Friday, April 29, 2011

Country war memorials

In terms of casualties, WWI is still the most costly war fought by Australians. From a population of fewer than 5 million, more than 416,000 men enlisted. More than 60,000 of them died, and a further 156,000 were injured, gassed or taken prisoner. I suppose that it is evidence of our "Britishness" at that time that so many Aussies volunteered to go off to fight in a foreign war, virtually on behalf of England. The attrition rate among the AIF soldiers was amongst the highest, if not the highest, of any country involved in WW1. The Australians left at home were proud of their boys who volunteered for this conflict and grief-stricken at the heavy losses that resulted.

Of these volunteers, rural Australians were over-represented.
Many small country towns found that virtually all their able-bodied men went off to this war. Many didn't return, and those that did return were often in poor shape physically and mentally.

Just as in the city, country towns dug deep to build memorials to those who served, especially honouring those who paid the ultimate price. Beaudesert, south-west of Brisbane, was one such town. It erected a monument showing the names of the 524 men who enlisted, including the 91 of them who died. Here is the monument photographed on the day of its unveiling, 28 September, 1921. The governor, Sir Matthew Nathan was in attendance at the ceremony.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #45691)

The monument was designed by Melbourne firm Standard Masonry Works, and the construction was supervised by Brisbane architect AH Conrad. It cost £1340 to build, making it the fourth-most expensive WW1 memorial in Queensland. The Queensland Heritage Register makes the following comment about the cost of the monument:
"The cost of the monument and the number of enlistments is reflective of the strong patriotism of the district. The number of enlistments is above both the state and national averages and the cost is comparatively high for a rural district."

(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

It seems that Queensland WWI memorials commonly displayed a statue of "the Digger", whereas in other states it was more usual to use an obelisk. The Beaudesert memorial has both. I was able to photograph it recently (above) - it stands on a triangle at the intersection of two major streets in the town centre, and is now unfortunately flanked by American-based fast food outlets.

The following image shows a Digger statue at Pimpama, a little town situated between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. This statue is situated in the grounds of the Pimpama Uniting Church, and the old Pimpama cemetery is in the background.
(Photo: © 2011 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map for Beaudesert, and here for Pimpama.



  1. Country towns certainly gave more than their fair share of young men and country towns were certainly more damaged after the war ended. Last week, I was visiting the tiny towns of Clunes and Creswick in Central Victoria and was again struck by the importance of the memorial in both places for the 1914-18 war.

    But your photos raise two new issues that I hadn't thought of. Firstly the list of precious names needs to be at eye sight and it needs to be renovated over the decades. Secondly the surrounds need to be peaceful, green, silent and not commercial and garish. I would move the Beaudesert memorial to a park or cemetery.

    Thanks for the link

  2. We have close-up photos of the memorial and listing of the names at our WWW site

    Lest we forget.

  3. Also photos and names for Pimpama

    and also for a number of other war memorials


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