a large defence base, Townsville is home to many war memorials.  There’s a memorial in Townsville for almost every conflict and also peace-keeping missions as well.  All arms of the defence forces are represented.  For a complete list of war memorials in Townsville, go to Queensland War Memorial Register and search for Townsville as the location.  Two of the more modern ones include the Battle of the Coral Sea Memorial and the ANZAC Way Memorial, both located in ANZAC Memorial Park, on The Strand.

Cenotaph (Soldier's Memorial), The Strand, Townsville, showing original clock faces, no date.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
ANZAC Memorial Park on the Strand is also home to the cenotaph, where ANZAC Day ceremonies are held.  What we now call the cenotaph, in ANZAC Park, was originally called the ‘Soldier’s Memorial’.  Built in 1923-24, by local stonemasons Melrose and Fenwick, what we now call the cenotaph, is a war memorial that was originally also a clocktower.  It was once a functional clock.  Standing at just over 7.5 metres tall, it’s made of large blocks of grey granite, which sit atop a marble base. At the base of the tower, marble tablets with lead lettering list the names of World War I casualties.  The clock faces are no longer on the memorial. 

At the former Townsville West State School on Ingham Road is the Soldier’s Memorial Gates, dedicated in 1921. The Memorial Gates are set into a recess in the Ingham Road fence.  The gateway is a free-standing masonry archway with a pair of wrought iron gates that include the words ‘Soldiers Memorial Gate of Honour’.  On the cornice of the masonry gate, are the words ‘Their Name Liveth For Ever’, with the dates ‘1914’ and ‘1919’ on each pier.  Mounted just inside the archway are two white marble tablets entitled ‘Honour Roll, Townsville West State School’. Each tablet is inscribed with about 100 names.
West End State School Memorial Gate, 1971.  Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
After World War II, the memorials erected seemed to change to more utilitarian - or useful - memorials.  I’m thinking particularly here of swimming pools – such as Tobruk Memorial Baths, Kokoda Memorial Pool and Long Tan Memorial Pool.  These are example of memorials that are both functional and commemorative.  Even buildings are memorials.  There are lots of RSL clubs that have been dedicated as memorial clubs, as well as many memorial halls, a few hospitals and even churches and chapels.
Tobruk Memorial Baths, The Strand, Townsville.  Photo: T. Fielding, 2012.
Have war memorials always been about reflecting on the loss of life associated with wars?

Strangely enough, no.  The Boer War memorials, in particular, or more correctly – ‘monuments’ – were erected as reflections of pride in each town or state’s contribution to the ‘Empire’.  But the loss of Australian lives was minimal in that conflict (about 500), compared to the Great War – that is, World War I – where 60,000 Australian lives were lost.  The sheer loss of life and the national grief that followed World War I sparked the trend in increased numbers of memorials.  They became ‘sites’, so to speak, of shared mourning.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

War Memorials in the Landscape - Part 1

Remembrance Day on 11th November marks the anniversary of the armistice which ended World War I in 1918. Every year on this day Australians stop at 11am to observe a minute's silence to remember all those who have given their lives during all wars and conflicts, in the service of their country.

This magnificent bronze statute depicting Simpson and his Donkey assisting an injured soldier is in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Photo:  T. Fielding, 2012.
We solemnly observe this anniversary every year, but what about the countless war memorials that are dotted throughout the north Queensland landscape?  Do we ever stop and look at them?  Do we ever really consider their meaning, or consider how the different memorials reflect changing attitudes towards commemoration itself?  War memorials throughout the whole of Queensland are surprisingly varied, many are practical or functional, and there are some that are actually quite unique.

Charters Towers War Memorial Cenotaph.
Photo: T. Fielding, 2012.
When most people think of war memorials, the familiar soldier standing atop a stone plinth tends to spring to mind. The Charters Towers War Memorial Cenotaph (pictured above) commemorates those who served and died in both World Wars, the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), the Korean War (1950-1953), the Indonesian Confrontation (1962-66) and the Vietnam War (1962-1972). The soldier's pose is a typical example of such memorials - with the soldier depicted in repose, head bowed slightly in a solemn manner, with rifle pointing downwards.  The Cairns Sailors and Soldiers Memorial (below) depicts a soldier in a similar fashion, although the memorial itself is rather more imposing. It stands 12.5 metres high, and the statue of the soldier is life-sized. The soldier stands at ease atop a clock tower, the faces of which are now painted on and no longer functional.  According to the Queensland War Memorial Register, the time on the clock reads 4.28am, the time of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli. The memorial commemorates those who died in World War I.
Cairns Soldiers and Sailors Memorial.
Photo:  Trisha Fielding, 2014.

According to Ken Inglis, author of Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape, 'the great majority of soldier statues depict men in passive rather than active stances'.  He further argues that 'for every figure showing warlike action, about ten depict repose'.  The only known war memorial in Queensland that depicts a solider in an animated pose is in Atherton (see below).  The soldier is depicted striding forward holding a rifle with fixed bayonet in one hand and the other other arm is raised, to represent advancing from the trenches in victory.  The memorial commemorates both the First and Second World Wars. 
Soldier atop the Atherton War Memorial.
Photo:  Queensland War Memorial Register.
The soldier-style memorial is by no means the most common post-World War I memorial.  More common are the column, obelisk or pillar memorials.  But what is most interesting about Australian war memorials, is that those who served but returned from war are also listed on a great many memorials - not just those that died.  Ken Inglis has stated: 'More commonly than anybody else in the world, they [Australians] listed on memorials the names of men who had returned, as well as those who had died'.  Inglis estimates that the names of soldiers who survived the war were inscribed on just over half of Australia's war memorials.  But why?

The answer may lie in the fact that the Australians who enlisted and fought during World War I, did so voluntarily.  The prevailing rhetoric of the day appears to suggest that all those who passed by a war memorial should know the names of the men who had heard the call of duty and answered it.  Conversely though, it also means that, particularly in small towns, people could also see who had not answered the call of duty.

But what about those that enlisted but were rejected, on health grounds, for instance?  In Montville, in Queensland, the war memorial there includes enlistments as well as those that were 'rejected'.  Inglis believes that the Montville memorial may be unique in this regard, although he points out that sometimes soldiers who enlisted but were rejected are listed on honour boards. (I'll talk a bit more about honour boards in a subsequent post).

Boer War Memorial Kiosk, Charters Towers.
Photo:  T. Fielding, 2012.
Certainly war memorials existed in Australia before World War I. After the Boer War (also called the South African War, 1899-1902) over 100 memorials were erected throughout Australia. Charters Towers is home to an unusual monument to those who served in the Boer War - a memorial kiosk (pictured above).

Read Part 2 of War Memorials in the Landscape here

Sources & Further Reading:
Ken Inglis, Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape, The Miegunyah Press, 2008.

Queensland War Memorial Register, http://www.qldwarmemorials.com.au/Pages/Home.aspx