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Salute
Queensland Anzac Centenary 2014-2018 / Issue 2

Salute looks to showcase some of the commemorative activities and projects which occurred around the state in 2016. These activities are a tribute to the servicemen and women who served, not only in the First World War, but across the last 100 years of service.

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Featured stories

Virtual vigil marks centenary of the Western Front

Mention the First World War and most people’s thoughts turn to Gallipoli. Lesser known are the thousands more soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice on the Western Front.

Australia’s involvement on the Western Front began on 19 July 1916 with the Battle of Fromelles, France. It became the worst day in our military history, with more than 5500 casualties sustained in just one night.

Overall, our losses on the Western Front were staggering, with more casualties in the first six weeks of fighting than in the entire eight months of the Gallipoli campaign. In all, Australian troops fought in 29 battles over 33 months.

The 2016 centenary of Australia’s arrival on the Western Front was a chance to shine a light on the 295,000 Australians who served in battles such as Pozières and Fromelles.

On 19 July 2016, one of Australia’s most decorated war veterans, Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, VC, MG, launched a two-week social media campaign to commemorate the 134,000 soldiers who were killed or injured. The centrepiece of the campaign was a virtual candlelight vigil using an animated flame featuring soldier silhouettes.

The vigil was an opportunity for thousands to take the time to stop, reflect and honour the Australian men and women who sacrificed so much for our freedom.

The message reached more than 500,000 people and the complementary video, which asked a range of people what they knew about the Western Front, was shared almost 4000 times.

The virtual flame still burns online at www.youtube.com/anzaccentenary

A century of Anzac Day commemorations

Anzac Day procession through the streets of Brisbane 1916.

Lindsay Bennett pays his respects at the Eternal Flame.

At dawn on 25 April 2016, the annual commemorations of Australian military service and sacrifice began across Queensland, just as they had for many years. However, 2016 was a special year. With a renewed sense of pride, Anzac Day was commemorated for the 100th time.

The centenary of Anzac Day marks another significant moment in Queensland’s history, for it was here that Anzac Day as we know it was born. In 1916, a year after the landing at Gallipoli, Brisbane’s first Anzac Day commemoration started a movement that helped cement our new national identity and honour our close ties with New Zealand.

Anzac Day commemorations are observed in many countries including the United Kingdom and Turkey and link back to the formation of the Anzac Day Commemoration Committee (ADCC) in Brisbane in 1916. The ADCC’s first Chairman, Thomas Augustine (TA) Ryan, and Secretary, Chaplain Lieutenant Colonel Canon David John Garland, each played a pivotal role in the inception of Anzac Day.

As the First World War still raged in 1916, Ryan suggested the date of the Gallipoli landing should become the day for remembrance and reflection, while Garland devised an inclusive ceremony with a non-denominational structure for the day including the Ode, a minute’s silence and the playing of the Last Post. This style of ceremony meant everyone could honour those who serve in our defence forces regardless of age, religion or cultural heritage.

Under the patronage of the then Queensland Governor, Ryan and Garland also sought to persuade other places in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to host their own commemorations in the fashion of Queensland’s plans.

It was not until the 1920s that the true scale of the First World War was understood, and the annual services became central to Australians understanding its impact.

While every state observed an Anzac Day public holiday by 1927, Ryan and Garland kept advocating until, in 1930, the Parliament of Australia officially legislated 25 April as a national day of commemoration. By the mid-1930s, all the rituals we now associate with the day, such as the marches, gunfire breakfasts and two-up games, were established. As the number of original First World War veterans dwindled and new generations came home from serving in conflicts around the world, the marches were opened to all veterans.

The tradition of the dawn service remains a strong feature of Anzac Day commemorations. Gathering quietly before sunrise in the half-light recalls the pre-dawn timing of the Gallipoli landing. It also reflects the Australian Army practice of ‘stand to’, where soldiers in defensive positions are woken before dawn so they are alert and have their weapons ready for a potential enemy attack.

To mark the Anzac Day centenary in 2016, the Canon Garland Memorial Society unveiled the Canon Garland Memorial—ANZAC Day Origins, a monument at the Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park featuring a bronze wreath of interwoven wattle and silver fern to symbolise the bond between Australia and New Zealand.

