On Anzac Day, Tuesday 25 April 1944, the citizens of Rockhampton together with service men and women and returnees from both wars came out in their thousands to pay homage to the district’s war fallen. World War II – and the Pacific War – was still raging, and a large contingent of service men and women were based at Rockhampton. My mother was one of them.

Aircraftwoman (ACW) Evelyn Beaumont, of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF), had been transferred from Brisbane to Rockhampton. Early in 1944, Evelyn was working as a clerk signals at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Command Headquarters in Brisbane when she applied for a transfer to the RAAF base unit at Rockhampton, on compassionate grounds. To read more of Evelyn’s story, go to My mother’s years in the WAAAF (Part 2): Rockhampton (April 22, 2019).

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].

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RAAF 21 Operational Base Unit

The RAAF 21 Operational Base Unit (21 OBU) at Rockhampton was established on 2 May 1942, when the RAAF took control of the Rockhampton (“Connor Park”) aerodrome. The city’s airfield became part of the ferry route from Brisbane to Townsville for RAAF and United States of America Air Force (USAAF) aircraft. [1]

Facilities at the airport were substantially upgraded and a control tower and radio station were built. The RAAF carried out work and put plans in place to allow rapid demolition of the runways if required. During the war, the airfield had three runways. The third runway had a taxiway and dispersal area at the north-western end of the airfield. [2]

1944. RAAF 21 Operational Base Unit, Rockhampton. Airport dispersal area. Photo source: Proposch Family collection.
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1944. RAAF 21 Operational Base Unit, Rockhampton. Airport dispersal area. Photo source: Proposch Family collection.

ACW Evelyn Beaumont took up her new appointment at Rockhampton on 23 April 1944, just two days before Anzac Day. Along with her WAAAF colleagues, Evelyn would have participated in at least one of Rockhampton’s scheduled Anzac Day events that year. This was at a time in our nation’s history when the entire day was dedicated to honouring service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in their line of duty.

1944. 21 Operational Base Unit, Rockhampton. ACW Evelyn Beaumont with colleague Corporal Mabs Davie. Photo source: Proposch Family collection.
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1944. 21 Operational Base Unit, Rockhampton. ACW Evelyn Beaumont (at right) with colleague Corporal Mabs Davie. Photo source: Proposch Family collection.

Anzac Day 1944

Arrangements for Rockhampton’s Anzac Day commemorations on Tuesday 25 April 1944 were as follows [3]:

 4:00 am   Dawn service
Venue: War Memorial, Rockhampton Botanic Gardens
Speaker: Right Reverend Fortescue Ash, Anglican Bishop of Rockhampton

10:00 am   Street march and church services
Venue: Returned soldiers and current servicemen (and women) assemble at Anzac House, East and Archer Streets, in readiness for street march. After the march, church services will be held at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and the Rockhampton School of Arts.

3:00 pm   Procession and commemorative service
Venue: Returned soldiers and current service men and women, members of wartime organizations, cadet troops, schools, scouts and lodges assemble at the corner of Ward and Agnes Streets, for a procession followed by a service at the Rockhampton War Memorial.
Presiding officer: Alderman H Jeffries, Mayor of Rockhampton
Speakers: Rev J Tainton and Brigadier C H Terracini

8:00 pm   National concert
Venue: Rockhampton School of Arts, Bolsover Street
Organiser: Mr William Franks
Presiding officer: Alderman H Jeffries, Mayor of Rockhampton
Guest speaker: Colonel G H Bourne

1944. Evelyn with two WAAAF colleagues at the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens. Photo source: Proposch Family collection.
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1944. Evelyn with two WAAAF colleagues at the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens. Photo source: Proposch Family collection.

As had been the practice for a number of years, two of Rockhampton’s Anzac Day commemorations in 1944 were scheduled to be conducted at the site of the Rockhampton War Memorial, in the city’s magnificent Botanic Gardens. 1944 marked the war memorial’s 20th anniversary.

Rockhampton War Memorial

The Rockhampton War Memorial, built in 1924 to a design by Rockhampton architects Hockings and Palmer, was unveiled by Sir Matthew Nathan, Governor of Queensland, on 16 October 1924. To this day, it remains the largest and most costly of all Queensland’s regional war memorials. It was built by monumental masons F M Allen, of Rockhampton, at a cost (in 1924) of ₤2,654. [4]

1944. My mother's WAAAF colleague, Corporal Mabs Davie, pictured in front of the Rockhampton War Memorial, Rockhampton Botanic Gardens. Photo source: Proposch Family collection.
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1944. My mother’s WAAAF colleague, Corporal Mabs Davie, pictured in front of the Rockhampton War Memorial, Rockhampton Botanic Gardens. Photo source: Proposch Family collection.

