Victory Memorial Gardens
Victory Memorial Gardens
The Victory Memorial Gardens were originally established as a memorial to the men and women who served in World War I. The land was formerly the site of the Old Police Barracks, a brick building which faced Morrow Street and the police paddocks at the rear which were used to stable the police horses and their horse drawn vehicles.
After World War I money for a Memorial was raised by public subscription. A referendum held in 1919 decided in favour of a Memorial Hall and an honour roll. The Cenotaph listing the names of those who died as a result of the War was erected in 1922 at a cost of 800 pounds.
Only two thousand pounds remained for the construction of a hall and Council’s proposal to raise a loan of four thousand pounds was rejected in a referendum held in 1923. Some quite heated discussion followed about the form the Memorial should take with the Memorial Committee headed by E.E. Collins favouring an extension to the town hall and the R.S.S.I.L.A. headed by D.T. Byrnes preferring that the money be spent on Memorial Gardens. After Byrnes was elected the new Mayor, he presided at a public meeting held in the Wonderland Theatre in April 1925. It was resolved that the memorial should take the form of public gardens to be laid out on the “Reserve between Morrow Street and the Lagoon, between the two bridges on the South Wagga side taking in the present police paddock”. None of the Memorial Committee Executive including E.E. Collins had attended the meeting but Byrnes had threatened to obtain a short Act of Parliament if necessary to authorise the expenditure of money on the gardens! Fortunately by July the League and the memorial Committee had come to an amicable agreement to erect of a memorial as an imposing entrance to the proposed memorial garden. But the delays continued.
The Memorial Arch was eventually erected in 1926 at a cost of 1700 pounds but only after more controversy, this time over the site of the archway. After construction had begun, D.T. Byrnes of the Memorial Gardens Committee instituted court proceedings against the Mayor, now E.E. Collins, in June 1926 claiming that the archway should have been positioned diagonally across the corner of the intersection of Baylis and Morrow Streets so that the Cenotaph would have been framed in the background through the archway (this was settled out of court and the archway was erected on the site it stand today). The police buildings were then demolished and police headquarters moved to Little Gurwood Street – Tarcutta Street.
The design for the Memorial Gardens was chosen from a competition conducted by the council which was advertised in November 1927 locally and in Sydney and Melbourne. Twenty-two designs were entered and the winner, Thomas Kerr of Lakemba, New South Wales, was awarded the prize of one hundred pounds. The winning design has been framed and can be viewed at the Council Chambers.
Construction began on April 1928 using the funds raised by the Victory Memorial Gardens Committee. Council provided further finance to complete the project.
The Cenotaph was built of Bowral trachyte with concrete cove on a trachyte base. The names of those who died in the 1914-18 War are carved on stone panels on the eastern and western sides of the Cenotaph. It was unveiled by Brigadier General Blamey on 17 September 1922. The names of the district servicemen who died in World War II are listed on the bronze panels on the southern and northern sides of the Cenotaph. These were unveiled on Anzac Day 1952 by J.W. Edmondson, father of Corporal J.H. Edmondson, the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross in World War II (posthumously awarded) who spent part of his childhood in Wagga.
The Archway was built of sandstone on a trachyte base with polished trachyte panels bearing the names of the district servicemen and women who served in World War I. It was constructed by Messrs Aluselin Odling and Son of Sydney for about 1700 pounds.
World War II Memorial
This was built behind the Cenotaph at a cost of $60,000 using funds from the Wagga RSL sub-branch, Wagga Wagga City Council and donations. The semi-circular memorial contains the names of the World War II service men and women who enlisted from the Wagga Wagga District. The eternal flame was officially lit by the late Ted Drake, a World War I ex-serviceman in 1990, the 75th Anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli.
Korea and Vietnam Memorial
On 18 March 1991, immediately after the Vietnam Veterans Remembrance Day March, the Vietnam section was unveiled by the Commandant of the 1RTB Kapooka, Colonel Gordon Hurfod and the Mayor of Wagga Wagga, Alderman Pat Brassil opened the honour roll of those of Wagga and District who served in Korea.