Queensland is experiencing ever-increasing attendance at Anzac Day commemorations with the Australian Defence Force, community, schools, veterans’ organisations and thousands of volunteers donating their time and effort to deliver commemorative events and activities across the state.

The Anzac spirit continues to be alive in the hearts of Queenslanders, just as it began when the first Australian boots hit the foreign shores of Gallipoli in 1915.

Queensland Anzac Centenary grant projects showcased to thousands

The thundering fly-past of Royal Australian Air Force Super Hornets and spectacular fireworks have always drawn crowds to the annual Riverfire spectacular at Brisbane’s South Bank. On 24 September 2016, as crowds waited for the fireworks to begin, exhibits from Queensland Anzac Centenary grant recipients drew their attention with more than 5000 people browsing displays inside The Courier-Mail Piazza.

The Australian Army Flying Museum from the Darling Downs town of Oakey, one of the recipients being showcased, outlined its ambitious Anzac Centenary project to rebuild a Second World War Sopwith Camel aircraft while also displaying a modern classic 1972 Dodge one-ton truck, a crowd favourite.

Keeping with the transport theme, the Ipswich Friends of the Workshop Rail Museum intrigued visitors with the story of how Queensland’s railway assisted with the First World War efforts. Regional councils from Logan, Moreton Bay and the Scenic Rim also exhibited videos, interactive applications and books filled with stories of local heroes.

As children made poppies and badges, and played century-old games such as blow football, hopscotch and quoits, SunnyKids engaged the younger generations hosting a reading nook called Read 2 Remember, reminding children of the courage and resilience of our servicemen and women.

Meanwhile, the thought-provoking Boys’ Brigade display reminded visitors that many young men who fought in the First World War were too young to legally fight. The project, carried out by 16 teenagers from the Pine Rivers area, delved into the lives and fortunes of young Australian boys and men who had enlisted to serve.

Boys’ Brigade Officer Don Smith said the boys chose to research young men their own age. From his own university research into under-age soldiers, Mr Smith said the youngest Queensland soldier he discovered was aged 14 and four months, and the youngest Australian to enlist was 13 years and 11 months.

“The boys were impressed and a little shocked that someone their age could have done what they did in serving their country,” Mr Smith said.

“We also found out that, because we were researching local soldiers from our area, from Samford out to Dayboro, many had come from farming families.

“What really intrigued us was that, if they did return home from the war, they returned to their farms and survived much better than those who had nowhere to go.”

The 16 boards of the Boys’ Brigade’s display were first exhibited at the Samford Museum in 2016 as part of Anzac Day commemorations. The project has since been adopted by other community organisations in Queensland.

Crowds at the Riverfire exhibition were also treated to a performance by the Queensland Services Heritage Band—each member dressed in full First World War uniform bringing to life the sounds of 100 years past, adding to a fun day for young and old.

Maddison, Kayla and Kirra Brady with paper poppies.

Lea Schuster and Irene Girsch‑Danby from Scenic Rim Regional Council share their story War Stories and Our Town.

Members of the Queensland Services Heritage Band entertained the crowd.

Josiah Self inside the 1972 Dodge.

Grantees Karen Davis and Samara Frederikson from SunnyKids share their story.

Willow Watson enjoys an old‑fashioned game of quoits.

Members of the Queensland Services Heritage Band entertained the crowd.

100 years on we still remember

Catafalque Party at the Shrine of Remembrance, July 2016.

David Toohey (far left) with family members at the ceremony.

Chueh Shan.

Janah Paseka.

Band of the 1st Regiment Royal Australian Artillery.

Chaplain John Dansie.

Uncle George Bostock.

Senior members of the Australian Defence Force pay their respects.

Soldier portrait of Gunner James Toohey ca 1916.

At an emotional service and wreath-laying ceremony on the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Pozières, both the fallen and those who returned from the Western Front were remembered.

Words written from the bloodied, muddy trenches of the Western Front were read aloud by a humbled son to a hushed and teary crowd gathered at the Shrine of Remembrance at Brisbane’s Anzac Square.