The memorial is huge and imposing. It stands 19.5 metres (64 feet) above the ground and comprises a plinth, 3-step pedestal and tall obelisk made of Gracemere grey granite. The words IN REMEMBRANCE TO THOSE WHO FELL and the dates of WWI and later conflicts are inscribed on the front (west face) of the top block of the pedestal. The words SACRIFICE, UNITY and FREEDOM, respectively, are inscribed on the pedestal’s other three faces. [5]

Rockhampton War Memorial, showing front inscriptions and the word "SACRIFICE" on side of column. Photo source: Salecich collection 2018.
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Rockhampton War Memorial, showing front inscriptions and the word “SACRIFICE” on side of column. Photo source: Salecich collection 2018.

The whole edifice sits atop a neat grass mound bounded by a low hedge, paved pathway and circle of evenly spaced mature Canary Island Date Palms. Richard Simmons, the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens curator at the time, landscaped the area surrounding the monument. Later, four garden beds were added to the mound. The beds contain herbaceous plants pruned to form the words ANZAC, ARMY, RAN and RAAF. [6]

One approaches the memorial by a paved and neatly hedged pathway from the west. In its early days, and in 1944, the memorial was surrounded by a waist-height hedge, with the entry via a white picket gate.

Rockhampton War Memorial. One approaches the memorial by a paved and neatly hedged pathway from the west. Photo source: Salecich Family collection 2018.
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Rockhampton War Memorial. One approaches the memorial by a paved and neatly hedged pathway from the west. Photo source: Salecich Family collection 2018.
Rockhampton War Memorial, view showing surrounding lawn and gardens. Photo source: Salecich Family collection 2018.
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Rockhampton War Memorial, view showing surrounding lawn and gardens. Photo source: Salecich Family collection 2018.

Today the Rockhampton War Memorial commemorates all Rockhampton and district men and women who served or died in World War I, World War II, the Korean, Malaysian and Borneo campaigns, and the Vietnam War. A war trophy, a German-built Krupp gun reportedly captured by the 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment at the Battle of Beersheba in October 1917, is located near the pathway to the memorial. As well, nearby, there is a monument to Australia’s National Servicemen, who served in the periods 1951-1959 and 1965-1972.

The Rockhampton War Memorial was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 21 October 1992.

How Rockhampton commemorated Anzac Day 1944

In its publication of 26 April 1944, Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin devoted a significant portion to reporting the city’s Anzac Day events. The detailed reports were introduced by the following summary statement [7]:

The undying flame kindled on Gallipoli 29 years ago grows with the years. In Rockhampton yesterday the commemoration of Anzac Day was observed with traditional simplicity and solemnity. The dawn service at the war memorial was followed in the forenoon by a march of approximately 200 returned men through the streets to city churches, where commemorative services were conducted. At all churches large congregations attended. In the afternoon returned personnel from both wars, representatives of local bodies and auxiliaries and thousands of civilians gathered at the war memorial in the Botanic Gardens. The day’s observances concluded with a well-attended national concert in the School of Arts.

Dawn service

The dawn service was well attended. The Right Rev Fortescue Ash, Anglican Bishop of Rockhampton, led the service. [8] He was clearly an appropriate person to do so, as he had been an army chaplain and served in France during World War I.

In his opening remarks, Bishop Ash quoted John Masefield, the author of Gallipoli, who described the Dardanelles campaign:

…not as a tragedy, nor a mistake, but as a great human effort, which came more than once very near to triumph, achieved the impossible many times, and failed in the end, as many great deeds of arms have failed, from something which had nothing to do with arms nor with the men who have them. That the effort failed is not against it; much that is most splendid in military history failed, many great things and noble men have failed.

