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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Springwood War Memorial - Buckland Park

The present day War Memorial in Springwood is located behind an impressive set of gates at the entrance to Buckland Park in Macquarie Road. The memorial was re-located and upgraded from its original site in the front of the Old School of Arts building in 1964.  The old memorial, dedicated by Sir Walter Davidson in 1923, stood proudly in its original position for forty one years.

It would seem that its re-location and refurbishment served two purposes.  Firstly, the loss of significance allowed council to demolish the School of Arts building in 1969, and secondly the empty sandstone platform - where an enemy trophy gun from World War One had once stood - was refurbished to reflect community views at that time. 

An initial investigation did not reveal any consternation from residents about relocation, which, according to K.S. Inglis, was common with other communities when War memorials were threatened or moved.[1]  However, that opinion was revised after further research revealed that several earlier attempts to move the memorial had failed due to community outrage..[2]

The only description of the original Springwood memorial comes from photographs taken at the official dedication ceremony in 1923.  Oddly, no newspaper report can be found of the occasion. 

Forty one years later a committee was formed to re-locate the memorial and in January 1964 several groups were represented on the committee including the Returned Soldiers and Sailors League (the forerunner to the RSL), the ladies auxiliary, the Blue Mountains Beautification Group and Alderman J. Powell who represented the council.[3]  Powell’s involvement seems clear.  He was anxious to get rid of the School of Arts building from its valuable location in the central heart of town and he had offered to purchase the School of Arts site from council prior to 1964.[4]

The committee managed to achieve its ends in a very short space of time and today the War Memorial sits behind the decorative gates that are a memorial of the service of local GP, Doctor Joel Baxter.  Sophie Durham MBE officially dedicated the memorial on Anzac Day 1964.[5]  Matron Durham served on the army troop ship Gascon during the First World War.[6]

Unveiling of original War Memorial

World War One Honor Roll

Present day memorial & Baxter Memorial Gates
Unlike the original sandstone pedestal that held the enemy war trophy gun, the present memorial carries no potent symbol of war.  The cenotaph consists of a stone pedestal, said to have been fashioned from the sandstone of the original memorial, with a thin arch of stone where once the trophy gun stood.  The arch holds the Flame of Remembrance and emblazoned on the front are the words ‘Lest We Forget’ A granite plaque announced that the memorial is in ‘Memory Of Those Who Gave Their Lives In The Service Of Their Country,’ thus it does not discriminate between gender or rank or indeed war.  It is a memorial that honours all those that have fallen in the name of military service. 

It is perhaps unusual in that it contains no names, dates or honor roll, but perhaps what it lacks in sophistication speaks volumes about the feeling of the community at that time because of an impending war in Vietnam and Australia’s inevitable commitment to the United States. 
*The World War One Honor Roll is located in the foyer of Springwood Civic Centre 

[1] K.S. Inglis, Sacred Places, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1998, pp. 412-422.
[2] Blue Mountains City Council local studies collection, Springwood library, War Memorial File Springwood.
[3] The Blue Mountains Gazette, War Memorial to be Moved, 8.1.1964, p. 2.
[4] Blue Mountains City Council local studies collection, Town Clerk’s Report, Offer to purchase, Item 17, 19.6.1962.
[5] Blue Mountains Gazette, Unveiling of New War Memorial, Matron Durham to Perform the Ceremony, 1.4.1964, p. 7.
[6] Ibid.