The staggering loss of life suffered during World War I, and the national grief that followed it, sparked an ever-increasing trend towards the public memorialisation of our war dead, and the memorials that were erected to honour soldiers who served and died in the Great War became sites of shared mourning.
|The opening of the Soldier's Memorial Gate, Townsville West State School, Townsville, December 1921.|
Image: State Library of Queensland.
In Townsville, the first public memorial to local soldiers who served in World War I was erected not on public property, but on the grounds of a local State school, in December 1921.
The Soldiers’ Memorial Gate, at the former Townsville West State School on Ingham Road was built to honour the former students of the school who served in the Great War. Designed by architect Stephen Harvey, and built by Messrs Melrose and Fenwick, the Memorial Gate cost £430 to erect, which was a substantial sum for that time.
Standing at close to five metres tall, the free-standing masonry archway contains marble tablets inside the supports of the gate that are inscribed with the names of 200 former pupils that enlisted for the war. Of this number, 20 died in the service of their country, 31 were wounded, two were gassed and one was taken a prisoner of war. On the cornice of the masonry gate, are the words “Their Name Liveth For Ever”, and the dates 1914 and 1919 appear on opposing piers.
The Memorial Gate was officially unveiled in front of a large crowd by the Mayor, Alderman W.H. Green, who, according to the Townsville Daily Bulletin gave an “impressive speech”, in which he attempted, probably unnecessarily, to justify the need for such a memorial.
Alderman Green believed that “from time immemorial it had been a custom amongst all people to set up tokens of remembrance - in the stately monuments, arches, statues of magnificent edifices in order to commemorate and have in remembrance the glorious deeds, remarkable achievements, enduring courage, noble sacrifices and nobility of character of their sons and daughters.”
With regard to this Memorial Gate, Alderman Green said the community was “well proud” of the 200 “brave lads” who had been connected with the school and that he personally felt proud to have been associated with the first committee who put forward the idea for “such a worthy monument, the first public memorial monument erected in Townsville.”
And in a touching tribute to the mothers of the soldiers who had been memorialised, Alderman Green went on to say that they “could not fail to perceive in the memorial a recognition of the sacrifices willingly and ungrudgingly borne by the noble womanhood of this Commonwealth of theirs – sacrifices often times overlooked, frequently unrecognised but none the less magnificent for all that.”
“They did not sorrow without hope, they did not weep with regret and despair, for the sorrow and tears were overwhelmed with the sense of pride and admiration,” he said.
The memorial at the Townsville West State School pre-dated the Soldiers’ Memorial (now more commonly called the Cenotaph) on the Strand by two years, although planning for the Soldiers’ Memorial was underway from as early as 1918.
|ANZAC Day ceremony, Townsville West State School, April 1971.|
Image: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.