Bishop Ash went on to describe in detail the events leading up to and culminating in the fateful Gallipoli landing. He declared the soldiers’ task a “tough job” and hailed their noble sacrifice. He reminded those present that, in the first day’s fighting after the landing, half of Australia’s First Division was lost. But those who survived never gave up. They fought on valiantly and, five days after the landing, settled down to a long trench warfare. [9]

1915. In an Australian trench at Anzac showing a man using a periscope rifle, while a comrade ‘spots’ for him through a periscope. The periscope rifle was invented by an Australian soldier on Gallipoli. Photo source: Australian War Memorial. Public domain.
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1915. In an Australian trench at Anzac showing a man using a periscope rifle, while a comrade ‘spots’ for him through a periscope. The periscope rifle was invented by an Australian soldier on Gallipoli. Photo source: Australian War Memorial. Public domain.

Bishop Ash concluded his address with the rhetorical question, “How can we make good for their sakes?” His answer: “The Christian religion is the only true way. The fact that the returned men themselves, who were there want this dawn service year after year is rather proof that they think so.” He appealed to those gathered to remember in their prayers all those who made the great sacrifice and to make a solemn resolution to do their best during the coming years to live lives worthy of their own Christian calling. [10]

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PERSONAL PROFILE: The Right Rev Fortescue Leo Ash (1882-1956)

Fortescue Leo Ash was born at Singleton, New South Wales, on 26 August 1882. He was destined to become the fourth and first Australian-born bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Rockhampton (1928-1946). To the present day, Fortescue Ash remains the longest-serving Anglican bishop of Rockhampton. [11]

After completing a Bachelor of Arts at St Paul’s College, The University of Sydney, Ash studied for the ministry at St John’s College, Armidale. He was ordained in 1910. His first appointment, as curate, was to St Anne’s, Strathfield, New South Wales. Several years later Ash came to Queensland, where he served as rector at Ravenswood, then Bowen, before joining the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in Mackay, Queensland, on 17 March 1918. Appointed to the Chaplain’s Department as chaplain (4th class), he left Australia on 22 March 1918 for England, then France. He returned to Australia on 5 September 1919. [12]

On his return to the Anglican ministry, Rev Ash was rector at Mackay, then Warwick, before his election to the episcopacy, Diocese of Rockhampton, in 1927. He served as Anglican Bishop of Rockhampton from 1928 to 1946. [13]

In 1946, after resigning the episcopy, Ash was appointed Commissioner of the Centenary War Memorial Appeal, tasked to raise £100,000 and enlist 50 new missionaries for Anglican church work in New Guinea. During the six years he fulfilled this role, Ash travelled widely throughout Australia and New Guinea and raised far more than the £100,000 target and enlisted many more than 50 new missionaries. [14]

The Right Rev Fortescue Ash died in Sydney on 22 April 1956. He was 71. At the time he was still serving the Anglican Church, as acting rector of St Anne’s, Strathfield, New South Wales, where he first ministered as a curate, so many years before. [15]

Street march and church services

Commencing at 10:00 am, about 200 returned soldiers and current servicemen (and women) marched from Anzac House (at the corner of East and Archer streets) along East, Denham, Campbell, William and Bolsover streets, en route to their respective churches (St Joseph’s Cathedral, St Paul’s Cathedral, St Andrew’s Church) or the School of Arts. Brigadier General W G (“William George”) Thompson and Alderman Henry Jeffries, Mayor of Rockhampton, took the salute as the parade passed the Rockhampton Post Office. [16]

PERSONAL PROFILE: Brigadier General William George Thompson (1863-1953)

William Thompson was born in Ireland but came to Australia when he was 14 months old. He attended North Rockhampton State School, started work at 11, and went on to establish his own businesses in Rockhampton. While a young man, he was elected to the North Rockhampton Borough Council and served as its mayor from 1890 to 1906.

Thompson’s military career commenced in 1889 when he joined the 2nd Queensland Mounted Infantry. He was a junior captain in charge of troops at Clermont during the shearers’ strike of 1891. He served as second in command of the Queensland contingent at the Boer War (South Africa).

At the outbreak of World War I, he was 52, so too old for active service. Instead, he commanded Queensland’s largest army training camp and afterwards convoy troops and transporters at sea. Thompson retired from the army in 1921, with the rank of brigadier general and, in 1925, retired from business. Between 1922 and 1932, Thompson served in the Commonwealth Parliament as a senator for Queensland, and overlapping this period, he presided over the Rockhampton Chamber of Commerce for 16 years. [17, 18]

Following Thompson’s death in Sydney in 1953, the Rockhampton City Council created a park “General Thompson Memorial Park” at the junction of Queen Elizabeth Drive and Musgrave Street, North Rockhampton, in his honour. His ashes are interred there. [19]

