This post, which features the Cradock War Memorial and Memorial Garden, is my tribute to the people of Cradock, South Australia, and the men and women of the Cradock district who served in Australia’s defence forces during the Boer War, World War I and World War II.
“Why are you writing about Cradock?” you may ask. “Where is it, and what’s so special about Cradock?”
My husband Tony and I have just returned to Brisbane after a five-week 7500-kilometre road trip through south-western Queensland, South Australia and far western New South Wales. Although we kept to a fairly tight schedule, we stopped to explore many towns and localities along the way.
One of the things we looked out for in each town – big or small – was its war memorial. It’s not because Tony and I have a romanticized view of war – any conflict between states or nations that ends in warfare is a calamity. It’s because the state of a town’s war memorial speaks volumes about the community in which it is situated. A previous story I’ve posted on this blog, Apple Tree Creek World War I Roll of Honour (November 9, 2018), testifies to this claim.
Of the many war memorials we came across (and I photographed) during our recent travels, several stood out as unusual, exceptionally beautiful, and much loved. One of these is the Cradock War Memorial and Memorial Garden. Another is the nearby Hawker War Memorial.
NOTE: A list of references I used in preparing this story is found at the end of the post. References are numbered and noted throughout the text by brackets: [X].
About Cradock: Setting the scene
Cradock is a tiny town and locality in South Australia’s spectacular Flinders Ranges. The town lies on a grassy flat by the Wirreanda Creek, surrounded by several mountain ranges. Today, just 44 people live in and around Cradock (according to the 2021 Australian census data).  Cradock is located 320 kilometres north of Adelaide and 22 kilometres from Hawker (population 301), the nearest more populated town and locality.
It lies on the northern end of the R M Williams Way, a 237 kilometre-long highway linking Clare (and the Clare Valley wine region) in the south with Hawker (and the Flinders Ranges) in the north.
The township of Cradock was surveyed in late 1878 and proclaimed on 6 March 1879. 
At its peak during the 1880s and early 1890s, Cradock boasted two hotels, three churches, an institute, a bank, grocery store and post office, police station, public school, two blacksmith shops and a saddlery. 
Today, all that remains of the town’s glory days are a handful of stone buildings: two former church buildings, the former police station and school (now a private residence) and the Cradock Hotel.
The Cradock Hotel dates from the early 1880s. The town’s second hotel, the Wirreanda, was built around the same time and traded for about 30 years before its demise. In contrast, the Cradock Hotel is still trading today.
In its early days, the Cradock Hotel was known as “Heartbreak Hotel”, a name that reflected the pain experienced by the district’s early settlers after years of drought and repeated crop failures. The settlers at Cradock, 100 kilometres north of Goyder’s Line, believed that “rain followed the plough”. Of course, this was a false notion. As Goyder had advised, rainfall in this area was insufficient to support agriculture. The locality became known as “Heartbreak Flats”. 
Goyder’s Line was named after George Goyder, Surveyor-General of South Australia in the early days of the colony. In 1865, he mapped the boundary between those areas of the state that receive good annual rainfall and those that do not. “Goyder’s Line” was the result. It’s an imaginary line that runs roughly east-west across South Australia, separating areas north of the line where the annual rainfall is too low for agriculture (and only suitable for grazing) from those areas south of the line that receive good rainfall (and are therefore suitable for cropping and grazing). Interestingly, Goyder’s Line also marks the change in vegetation from saltbush in the north to mainly mallee scrub in the south. 
Cradock Police Station and Public School
A makeshift police building was erected at Cradock during the period 1882-1883. By June 1885, the town gained a police station comprising change-room, three living rooms, front and back verandas, double and single cells, two-stall stable, forage-room, underground tank and offices. The impressive stone building cost £702. However, with Cradock’s declining fortunes and population decline during the drought years of the 1890s, the town lost its police officer(s). The police station closed in 1901. 
Happily, the building had a second life, providing a new “home” for the Cradock Public School.
The Cradock Public School opened In 1881, housed in a weatherboard building erected by the State Government. Classes were conducted in this building until the end of 1928. In 1929, the school relocated from the then dilapidated timber building to the former police station. There it remained until 1949, when the Cradock Public School closed due to low numbers. 
