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.

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