PERSONAL PROFILE: Alderman Henry Jeffries (1889-1971)

Henry Jeffries was first elected to the Rockhampton City Council in 1939 as an alderman. He went on to serve three consecutive terms as Mayor of Rockhampton, from 1943 to 1952. During his term as mayor, he oversaw construction of the new Fitzroy Bridge and drew up plans for redevelopment of the Fitzroy riverbank as a recreational area in the city centre. Unfortunately, the latter was never realised in his lifetime.  [20]

Henry Jeffries, Mayor of Rockhampton (1943-1952). Photo source: The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin archives. Public domain.
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Henry Jeffries, Mayor of Rockhampton (1943-1952). Photo source: The Rockhampton Morning Bulletin archives. Public domain.

The church services were well attended and solemnised as follows [21].

At St Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral, Rev Father T Page, assisted by Rev Fathers T Murphy and F Smith, conducted the solemn Requiem Mass. Rev Father F Hayes, priest in charge of the Park Avenue Parish, preached the sermon.

1923. St. Joseph's Catholic Cathedral, Rockhampton. Photo source: State Library of Queensland. Public domain.
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1923. St. Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral, corner of William and West streets, Rockhampton. Photo source: State Library of Queensland. Public domain.

During his message, Father Hayes reminded the congregation that it was just 29 years since the soldiers of Australia and New Zealand (the Anzacs) demonstrated to the world that Australia could take its place with honour amongst the older nations and help bring us peace. However, he went on to say, this peace scarcely outlived a generation, because Australia is again at war:

Gallant men and women of the army, the navy and the air forces of Australia, stand side by side in the cause of justice, freedom and peace. And while they nobly fight, we at home must not forget that the solution of the world’s disorder can only be found when all men [sic.] realise that God must be reinstated in the lives of individuals and from them to their national governments and from national governments to international relationships. If we are to have peace in the world, we must make religion an effective power. The commandments of God must be known, respected and obeyed. As individuals we must practice justice in our relations with other men [sic.]; we must view men [sic.] and ourselves as creatures of God, with rights that are to be respected and duties that are to be fulfilled. As citizens we must see that the State is managed in a Christian way.

St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral was filled to capacity, the congregation made up of a large contingent of returned soldiers, uniformed women (perhaps my mother was one of them), boy scouts and representatives of civic life. Canon J E Dale, rector of St Paul’s Cathedral Parish, celebrated the Eucharist, assisted by the Rev J Foster.

1945. St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, Rockhampton. Photo source: Proposch Family collection.
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1945. St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, William Street, Rockhampton. Photo source: Proposch Family collection.

In his address, Canon Dale used the words “thanksgiving, remembrance and fellowship” to describe the reason for their gathering. As Christians, he said, they thanked God for the sacrifice, death and resurrection of Christ, remembered Him in the Eucharist, and had fellowship with one another because of Christ. Canon Dale then spoke of gratitude, remembrance and fellowship in relation to the Anzacs – old and new, the fallen and those who had returned, and those still serving. He described work, service, suffering and endurance as the essence of the Christian faith. He commended previous generations of men and women of strong faith and earnest moral endeavour, those who realised they were in the hands of God and that there is an eternal standard of right and wrong, based on the nature of God himself.

Canon Dale challenged those present by stating that the democratic nations had slipped badly in recent times, losing their way, as people sought a new and better world of ease and leisure, of freedom without faith, discipline and moral integrity. He is reported as saying:

Thank God we are beginning to realise our tragic mistakes. Through the endeavours of a strong core in our nation, as in others, victory over our present enemies is ahead. But everywhere men and women are looking anxiously for the victory which shall be from within. A new and better world needs new men [sic.]. New men [sic.] can be made by a revival of faith in Christ and a restoration in the hearts and souls of men [sic.] of the Christian moral standard, thus is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.

At St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, the Rev Stewart Lang officiated and gave the address. Rev Lang spoke about the ongoing battle for freedom. He said that the freedom won by those who served in World War I may be our lawful heritage, but it also carries with it a responsibility, including an individual responsibility. Rev Lang spoke of the benefits of democracy, but reminded the congregation that it is not perfect and it too will fail, unless the Kingdom of God reigns in the hearts of men [sic.]. He said:

In the days ahead when the lifeblood of our nation shall be poured forth on other battlefields, we must remember that it is “the truth that shall make us free” (John 8:32).

