The Bundaberg War Memorial celebrates a special milestone tomorrow, the 100th anniversary of its opening. Picture: Mike Knott
The Bundaberg War Memorial celebrates a special milestone tomorrow, the 100th anniversary of its opening. Picture: Mike Knott

War Memorial celebrates a special milestone

IF THE Bundaberg War Memorial could speak, not only would it tell a few stories but it would also get a letter from the Queen.

The war memorial tomorrow celebrates its 100th anniversary of being installed in the centre of Bundaberg.

Well the first part of it anyway.

On May 15 a century ago, the first part of the War Memorial was laid and opened to the public by General Sir William Birdwood.

General Birdwood was the commander who led the Anzacs into Gallipoli during World War I.

The opening saw him lay the foundation stone that set in place the full memorial, which would be completed a year later.

According to The Bundaberg Mail, forerunner of the NewsMail, the trip only lasted 35 minutes with General Birdwood arriving at the train station at 2.15pm.

 

The plaque of the official opening of the memorial in 1920. Picture: Mike Knott
The plaque of the official opening of the memorial in 1920. Picture: Mike Knott

 

He would receive a mallet from the council to help lay the stone.

There was also a public gathering, with the cadets performing on the day as well.

But General Birdwood's laying of the first part was a year in the making.

The first talk of a war memorial was at the start of 1919, on January 18, in an article in the Bundaberg Mail and two months after the end of the war.

On January 23 the first meeting was held at the council chambers to discuss it.

A month later a memorial was agreed and it was voted on to build a statue.

Public funding started and Frederic Herbert Faircloth was looked at to design the memorial.

It would be completed on July 30 in 1921.

In the Bundaberg Mail article on that day explaining the memorial, it said it was 'claimed to be the finest of its kind erected in the Commonwealth, and was erected at a cost of approximately £1900'.

The article said it cost £1885, or $3579 dollars back in those days.

The article said the memorial lists 276 men who lost their lives from the more than 2000 people that served from the city during World War I.

But the State Government disputes that, with its record showing 227, 226 from World War I and one from the Boer War.

The NewsMail counted the names on the list and there are 288, including the lost Bundaberg soldier from the Boer War.

"Bundaberg boys whose names are inscribed upon the memorial sleep their last long sleep on the rugged shores and slopes of Gallipoli, the sandy deserts of Egypt and Palestine, and the plains of France and Flanders," the article said.

"Today the citizens of Bundaberg and district will assemble in large numbers to do honour to the fallen."

The statue itself, according to the article, is 36 feet high (almost 11 metres), including the seven foot, six inches (228cm) figure.

Trachyte was used for the memorial, with granite used as well in some of the memorial.

Marble was also used to construct the 'Digger' and the base on which he stands.

The work was done by multiple parties.

"This figure, which was carved out of a solid block of marble, weighing two tons, was modelled by Mr. Illingworth, one of Australia's best and skilled modellers, who was entrusted with the work of modelling the bust of Sir William Birdwood, which won for him universal recognition and praise," the article said.

"The model was then sent to Messrs Odling and Sons studios at Carara, Italy, where the finished statue was carried out by one of the world's famed sculptors."

The transport to Italy and back was what took the memorial so long to be built and it delayed the original opening of the memorial, which was meant to be Anzac Day in 1921.

The memorial wouldn't have been done without the help and support from the soldiers' reception committee and the organisations, including the Red Cross, that helped and looked after ­soldiers and their families during and after world war.

At the time it was the third most expensive memorial to be built in Queensland, but given the history, the prestige and the memory of the soldiers in it, it was well worth the cost.



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