Memory Park, Penrith

Penrith War Memorial, Memory Park

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Memory Park in 2013
(Penrith City Library)

The idea of building a war memorial was first mooted in August 1915. At a memorial service to honor the Penrith men who had been killed at the front, a collection was taken up and handed to the mayor, “to form the nucleus of a fund to provide a town memorial of a permanent character to the men who fall in the war.”

World War I officially ended on 11 November 1918. By that time, nearly 60,000 Australians had died fighting overseas. In the years immediately following the war, memorials to these dead soldiers sprung up in almost every town and city across Australia. Penrith was no exception. Some 250 young men from the Penrith District went to the Great War and at least 45 did not return. The Penrith Progress Committee placed an advertisement in the Nepean Times for a public meeting on 22 January to discuss the issue of a public honor roll for Penrith. At the meeting the Penrith Progress Association expressed the opinion that such an Honor Roll should be placed in the main street. It was also suggested that the Honor Roll should list soldiers from Emu, Castlereagh, Jamisontown etc as well as those from the Penrith Municipality. Proposals also included the construction of a memorial hall for the use of the soldiers. However, this option was considered too expensive and a room added to the School of Arts for their use was suggested as an alternative.

It was suggested that an honor roll could be constructed on the corner of High Street and Woodriff Street. Mr E Burrows suggested a committee be formed to investigate designs and cost to be submitted to a further meeting. By November 1919, Mr C. G. Coulter, a prominent city architect, and a personal friend of Mr Arthur Judges, submitted a design, which was approved by the sub-committee and was to be submitted to a public meeting for discussion. The preferred site was a 60 feet by 50 feet plot at the corner of Woodriff and High Streets. The proposal was to contain a fountain and lily pond, at one end of which a tablet of sandstone was to be erected. The tablet was to be overlaid with marble or trachyte slabs bearing the names of local soldiers and beneath it bronze slabs inscribed with the years 1914-1918. Coulter’s estimate of cost for the memorial was under £500. His proposal called for the fountain to be allowed to run for a couple of days a week and also the provision of electric lights. The design was displayed in the window of Mr Arthur Judges pharmacy in High Street.

On 2 December 1919, a public meeting was held in the council chambers to receive the report of the Honor Roll committee. Only 15 attended, prompting Mr Dukes, a committee member, to comment that “some of the members of the committee had been as apathetic as the public about this matter.” A number of proposals had been received and the committee had rejected most as they did not suit Penrith’s requirements or were too expensive. The committee suggested that the monument be erected on the corner of High Street and Woodriff street and that they investigate the purchase of an additional 20 to 30 feet. The committee advised that they had applied to the Defence department for one of the captured German guns to be placed alongside the monument. The cost of the proposed memorial, additional land and fencing was estimated to be £700. A new committee was formed which included the mayor, Rev M G Hinsby, Messrs J Stanton, W S Walker, W H Dukes, A Judges, H Lack,C C Ezzy, O Fletcher, D McDonald, E Starling, D Fitch, L Price, D G McLennan and G Price. The subscription list was started and all monies were to be banked in the Government Savings Bank of NSW. It was decided that the Nepean Times would publish lists of donations from time to time.

By March 1920, a public meeting was held to discuss the progress of the memorial. Apathy about the project was demonstrated by Mr A Judges who commented that “this matter had been sadly neglected and had been postponed very often. It was well to get the matter in hand now.” The committee had raised £115 and it was decided that the committee would hold a number of functions around Anzac Day aimed at bolstering the coffers. Fund raising activities included: a sports day, united service and picture show. The Council was to be approached with a request that it dedicate the piece of land on the corner of High Street and Woodriff Street for the purpose of erecting the memorial.