Cradock’s three churches
The former St Gabriel’s Roman Catholic Church, which dates from 1883, is notable for its architecture and the high quality of its design. Thomas Burgoyne, of Port Augusta, designed the single-story gabled-fronted sandstone building. Burgoyne was an architect, the first editor of the Port Augusta Dispatch, a one-time Mayor of Port Augusta and member of the South Australian Parliament. 
The Right Rev Dr Reynolds, Roman Catholic Bishop of Adelaide, laid the building’s foundation stone on 12 March 1882.  The building opened on 30 September 1883.
The former St Gabriel’s Roman Catholic Church remains an important landmark in the town. The building was added to the South Australian Heritage Register on 23 September 1982.
The building was used as a place of worship until 1970.
The first Wesleyan Methodist Church building, a timber structure, was erected in Main Street, Cradock, in 1884. It was replaced by a stone building in 1925. John H P Moyses Esq laid the foundation stone of the new building on 6 December 1924. The new building was used by the Methodist Church from 1925 until 1977. In 1977, the Methodist Church combined with the Congregational Church and most branches of the Presbyterian Church of Australia to form the Uniting Church in Australia, so for a time the building became the Cradock Uniting Church. It continued to be used as a place of worship until 1984. 
St John’s Anglican Church, Cradock, was erected in 1894. It was used continuously as a place of worship until 1958.  Today, all that remains of the former stone building is a pile of rubble.
It seems that the township of Cradock died slowly. The Bank of Adelaide (housed in a majestic stone building) closed in the 1930s, the Institute lasted until 1974 and O’Connor’s General Store and Post Office closed in 1981. The Uniting Church held its last service in (or around) 1984.
Cradock’s Roll of Honour
By the time the war in Europe broke out (in 1914) the town and district had already lost many of its original inhabitants. Although much bigger than it is today, Cradock was still a small community.
Thus, when forty-one (41) local men and one woman (a nurse) enlisted for service during World War I, this number was a significant proportion of the male population of the district. Of the 41 men, five did not return home. Three died of sickness before they reached the battlefields. Two were killed in action.
One of the two men killed, Private Matthew Burnard Higgins, 30, was awarded the Military Medal “for bravery in the field”. He died at Ypres, in the province of Flanders, Belgium, on 30 June 1917. He has no known grave. The other, Private Vivian Charles Hanks, 22, was also killed in action. He died in France on 1 March 1917 and his body was interred in the Warlencourt British Cemetery, Warlencourt, France. Both men worked as labourers in the district prior to their military service.
Of the Cradock district’s young men who volunteered for war service between 1914-1918, at least five local families gave up two of their sons to bolster Australia’s war effort. I provide a couple of examples. Phillip Thomas Hanks enlisted on 6 January 1916, five months after his older brother Vivian Charles joined up. Charles Leonard Garnett, 20, enlisted on 2 September 1915; his older brother Benjamin Francis Garnett volunteered for service a year later, on 4 September 1916. He was 24, a farmer.
Twenty-two (22) local men and women enlisted during World War II; two made the ultimate sacrifice. James Peter Riordan enlisted at Hawker on 21 July 1942. He was 27 years old, single, a hotel manager in civilian life. Private Riordan died of wounds he received in the Battle of Balikpapan (1945), Dutch Borneo, on 2 July 1945. His body was interred in the Balikpapan War Cemetery. Ronald Herbert Lindo enlisted at Adelaide on 2 March 1942. He was 22, single, his trade or profession “overseer”. Private Lindo was killed in action in Papua New Guinea (PNG) on 18 January 1943. His body was buried in the Soputa War Cemetery, Oro Province, PNG.
Cradock War Memorial
The war memorial at Cradock comprises a square-cut granite boulder set on a concrete slab, a single flagpole and memorial stone wall. It is the centrepiece of Cradock’s beautiful memorial garden.
Affixed to the granite boulder are three now-faded metal plaques. The top left plaque bears the (now) almost illegible inscription: “2/10 Australian Infantry Battalion Private Ron Lindo Killed in Action New Guinea 18th January 1943”. The top right plaque bears the inscription: “2/10 Australian Infantry Battalion James Peter Riordan Died of Wounds received Balikpapan 2nd July 1945”. The wording of the lower (central) plaque is: “Erected in 1995 by Hawker CWA to preserve plaques from Trees of Remembrance planted by Cradock CWA in 1947 to honour the men from Cradock who paid the supreme sacrifice in World War II”.