David Toohey said his father, Gunner James Toohey, was only 19 when he enlisted in the First World War. The grandson of one of the first settlers of Brisbane, for whom Toohey Forest is named, entered the war as a telephonist. By the time he had finished serving in France and Belgium in the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Reinforcement 14, he was an expert in semaphore, flags, Morse code, field telephones and switchboards.

His role was one few others wanted, running telephony wire through ‘no man’s land’, from the battalion headquarters to the forward observation posts who reported back if artillery shells had hit their mark. When enemy fire broke the wire and communication was lost, he would be sent out again, ducking and weaving through bullets, shelling and land mines to lay more wire.

Mr Toohey said his father rarely spoke of his war experiences. When he returned home and found employment as a postman, his focus was on marrying the love of his life, Norah and raising their 10 children.

“I think it was a pretty traumatic event that he endured,” Mr Toohey said.

“He had mates killed, blown to bits beside him.”

Mr Toohey, whose father passed away in 1964 aged 69, has since researched and retraced his father’s First World War travels through Europe.

“I loved my old dad and I’ve done all I can to understand his life over there,” he said.

“If only I could have been more understanding but I was so young when he passed away.”

Unusually for a mere private, James Toohey returned home a decorated soldier. He was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal and was awarded the Military Medal for his actions near Merris in northern France.

On 28 June 1918, during heavy bombardment, he kept the lines of communication open for more than three hours. Through this heavy barrage he displayed great bravery and ability that did not go unnoticed.

“Without him, the operation wouldn’t have been a success,” Mr Toohey said.

“That’s what the commendation [for the Military Medal] said.”

James Toohey’s bravery has been an inspiration to his family. When his father died, David had just joined the 5th Field Regiment. Five of David’s six sons have since carried on the tradition, joining the Australian Defence Force, some seeing active service in Afghanistan, Israel and Syria.

The James Toohey Collection consisting of digitised diaries, photographs, medals, wallets, war service records, a newspaper clipping and army identity tags, can be viewed upon request by the public at the State Library of Queensland’s John Oxley Library.

Extracts from Gunner James Toohey’s battlefront diary

21 July 1917
Guns kept busy and Germans also bombarding. I was up at our observation post and fragments of shells were flying all around us.

22 July 1917
Heavy bombarding all day and night—it was like all hell let loose. Our infantry charged and captured the village of Pozières.

23 July 1917
I was on the lookout when a shell burst just handy and a piece of high explosive struck my steel helmet and knocked it flying. There was intense fighting all day: the Germans striving hard to regain their lost ground, but our men were too good for them.

Play celebrates the potential of every Australian

The larrikin, can-do spirit of the Anzac soldier was the focus of Townsville’s professional theatre company, TheatreiNQ, for two years.

Ginger Mick at Gallipoli, based on the works of poet CJ Dennis, tells the story of an Australian man named Mick going off to war. Dennis’ poems, published weekly in The Bulletin during the First World War, played an important role in defining the identity and role of Australian servicemen.

TheatreiNQ Artistic Director Terri Brabon said the poems were based on firsthand accounts of war experiences that soldiers shared with CJ Dennis and celebrated the ordinariness of a fictional character, Mick. She said staging the play in Townsville coincided with local First World War commemorations and enabled it to have modern-day relevance to the many Australian Defence Force personnel based in the city.

“The original Ginger Mick works were written as if they were based on real letters and conversations from the Western Front,” Ms Brabon said.

“In fact, a lot of what is contained in the poem and in the play did come from real life stories and experiences.

“Through our production, we tried to humanise the real experiences of the men at that time.”

Ms Brabon said the ‘everyman’ character of Ginger Mick represented the ‘gold mine’ within average Australians who, when fighting for their country in the First World War, ‘lifted their game’ and did remarkable things.

“The really important thing for CJ Dennis and what we were trying to get across was that the First World War united all tiers of society and created a sense of ‘being Australian’. The fact that someone like Ginger Mick was promoted and became a leader, a good leader and gained the respect of people who wouldn’t have looked twice at him back in Australia. But also that Ginger Mick recognises that members of the upper class who fought alongside him should also earn his respect. The war brought them together as Australians.”

The theatre company received positive reviews for its seasons in Townsville in 2015 and 2016, and toured Cairns in 2015 and Charters Towers in 2016.