The May 1920 meeting of the Committee reported £80 being raised from the fund raising activities. A deputation from the local branch of the Returned Soldiers’ League, expressed the view that the money should be devoted to the erection of a soldier’s hall or clubroom. After heated discussion on this matter, it was decided to hold a general meeting of the subscribers on 18 May 1920. This meeting did not resolve the issue. On 22 May 1920 the Nepean Times published an article containing the details of the disagreement about the memorial. The article singled out the returned soldiers for special mention: With regard to the part the returned soldiers should play in the matter, it is well to point out that their position is a delicate one. The movement was started as a citizens’ memorial to pay a tribute to the men (dead and living) of Penrith, who fought in the war…There is nothing wrong in the latter making suggestions, but anything that borders on a demand is distinctly out of place.” Yet another meeting of the subscribers was scheduled to discuss the issue.

The Penrith Soldiers’ Club took umbrage at the comments published in the Nepean Times. At their next meeting, a resolution was passed stating: “That this meeting of returned soldiers of Penrith strongly disapprove of the action taken by the Soldiers’ Memorial Committee in calling a meeting for this night [1 June], limited to subscribers only; whereas a promise had been previously given that the opinion of the returned soldiers would be invited at a public meeting as to the form the memorial would take.”

The meeting of subscribers held on 1 June 1920, showed a balance of £206/10/3 in the bank Correspondence was received with regard to the allotment of one gun trophy to Penrith. The meeting was reminded that the land granted by council for the memorial site was conditional that the council and Minister should approve of the design. The plan would encompass a bandstand and memorial costing £400 with an additional £100 for seating and fencing. The plans were submitted to the War Memorials Advisory Board who stated “The Board reports that it considers it would be better if a more spacious site were selected (as crowds gather around a bandstand) and would urge the council to secure one if possible. The design it considers fairly suitable, but could be improved.” The Board then stated that is was having a revised drawing prepared by the Government architect and would forward at a later date. The Town Clerk asked for more detailed information about the war trophy so that when the application was made it would show that Penrith was making a concerted effort to erect a memorial worthy of the town, and therefore a suitable place to house a first-class gun. The amended plans, including revision by the Government architect, were adopted by the Committee in late September 1920.

On 8 January 1921, the Nepean Times was lamenting the slow progress of the Penrith Soldiers Memorial declaring “the movement here has been crawling along for the last couple of years, and, in fact, has at times almost been in danger of slipping backwards” further declaring that Penrith’s reputation was at stake! The report stated that although £300 had been raised, practically nothing had happened since the previous October. The following week the paper announced that a concert was being arranged. The movement gained momentum. Council was approached to revert to the first agreement, that is, the council would rededicate the original 33 feet agreed upon which would be combined with 20ft purchased by the Committee. It was proposed that an ornamental fence be constructed on the northern and eastern sides, and strong paling fences on the other sides. The Committee also asked council to erect a mounting for the gun on the memorial site.

On 13 August 1921, the Nepean Times ran an article appealing for cash donations to the Memorial fund. It reported that the erection of the fence was well advanced and the Kingswood Brick and Tile Company had donated tiles for the rotunda. The article highlighted the fact that Penrith, a municipality with a population of 3,591, had only donated about £100 in cash, a record that should be improved! By 17 September 1921, the trench mortar promised to the municipality had arrived.

A public meeting held at the end of September 1921 elected the trustees for the Memorial Reserve. The management committee consisted of: O W Fletcher, H Lack, T M Masters, C C Ezzy, A Judges, H Neale, F Barlow, Glen Fulton, W Dukes, T Ransley, H J F Neale and Sam Haines. The meeting reported that two tenders had been received for the construction of the superstructure of the monument in trachyte or granite. One proposal was costed at £180 (including gilded letters) and the other £120. No decision was made at the meeting. The positioning of the trench mortar near the entrance to the reserve and the howitzer under the flagpole was also discussed.

The committee meeting held on 24 October, accepted the tender of Messrs Woods and Collins of Lidcombe (£120). A carnival was planned for the following March to help boost funds for the project. In January 1922, four tenders had been received for the supply of seven trachyte slabs engraved with the names of the Penrith soldiers and a meeting was held on February 2nd to finalise the names to be added to the slabs. The committee determined that any soldier who resided within the Municipality of Penrith at the time of enlistment would be included on the roll.