Rev Lang gave the Anzacs – old and new – as examplars of the kind of courage, willing self-sacrifice, comradeship and unselfish service needed by all Australians, as we grapple with the problems of the democratic state and seek to achieve lasting peace and freedom.

Undated. The former St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Bolsover Street, Rockhampton. Photo source: David Tootell.
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Undated. The former St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, corner of Bolsover and Derby streets, Rockhampton. Photo source: David Tootell.

At the Rockhampton School of Arts, Rev G M McAdam, of the Rockhampton Baptist Tabernacle, led a non-denominational commemorative service on behalf of the Rockhampton Ministers’ Association.

In his address, Rev McAdam focussed on the spirit of the Anzacs. He drew attention to their ordinariness but highlighted their genuine selflessness. He explained how these men willingly subordinated their individual considerations (comfort, safety, security, personal prosperity) to those of the general good.

Now, I believe that is the only spirit that makes a mass of people into a nation. A nation is much more than the sum of many individuals. A nation must be a unity, an entity, a whole. A mass of people, to be worthy of the name of a nation, must have a nation’s heart and a national conscience. That can come only through each individual thinking primarily in terms of the general good rather than of his own personal advancement.

Rev McAdam said that our nation is presently crying out for the spirit of the Anzacs. He quoted the Apostle Paul, who wrote, “Let each esteem the other as greater than himself” (Philippians 2:3). Our hope lies in how we learn to give without expecting anything in return.

The challenge of Anzac Day to Australia is to be a country that is Christian in more than name. We must accept and apply Christ’s teaching of brotherhood. We must believe that national greatness is not to be measured wholly in terms of navies and armies and air fleets nor of commercial prosperity; but that it is to be measured in the first place by national character: unselfishness, service, brotherliness. We must believe that for ourselves and our children: growth in goodness is more important than the growth of a bank balance!

Former Rockhampton School of Arts, Bolsover Street, Rockhampton. Photo source: Salecich collection 2017.
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Former Rockhampton School of Arts, Bolsover Street, Rockhampton. Photo source: Salecich collection 2017.

Procession and commemorative service

In the afternoon, many thousands of people lined the route of the procession from the assembly point at the corner of Ward and Agnes streets, along Agnes, Spencer and Ann streets to the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens and the city’s war memorial.

The Rockhampton Salvation Army Band led the procession, followed by returned soldiers and members of the 2nd AIF, representatives of the Girls’ Grammar School, Boys’ Grammar School and the Australian Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD), the combined Rockhampton City and Labour bands, and representatives of the Allenstown Junior Red Cross, Women’s National Emergency Legion (WNEL), Buffalo Lodge, Boy Scouts and Cubs. Brigadier General W G Thompson and Alderman H Jeffries, Mayor of Rockhampton, took the salute at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens. [22]

The photograph (above), taken in 1942, shows members of the Women’s National Emergency Legion (WNEL) in a field picking cotton. In the group are Mrs Myra Kelly, commandant of Rockhampton WNEL 1942-1945 (far left), and her daughter Ruth Kelly (later Ross) (far right). WNEL was a voluntary organisation whose members helped out in hospitals, on farms, as air spotters and in other areas of need within the community. Photo source: Australian War Memorial. Public domain.

A record crowd attended the service at the Rockhampton War Memorial. Alderman H Jeffries, who presided, introduced the two speakers, Brigadier C H Terracini (North Queensland Division, Salvation Army) and Rev J Tainton (Campbell Street Methodist Church). The service proceeded as follows. [23]

Brigadier Terracini began by addressing the children, encouraging them to follow the God of the Bible, specifically the teachings of Moses and Jesus. He went on to say that the nation’s present sad state is due to a rejection of Biblical teaching. Brigadier Terracini gave the Anzacs as exemplars of sacrifice, courage, justice, truth and honour, but reminded those present that these qualities (which we all need) can only come through men and women “transformed by the power of God, and as a gift through his Divine Son”.

Rev Tainton proposed the following resolutions, which those present confirmed by a show of hands:

On the 29th anniversary of the immortal landing on Gallipoli, this meeting of citizens of Queensland expresses its unalterable loyalty to the Throne and Empire and its admiration of the magnificent heroism self-sacrifice, and endurance of the sailors and soldiers and nursing sisters of Australia and New Zealand, who, on the first Anzac Day and throughout the Great War, conferred a glory on Australia and New Zealand that will never fade, and which will ever serve as an ideal to those who in the armed forces of the Commonwealth on sea, on land, and in the air are following their example.