Scenes from TheatreiNQ’s production of Ginger Mick at Gallipoli.

Scenes from TheatreiNQ’s production of Ginger Mick at Gallipoli.

Project protects legacy for generations

The Shrine of Remembrance, Anzac Square following the restoration.

The Shrine of Remembrance, Anzac Square soon after completion in 1932.

The restored World War 1 Memorial Crypt.

The World War 1 Memorial Crypt before the restoration.

Brisbane’s Anzac Square has always been a place for the people of Queensland to meet, remember and commemorate.

Borne out of a grieving society that had lost so much in the First World War, Anzac Square was funded by public donations in the difficult years leading up to the Great Depression. However, over the years, the square became worn both above and below ground.

The Anzac Square Restoration and Enhancement Project is a four-year project between the Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council to preserve and renew Anzac Square for future generations. In the first two stages of work from 2014 to 2015, issues that had occurred over time were resolved, including water penetration.

Stage three was the beginning of the most visible works in the project, which affected areas open to the public. These works were completed in time for Anzac Day 2016 and saw the undercroft areas, which run on either side of a pedestrian tunnel leading from Central Station to Anzac Square, fully restored.

Megan Jones, Principal at Tanner Kibble Denton Architects, said the project was much more than a physical conservation project.

“Whilst it has provided the opportunity to remedy structural and water issues and to conserve significant fabric and spaces, it has also provided the impetus to re-establish the site as the State War Memorial,” she said.

“The curation of the memorials and the creation of a visitor education centre will allow the public and future generations to connect and engage with the site in a more meaningful way through interactive exhibitions and access to national and international collections.”

On one side, the Shrine of Memories has become the World War I Memorial Crypt and World War II Gallery. On the other side, where the Returned and Services League Queensland headquarters were once located, now features a memorial and exhibition gallery for conflicts after the Second World War.

There, where thousands of commuters pass each day, spaces have been returned to their original design and finishes. Now, set plaster walls and mosaic marble floor tiles—many of them the original materials—line the undercroft areas. A missing stained glass window was recreated and a mid-19th century porphyry (rock) wall, built long before the memorial, was discovered and carefully brought back to life. The many plaques that had been housed in the undercroft areas were also meticulously cleaned and curated.

These areas now provide an opportunity for visitors to Anzac Square to appreciate Queensland’s military history and gain a better understanding of the sacrifices the memorial represents. The undercroft area is currently open to the public on weekdays from 10 am to 4 pm, with a Brisbane City Council staff member on hand to answer questions about military history.

At the 2016 Premier’s Sustainability Awards, Tanner Kibble Denton, as lead architects for the Anzac Square legacy project, accepted the Sustainable Heritage Award for the quality conservation works carried out to protect its cultural significance for future generations.

Ms Jones said it had been an immense privilege to have led the design work for the project.

“The recently completed works have enhanced Anzac Square’s role as a memorial to those Queenslanders who have served in conflict and peacekeeping and as a venue for gatherings to commemorate this service and sacrifice,” she said.

“We look forward to the completion of the site, which will add even more opportunities for engagement with the public as casual visitors to or through the site, as well as for those who gather to remember the hardships endured and the sacrifices made for our freedom.”

2016: a year for reflection

Many significant anniversaries were commemorated in 2016, not only from the First World War, but across the last 100 years of service. Each anniversary served as a reminder of the sacrifices of war and the dedication of those who served in our nation’s times of greatest need.

Repatriation of Australians

60,000 Australians served in the Vietnam War between 1962 and 1972.

On 2 June 2016, 33 Australian service personnel and their dependents who had lost their lives during the conflict finally reached Australian soil, repatriated from cemeteries in Malaysia and Singapore. This marked one of the largest single repatriations of Australian servicemen and dependents in Australia’s history.

The families of several other personnel interred in the cemeteries have chosen to let their loved ones rest where they have lain through five decades. The graves will be cared for in perpetuity.

To read more about these anniversaries, visit www.qld.gov.au/anzac100

Thirty‑three Australians were brought home in Operation Reunite.

Licence
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia (CC BY-ND 3.0)
Last updated
16 June, 2017

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