By June 1922, plans were underway for the official unveiling of the war memorial. Lighting was installed in the general area and the foundations constructed for the war trophies. Finally, in July 1922, nearly 3 1/2 years after war’s end, Memory Park became a reality. It was opened on Saturday 8 July 1922 by the then State Governor, Sir Walter Davidson. A civic reception greeted the Governor at Penrith station upon his arrival. After several welcoming speeches, the official party and the enthusiastic crowd moved on the Memory Park site. Here the Governor, after a variety of patriotic speeches to an estimated crowd of 1,000 people, unveiled seven honour roll tablets, opened the new rotunda (demolished around 1972) and examined the two large trophy guns which had been installed on concrete emplacements on either side of the park. These large guns created considerable interest at the time, one of them being a German 4.5 Howitzer gun manufactured in the Krupps factory in 1918, the other being a trench mortar. These guns were removed when the park was redesigned in recent years. The Governor made himself very popular with school children by declaring a holiday on the following Monday “for all children within reach of Penrith”. To add to the excitement, the ceremony was recorded on film and shown a few days later at the local picture theatre. It is not known whether a copy of this film still exists.

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At the time of opening, Memory Park was enclosed by Buzacott fencing on three sides, the western boundary being a temporary rail and wire fence. The main entrance was a lich gate to the High Street frontage. The octagonal rotunda, since demolished, was built by Melville and Moorcroft, the roof being tiled by the local firm, Kingswood Brick and Tile Company. The cost of the whole memorial – including fencing of the park, erection of the rotunda, the honour roll, concrete guttering, footpath and so on was estimated at 900 pounds                                                        .

Source: ‘Memorial Service’ Nepean Times, 14 August 1915, p6, c4-5

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The Penrith Honor Roll consists of 8 tablets which were originally affixed to the Rotunda when it was constructed in 1922. The tablets were presented by the Penrith Girls Comfort Club. When the rotunda was demolished in 1972, the tablets were affixed to brick walls in Memory Park. The first tablet contains the original plaque dedicated by His Excellency Sir Walter Davidson, KCMG on 8 July 1922. Six tablets list the soldiers who served from the Penrith district and the remaining tablet lists the WW1 nurses from the district who served overseas during World War 1. The names listed on the tablets consist of the person’s initials and surnames. Where possible, the full name of the person has been included to assist researchers.TABLET 1: Lists the soldiers killed during World War 1

1914 Roll of Honour 1919

Pro Dio Rege et Patria Obit

Francis Arthur Abbott Ernest Frederick Harper Robert James Joseph Perrau
Edward Harold Ausburn

Clarence William Haynes

Leslie Frederick Purdon
Rupert Theodore Algernon Bannister Luke Hughes Harold Hume Pye
Andrew Marvell Delme Blaydes John Kerry Reginald Leslie Pye
Cyril Falkner Blaxland Edward Kennedy Lance George Rooke
Austin Joseph Bourke Sinclair Leitch Alfred Skeen
Henry John Burrows William Le Sueur

John George Simpson

William Henry Loftus Byrns Frederick Charles Eddington Messer Harold Bathurst Smith
Stanley Colless Charles Miller William Joseph James Starling
John Steen Clare Collum Mertoun Sydney Mills Alfred Lewis Groom Stevenson
Bede Septimus Connell Arthur James Mitchell William Edward Stinson
Frederick Clarence Earp Harry Mullis Victor Frank Stuckey
Harold Edwards Robert Mc Gowan John William Syme
Edgar Russell Franks James Otho Henry Nicole Geoffrey Besant Woodriff
Albert George Gardiner Robert Paxton Thomas William Williams

TABLETS 2-5: Contain an alphabetical listing of soldiers who served overseas during World War 1. The tablets also list some soldiers killed in action who are not listed on Tablet 1. * Denotes Killed in Action