This meeting voices its heartfelt sympathy with the relatives of those who died, and with those who have suffered on behalf of the Empire, and its assurance that those who have fallen, and those who have survived the perils of war, will ever be remembered with gratitude by the people whose hearths and homes and free institutions they voluntarily went forth to save.

In his address, Rev Tainton described Anzac Day as our solemn and sacred national day “when all our divisions are forgotten and when, together, we rededicate ourselves to the high task of keeping the flame of self-sacrifice, service, courage, devotion to duty and brotherhood burning in the hearts of all true Australians”. He likened the spirit of the Anzacs to that of our British forefathers and our Australian pioneers. He said all of these men have left us a rich heritage – of faith, courage, sacrifice, service and a high sense of duty. Rev Tainton said Australia needs more of the spirit of the Anzacs:

We need more of the spirit of sacrificial service, a higher sense of duty, a stronger Christian conscience, and a greater spirit of comradeship and goodwill. When this conflict is over and our men and women return, let it be our task and theirs to rebuild all the waste places and to create a richer, cleaner, nobler form of society.

The service included two traditional Anzac Day hymns “O God our help in ages past” and “Nearer my God to Thee” sung to the accompaniment of the Salvation Army Band under the baton of Bandmaster A Smith. Mr F Limpus played “The Last Post”.

The solemn ceremony ended with laying of wreaths at the foot of the war memorial and singing of the National Anthem.

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National concert

The auditorium of the Rockhampton School of Arts was packed for the national concert, the final event scheduled for Rockhampton’s commemoration of Anzac Day 1944. The charity event, in aid of Kingshome, a home for ex-servicemen in Brisbane, and the Distressed Diggers’ Fund of the Rockhampton RSSAILA Sub-branch, was organised by Mr William Franks, a well-known Rockhampton identity. With so many accomplished local artists participating, the concert was a great success. [24]

The photograph (above) shows Kingshome, located on Swann Road, Taringa, was a home for ex-servicemen. It housed 64 men, each in their own room. The property had extensive grounds and was able to have 10 dairy cows, a large poultry run and an extensive vegetable garden to supply residents with fresh food. Photo source: State Library of Queensland. Public domain.

The Mayor, Mr H Jeffries, introduced the guest speaker, Colonel George Herbert Bourne, a distinguished World War I veteran. Colonel Bourne began his address by acknowledging the privilege of commemorating another Anzac Day [25]:

We, to whom this day means so much, make no apology for treating it as a holy day, a solemn day, but a proud day, the day of remembrance, the day for recalling the great and noble sacrifices made on the first Anzac Day and throughout the first World War.

Colonel Bourne spoke of the great and noble sacrifices of the first Anzacs, but also praised the men and women who had served – and were still serving – their country with honour during the past 5 years. At the conclusion of his address, Colonel Bourne proposed the resolutions, identical to those carried at the war memorial that afternoon, which were carried in silence.

PERSONAL PROFILE: Colonel George Herbert Bourne (1881-1959)

Brisbane-born George Herbert Bourne, soldier and bank manager, was the manager of the Rockhampton branch of the Bank of New South Wales from 1938 to 1946. During his time in Rockhampton, he was actively involved in the local community and church.

Bourne’s military service commenced in 1905 when he joined the Commonwealth Military Forces. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the 14th Australian Light Horse Regiment in 1908 and by the time he volunteered for service in World War I he was a major. Bourne joined the AIF on 21 August 1914 and served with great distinction at Gallipoli and in the Middle East.

He was Commanding Officer of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment and, for “conspicuous gallantry” during a 1916 engagement, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). Bourne returned to Australia in April 1919 and, in June 1919, returned to his banking career. He later wrote The History of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment, Australian Imperial Force, August 1914 – April 1919. [26]

The following photograph shows the Commanding Officer and officers of the 2nd Australian Light Horse Regiment. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel George Herbert Bourne DSO, is seated in the centre of the front row. Taken at Jerusalem, Palestine, November, 1918. (Source: Australian War Memorial. Public domain.)

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Which one of these events might my mother have attended on Anzac Day 1944?

I can only surmise. This I do know, however: She would have been so proud, as a member of the WAAAF, to participate in any one of these events.