The more recently constructed memorial wall bears two large brass plaques listing the names of all the men and women of the district who volunteered for service in the Boer War and World War I (one plaque) and World War II (a second plaque). Affixed between the two roll of honour plaques is a bronze military rising sun emblem. Another two plaques are featured on the wall. One reads: “District of Cradock – Roll of Honour” ‘Lest We Forget’. The other reads: “In commemoration of the centenary of the signing of the armistice – such ending World War I – 11 November 1918”.
According to information provided at the site, the memorial wall is meant to give visitors to Cradock “some understanding of the commitment country folk, and especially those from the Cradock district, had for each other and their country during these times of national peril”.
In my opinion, their goal is achieved.
Cradock Memorial Garden
The one-off Cradock War Memorial is located in a masterfully designed and lovingly maintained arid lands garden. Although on the day of our visit the weather was unfavourable (it was cloudy and wet), we still had time and opportunity to wander through the garden and explore its many exhibits. (Fortunately, the rain stopped long enough for me to take the photographs I’ve included in this post.)
There is much to see and appreciate in the Cradock Memorial Garden. Small stone monuments, each bearing the name of a conflict in which Australia has been involved (for example, Boer War, South Africa) line one pathway. Seven white crosses, one for each of the local men who died during their service in World War I or World War II, line another pathway. In contrast to these sobering reminders of death and destruction, the setting is peaceful and beautiful.
In front of the memorial wall stands a second lichen-encrusted stone monument. It dates from 1980. The monument bears two plaques. The inscription on the top one is: “Cradock Proclaimed March 6th 1879 To Commemorate the Past & Present Families of the District. Unveiled Oct. 2nd 1980”. The inscription on the second one is: “Unveiled by J H Hilder”.
A more recent addition to the garden is the Cradock Memorial Garden Shelter. It houses two picnic table settings and wartime information boards explaining Australia’s commitment during the two world wars. The information provided on the boards is very detailed, and most instructive.
The purpose of the shelter shed is two-fold. First, it provides local folk, especially elderly members of the community and veterans, with a place of respite from the extremes of weather and fatigue during ceremonies held here on Anzac Day, Remembrance Day or Australia Day. Second, it provides picnic facilities and a rest stop for the many travellers (an estimated 60,000 annually) who pass through Cradock on the R M Williams Way. 
The memorial garden has a number of other features worth mentioning. One is a stone monument with a bronze plaque bearing Robert Kearney’s 2018 Centenary of the Armistice poem entitled “Message from the Australian Unknown Soldier”. Another is a larger-than-life mural depicting the Australian Light Horsemen. A third is a rather quirky monument (dog statue and sheltered garden) to “Australia’s Military Animals”.
The Cradock War Memorial and Memorial Garden are maintained by the community of the Cradock District.
The entire site is a great credit to Cradock’s 44 (or so) residents.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. Cradock. 2021 Census QuickStats. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://abs.gov.au/census/find-census-data/quickstats/2021/SAL40321
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. Hawker (SA). 2021 Census QuickStats. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://abs.gov.au/census/find-census-data/quickstats/2021/SAL40572
- Untitled (proclamation of the Town of Cradock) (PDF), The South Australian Government Gazette (10): 625, 6 March 1879. Retrieved November 10, 2022.
- Site information, Cradock.
- Site information, Cradock.
- GOYDER’S LINE. (1898, June 11). Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 – 1904), p. 28. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article162324181
- Site information, Cradock.
- Site information, Cradock.
- Government of South Australia. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. (1995). Flinders Ranges Heritage Survey. Volume 4. District Council of Hawker. Retrieved on November 10, 2022, from https://data.environment.sa.gov.au/content/heritage-surveys/flinders-ranges-survey-volume-4-dc-of-hawker-1995.pdf
- THE ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP IN THE NORTH. (1882, March 23). The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1889), p. 6. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article34279386
- Site information, Cradock.
- Site information, Cradock.
- The Flinders Ranges Council. (Website). ‘War memorials’. Retrieved November 10, 2022, from https://www.frc.sa.gov.au/tourism/what-to-do/war-memorials