by Cathy Jones
War Memorials in Strathfield Municipality are dedicated to local residents who served or died during wartime conflicts. Most Memorials were built to commemorate World War I. Generally, plaques have been added to existing memorials for subsequent wars such as World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Almost all Australians who served abroad in World War I were sent to the front line of battlefields in Europe and the Middle East. Australian troops suffered a high rate of casualties [61,720 dead], which was nearly one in five of those who served abroad. Two thirds of Australian troops were either killed or wounded. The overwhelming grief of Australians coupled with the fact that many Australian servicemen and women died on foreign soil and did not have a final resting place, prompted local communities to organise the erection of War Memorials in local government areas. Though the objective of most War Memorials is to honour those who died, many Memorials also recorded the names of those who served. Most War Memorials were not built until many years after the war was finished. Memorials were usually organised by local committees who raised funds through public subscriptions [donations].
War Memorials can take many forms. Some involve outdoor large sculptures in public places, while others may be small plaques or stained glass windows contained in private property such as churches erected by families. Local schools such as Homebush Boys High and St Patrick’s College partly financed the building of Airey Oval and Hudson Oval respectively to commemorate their former students who died during World War II.
Many memorials were erected prior to the Council amalgamations with Enfield and Homebush Councils in the late 1940s. Therefore, memorials tend to record names of citizens who resided in the original Council areas. Memorials relating to the former Homebush and some parts of Enfield Council are located in Strathfield Municipality.
Wartime in Strathfield Municipality
Strathfield was an important location for war efforts in Sydney. Many servicemen enlisted at Strathfield and Strathfield Rail Station was the site of many departures and arrivals during the World Wars.
During World War II, property was sought and hired by the Commonwealth Government to assist in both Australia’s defence and general war effort. Properties were acquired under Regulation 54 of the National Security [General Regulations] which stated:
‘if it appears to a Minister to be necessary or expedient to do so in the interests of public safety, the defence of the Commonwealth or the efficient prosecution of the war, or for maintaining supplies and service essential to the life of the community he may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, take possession of any land’….Under this regulation, sports ovals and parks were acquired as troop accommodation sites and many private properties were hired to accommodate training sites, living quarters, office areas and storage sites.
The Australian Army used Strathfield Park as a military training area during World War II. Freshwater Park was used as an anti-aircraft searchlight station, with service personnel accommodated in a private home in Myee Avenue.
Many private homes were commissioned by the Army, according to records held by the National Archives of Australia. ‘Springfort’ 108 Redmyre Road Strathfield were commissioned for 1st Division Army headquarters and living quarters. 18 Kingsland Road Strathfield was used by the Bomb Disposal Company as offices and training centre. The house ‘Inveresk’ Coventry Road Strathfield was used as administrative offices for 1 Division Headquarters. The house ‘Avoca’ in Albert Road was used as a camp site for 1st Division Signals. ‘Waitakerei’ Chalmers Road Strathfield was used as troop accommodation for the 104th Anti Tank Regiment. It appears that Todman Reserve in Barker Road was used as a parking area for Anti Tank Regiment.
Jackett’s Flour Mills in Beresford Road Strathfield [now demolished] were hired as an Army Depot for the American Army. The Catholic Institute of Sydney in Albert Road Strathfield was also used by the Army during WWII.
Presbyterian Ladies College [PLC] Croydon was requisitioned by the Australian Army and the school relocated to ‘Lauriston’ The Boulevarde Strathfield during the World War II. ‘Lauriston’ is now part of Santa Maria Del Monte.
Australian Prime Minister Frank Forde lived at 81 Redmyre Road Strathfield from 1937 to 1946. Forde served for a short time as Prime Minister after the death of John Curtin in 1945. However, Forde played a critical role in Australia’s defence during World War II. He was a member of the Advisory War Council from 1940-1945. After the Australian Labor Party assumed Government in 1941, Forde was appointed Minister for Army. He served as Minister for Army from October 1941 to November 1946 and Minister for Defence from August to November 1946. In 1945, Forde led Australia’s delegation to the conference in San Francisco to set up the United Nations.
Sydney War Cemetery at Rookwood Necropolis
Sydney War Cemetery is located at Rookwood Necropolis. It is Australia’s largest war cemetery containing 734 war graves, made up of 122 casualties of the UK Forces; 608 Australian Forces; 2 New Zealand Forces; one French sailor and one civilian (employed by the Admiralty). The Memorial to the Missing honours 741 dead and a further 199 names of men and women of the Armed Forces whose remains were cremated and appear on the Cremation Memorial.
Many of those contained within the cemetery died at Concord Hospital [formerly a Military and then Repatriation Hospital] of wounds received in operational areas, sickness or accident. The United Kingdom Forces casualties died, while prisoners-of-war under the Japanese, and were cremated. After the war the Army Graves Service arranged for their ashes to be brought by HMAS Newfoundland to Sydney for interment.
In 1942 the military authorities established the cemetery as the last resting-place of Servicemen and Servicewomen who gave their lives during World War II. The cemetery was taken over by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in December 1946. It was entered on the Register of the National Estate on 21 October 1986.
National Days of Remembrance
ANZAC Day [25 April] and Remembrance Day [11 November] are the two major days of commemoration of war in Australia.
ANZAC Day marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War at Gallipoli in 1915. Over 8000 Australian soldiers were killed and 25 April became the day on which Australians commemorated the sacrifice of those who died in war. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. 25 April was officially named ANZAC Day in 1916 and in 1927 all the States observed a public holiday. With subsequent wars, ANZAC Day became a day on which to commemorate the lives of Australians lost in war.
Remembrance Day on the 11 November is set aside as a day to remember the sacrifice of those who have died for Australia in wars and conflicts. It was originally known as Armistice Day as at 11 am on 11 November 1918 the guns of the Western Front fell silent after more than four years continuous warfare.
‘We will remember them……’
One traditional recitation on ANZAC Day is The Ode, which is the fourth stanza of the poem ‘For the fallen’ by Laurence Binyon (1869–1943). The most well-known lines are:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
‘Australian War Graves’, Department of Veteran’s Affairs, information obtained from http://www.dva.gov.au/commem/oawg/cemeteries.htm on 15 April 2006.
Frank Forde biographical information obtained from Australian Prime Ministers at http://www.naa.gov.au. Residency at Redmyre Road Strathfield confirmed from Strathfield Council records of ownership and occupancy.
Fox & Associates, Strathfield Heritage Study, 1986.
National Archives of Australia Fact Sheets.
Jones, C ‘War Memorials in Strathfield’, Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletter, December 2005.
Strathfield War Memorial opening ceremony booklet, 11 October 1925, Strathfield Council.
Stone, L., Reminiscing War Time Strathfield, Strathfield District Historical Society Newsletter Vol. 24 No. 7 July 2001.
Survey of Sculpture, Monuments and Outdoor Cultural Material, Strathfield Council, 1999.
Information on St Anne’s Anglican Church, St Patrick’s College Memorial obtained from War Memorials in Australia website at http://www.skp.com.au/memorials on 15 April 2006.
© Cathy Jones 2005. This article is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced without permission of the author.