Within a year of her transfer to Rockhampton, ACW Evelyn Beaumont applied for and was granted early release from the WAAAF on compassionate grounds. On 26 March 1945, at Rockhampton’s St Paul’s Cathedral, she married Lieutenant William Proposch, of the 2nd AIF. As the newlyweds headed for Sydney (where Lt Proposch was due to take up a new appointment), they spent several days at Ballina, in northern New South Wales. Here they commemorated Anzac Day 1945 and watched the local street parade from the first floor balcony of their hotel. The war had still not ended.

1945. Anzac Day march, Ballina, New South Wales. Photo source: Proposch Family collection.
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1945. Anzac Day march, Ballina, New South Wales. Photo source: Proposch Family collection.

EPILOGUE

The events, places and people described in this account reveal the values, beliefs and attitudes held by most Australians and predominant in Australian society 77 years ago.

Plainly, much has changed in our nation and society since that time. Australia as we know it today is not the same as it was in 1944. Some of the changes that we are aware of have been for our betterment; some have been detrimental.

Australian society today is unquestionably more inclusive than it was in 1944, but it’s also incredibly fractured and less tolerant. This is one example. Here are a few more examples for your consideration. In Australia today –

  • individualism and independence are valued more than cooperation and conformity
  • self-interest trumps self-sacrifice, fear overtakes courage, rights take precedence over responsibilities, truth and authenticity give way to political correctness
  • the standard of living is high – we are rich in possessions, but poor in spirit – instead of gratefulness, there’s greed, instead of contentment, there’s relentless striving
  • the secular overshadows the sacred; the gods of science and economics have replaced the God of the Bible; the Christian faith is no longer front and centre of the public arena
  • there’s peace – but battles within and without, with enemies of a different kind.

For reflection: A short poem by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

THE WONDER
Body and Spirit I surrendered whole
To harsh Instructors — and received a soul . . .
If mortal man could change me through and through
From all I was — what may The God not do?

From Epitaphs of the War 1914-1918
Rudyard Kipling (1919) 

REFERENCES

  1. RAAF Historical Section (1995). Units of the Royal Australian Air Force: A Concise History. Volume 1: Introduction, Bases, Supporting Organisations. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.
  2. Rockhampton Airfield (Connor Park). (Undated). Pacific Wrecks. (Website). Retrieved on April 17, 2021, from https://www.pacificwrecks.com/airfields/australia/rockhampton/index.html
  3. Arrangements For Anzac Day Commemoration (1944, April 18). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved April 17, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56305625
  4. Queensland Government. Queensland Heritage Register (website). ‘Rockhampton War Memorial’. Retrieved on April 17, 2021, from: https://apps.des.qld.gov.au/heritage-register/detail/?id=600818
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. COMMEMORATION OF ANZAC DAY (1944, April 26). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved April 17, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56306203
  8. DAWN SERVICE (1944, April 26). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved April 17, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56306166
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Anglican Diocese of Rockhampton. (2021). Wikipedia. (Website). Accessed on April 20, 2021.
  12. National Archives of Australia: Records search; B2455, ASH, Fortescue Leo, c. 1914 – c. 1920. Retrieved April 17, 2021.
  13. TOWN & COUNTRY (1919, October 17). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved April 19, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40323897 
  14. DEATH OF BISHOP ASH (1956, April 26). The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1930 – 1956), p. 17. Retrieved April 17, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article79263311
  15. Ibid.
  16. Church Services (1944, April 26). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved April 17, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56306205
  17. William George Thompson. Wikipedia (Website). Retrieved on April 17, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Thompson_(Australian_politician)
  18. McDonald, L. (1981). Rockhampton: A History of City and District. St Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press.
  19. GEN. THOMPSON MEMORIAL PARK (1953, June 25). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved April 21, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57259639
  20. Henry Jeffries. Wikipedia (Website). Retrieved on April 17, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Jeffries
  21. Church Services (1944, April 26). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved April 17, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56306205
  22. Solemn Service At War Memorial (1944, April 26). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved April 17, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56306204
  23. Ibid.
  24. HALL PACKED AT NATIONAL CONCERT (1944, April 26). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved April 17, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56306164
  25. HONOUR FOR MR W. FRANKS (1953, July 28). Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 – 1954), p. 7. Retrieved April 17, 2021, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57263057
  26. M W Farmer (1979). ‘Bourne, George Herbert (1881-1959)’ in Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved on April 17, 2021, from https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bourne-george-herbert-5306
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Judith Salecich

Writer, researcher, former secondary and tertiary teacher and public servant, wife, mother, grandmother, child of God, photography enthusiast, lover of life, history, food and all things creative.