Jolly Swagman Statue
This was sculptured by Aurel Ragus and officially unveiled on 24 August 1978 by the Mayor, Alderman Bruce Hedditch.
Sir Thomas Blamey Plaque
Bronze plaque set on a concrete base west of the Cenotaph was planted by Lieutenant Phillip bennet on 24 January 1984 to commemorate the birth at Lake Albert, Wagga Wagga, of Sir Thomas Albert Blamey, Australian Military Forces 1906 – 1951.
In 1938 an avenue of some 350 Lombardy poplar trees were planted along the northern footpath of Morrow Street and the southern alignment of the Memorial Gardens. This avenue was later titled Anzac Avenue.
This monument was erected on 30 June 1990 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the RAAF Base at Forest Hill which commenced operations on 1 July 1940, training pilots for World War II, Ansons, Beaufighters and Wirriways and repairing various aircraft including Ansons, Beaufighters, Beaforts, Boomerangs, Kittyhawks and Venturas.
A 3” mortar monument commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the Kapooka Military Area which commenced operations on 1 May 1942. The monument was erected by the City of Wagga Wagga to honour the service and opened on 23 April 1995.
Anchor, HMAS Wagga
Monument erected by the City of Wagga Wagga to honour the active service of HMAS Wagga Corvette J315 of the Royal Australian Navy during World War II. It was commissioned in December 1942 and served with distinction until November 1945 in the Coral Sea, New Guinea, South Pacific and Hong Kong. The Anchor was donated by the Port of Melbourne Authority. It was unveiled on 23 April 1995.
Garden of Peace Roses
This garden of peace roses was established to mark Wagga Wagg’s recognition of the International Year of Peace 1986. The peace rose was developed by Francis Meilland in France just prior to the outbreak of World War II. Bud wood from the rose was smuggled out of Nazi occupied France on the last clipper to America where it was produced in numbers to be generally released at the end of the war as a peace rose. At the first session of the United Nations each delegate received a peace rose bloom, a fitting symbol to express the hope for World Peace. The garden was officially opened by Ald Harris, Mayor of Wagga Wagga.
Erected by Sandakan Memorial Foundation to commemorate the 1800 members of the 8th Division AIF who died at Sandakan and Ranau in North Borneo (now the Malaysian state of Sabah) and during the infamous “death marches” between the two prison camps 1942-45. This was the third cenotaph erected by the foundation.
It has a tomb like brick base and granite roof with a bronze replica of the route taken by the Australia POW’s from Sandaken to Ranau placed on top. Bronze plaques around the base record the details of the death marches and lists the names of 150 men from Wagga Wagga and district who died at Sandaken. The monument was cast by local monumental masons, J. Shephard and Son. It was dedicated by Father Brendan Rogers OFM, 8th Division A.I.F. Chaplain Sandakan and Kuching. It was unveiled by the Honourable Con Sciacca M.P. Minister for Veterans Affairs on 28 August 1994.
Constructed in 1938 to commemorate Australia’s 150th anniversary and suitable plaques erected on stonework seats. A sundial was incorporated therein and the whole of the sunken garden dedicated to commemorate “The Pioneers”. It was officially opened on 9 October 1938.
This was formerly a derrick from the H.M.A.S. Sydney. A mark can be seen on the flagpole where the derrick was struck by a shell during the encounter off Cocos Island on 9 November 1914 which resulted in the sinking of the German cruiser Emden. It was obtained by the Soldiers and the Sailors War Memorial Committee when H.M.A.S. Sydney was withdrawn from service in January 1929. It was unveiled by the mayor and Chairman of the Committee, E.E. Collins, on 11 November 1931.
The fountain was donated to the City of Wagga wagga in the 1800’s, and is sometimes referred to as the Chisholm Fountain in honour of its benefactor. Following the fountain’s removal from the Civic Centre precinct some years ago it has now been refurbished and is to be relocated to the Victory Memorial Gardens. The fountain has been located in a number of sites around the city in its history including the Wagga Hospital and the Victory Memorial Gardens.