1914 Roll of Honour 1919

L M T Adams Henry F Bailey Frank Burke
McK S Adams Geoffrey Baker Joseph Burke
Franz Christian Ahmelman Harry Baker George Burrows
George Edward Ahmelman Percy Baker Norman Burrows
C Andrews Hilton Barrett J W Burnett
H V Andrews Isaac Manly Barrow D Cameron
John Charles Lambert Arrowsmith J Beresford F Carter
Walter George Reginald Arrowsmith C Betts J Carter
* Sydney Ellis Aubrey Thomas Best *Reginald Hugh Cheesman
A C Ausburn Lelsie Seymour Blaydes Carl A V Claeson
Charles Ausburn Ernest Vivian Blaydes C E Clarke
Harold Ausburn Fred Brown B Clements
Roy Aynsley Stafford Brown Victor Nepean Colless
Alfred S Bailey F Collum

1914 Roll of Honour 1919

William M Collum Frank Dukes John Forrest
Wesley Collum Charles Eagle Richard Forrest
Francis J Corr Arnold Earp William Forrest
Alfred Costello Allan Easterbrook Charles Fowler
Harold Costello G Eaton William Fowler
Cecil Crothers Ronald Eaton Cecil Fulton
William Crothers James Edwards Claude Fulton
James Cumberland Frank Emery G Freeman
Thomas Cummins Bert Evans A J Gardiner
W Dawson Darcy Evans J Gardiner
E W Dennis B C Field Victor Giles
James Dolahenty E C Field A Gribble
W Donald D Finnegan C Hadley
Cecil Dukes P Flannery Aubrey Hair

1914 Roll of Honour 1919

Auburn Edward Hair H Hogbin Harry Mathew Lack
Bert Hair Ben Hollier M Lahood
George Hair Garnet Hollier Pat Lane
Dan Hamilton Walter Hollier L Le Breton
J Hanna Albert William Honey D Leitch
R Harland H H Honeman Frank Lennox
R Harrison C Hutton E Lucas
Alfred Harvey C J Huxley J J Mason
Richard Harvey Victor Jordan F Masters
* Francis Henry Haylen Marshall Kellett Leighton Masters
Arthur Hendren Cecil C Knight Arthur John Merz
Rev Montague Golden Hinsby John H Knight E Miller
W M Holliday Frederick J Knight William Mitchell
G J Hughes Edward Lack H Moore
H N Lance

1914 Roll of Honour 1919

C J Morris A C Paul R Rickards
J McGarrity J Perritt Rupert Roberts
C E McIntyre W Perritt R Rogan
S E McIntyre W Potter Percy Seach
W L McIntyre A Preston Walter Self
Dr S McKee J Preston Percy James Skeen
A McKeen George Primmer Frank Smith
K McPhee Claude Proctor Keith Smith
Frank Neave W H A Pye Norman Smith
Charles Newman W J S Randall Ken Stanton
Frederick Newman Reginald Rawson J Stinson
John Newman Basil Reddan D Strang
Louis Neville John Reddan George Strickland
C Paskin W R J Redman L A Stuckey
* W R Pascoe

1914 Roll of Honour 1919

S Spence R Verney, Snr Frederick Wrench
R Squires R Verney, Jnr Richard Matthew Waugh
S Squires Bert Walker Frederick Samuel Williams
C R Sullivan F Wardman John Charles Williams
K Sullivan P B Watson T Best
* R Sullivan David Webb S Best
A L Sutton Robert Ernest Webb Edmund Albert Hartley
George Taylor Webb J J Kearey
Robey Taylor Charles Werner Leo Kearey
Ian C D Tennant J Wilkinson Norman Cyril Price
Arthur O Thompson W Williams * Hilton Clifford Price
Oscar N Thompson R Whalan Colin Martin Price
Charles Turner Daniel Lethbridge Woodriff Claude Clifton Woodland
Francis Henry Woodriff R Young

TABLET 6: Contains the names of 10 Nurses from the Penrith District who served overseas

Adelaide Maud Kellett

Stella Lilian Colless
Annie Major West Vida Mitylene Greentree
Constance Neale Elizabeth Kearey
Jessie Bassetti Alice Cecelia Scahill
Adele Baker Jessie Grace Perkins