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10 thoughts on “How one Australian city commemorated Anzac Day 1944”

  1. Another well detailed story Judith. I read where your Mum transferred from Brisbane Clerk in Signals to Rockhampton early 1944. A lot of work was done on the Airports to accomodate the extra Air traffic It certainly was a long day of activite”s celebrating Anzac Day from 4am Dawn Parade up until the Concert at 8pm. I think a lot of the dawn busters would not have been around for the Concert.What a picture the gardens were all the lawns and plants looking so fresh. W.G. Thompson in charge at Clermont during the big Shearers strike 1891.I beleiive it was a rough time in Barcaldine at that time.It is nice to see that the different churches all held services for the Anzacs and families. Rev Taiton in his speech said that the Anzac Day has left us a Rich Heritage which it has.We have to understand that this is now a totally different time to what it was in 1944, some things are better for us and a lot we are worse off . It was good to see The Salvo’s leading the procession and it was well attended. Evelyn being granted early release on compassionate grounds getting married and seeing the 1945 Anzac Day parade at Ballina NSW and what a nice place to watch it

    Reply
    • Maurie, you have provided a great synopsis of my story! Well done. You are clearly a person with great attention to detail, and one with a great memory. I really appreciate you sharing your response to my Anzac Day story. Many blessings, Judy.

  2. Wonderful account of what Anzac Day used to be like. Nowadays, unfortunately, it seems that interest is waning. I read an article only a few days ago which stated:-
    “Estimated crowds at dawn services fell by about 70% between 2015 and 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to research conducted by senior history lecturer at Flinders University Dr Romain Fathi.”
    Your account has special resonance for me as I was born in Rockhampton, my paternal grandfather fought in the Boer War, my maternal grandfather fought in WWI (awarded the Military Medal), and my father fought in WWII in New Guinea. Grandma & Grandad lived exactly opposite Saint Joseph’s and Canon Dale married Mum & Dad in 1945. In those early years of my life Anzac Day was, for many years, still the sacred day that it had been at the time about which you write but, as has been said, interest has eroded.
    The reasons? I believe that you have stated them succinctly, Judith, in the closing portion of your story. More’s the pity.

    Reply
    • Dear John.
      Thank you for your well-written and well-considered response to my story. I always appreciate feedback, and yours is most encouraging.
      Your family’s involvement in Australia’s past military offensives is quite impressive. You have much to remember and be thankful for. I was particularly interested to read that your parents married in 1945 (like mine) and that Canon Dale was their marriage celebrant. Canon Dale also conducted my parents’ wedding that year.
      Like you, I grew up in Rockhampton and well remember Anzac Day commemorations, particularly in the late 1950s – early 1960s. On a couple of occasions, I participated in the afternoon procession to the Botanic Gardens and the service at the war memorial.
      Thank you also for sharing your insights about Anzac Day commemorations today, compared with those of the past.
      Kind regards, Judy.

  3. Dear Judy
    I have been following your blog and have not yet commented but wish to thank you for your well researched and poignant writing – so enjoyable and informative. I too have some family history in Rockhampton which I am keen to explore. Thanks again for your inspirational writing.

    Reply
    • Dear Kathryn. Your comments are so encouraging. Thank you. I am so pleased you appreciate my research and writing. I must say that I learn such a lot myself as I carry out the research and reflect on what I discover, Then I have to work on how to put it all together in a story that challenges, inspires or moves others. I hope you continue to follow my blog and find my stories helpful. Blessings, Judy.

  4. Hello Judy You have done so well with your story. The horrors of war and the
    scars left on so many. It is wonderful to see the memorials which have been
    built in memory of those who gave their lives. The memorial at Emu Park
    is something to see. If you haven’t seen it you must do so. It is just so
    powerful. Our thanks for a wonderful tribute.
    . i

    Reply
    • Dear Margaret. Thank you for your kind words re my story. Yes, there are many and varied memorials throughout Australia, each one special for the community they represent. I have visited the Emu Park memorial and taken lots of photographs there. You are right – it is a very powerful and beautiful monument to those who have served. Love to you and Nev, Judy. xx

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Short stories from the heart...about life, family and local history, people, places and food.

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