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Two War Memorials in Kingston

In the city of Kingston, a sprawling bayside municipality with Carrum at its southern boundary, there are more than twenty war memorials, most dedicated to soldiers who took part in World Wars One and Two. One of these memorials, built in 1922, is located on the Carrum foreshore in a park aptly named ‘The Beauty Spot’, and another is located in the town centre of Chelsea. These memorials have always played a key role in not only ANZAC day services but also as a perpetual reminder of the human cost of war. The investigation of these two memorials allows a better understanding of the contribution war memorials in general, and these memorials in particular make to the local community.

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Memorial at Beauty Spot.

Australians always seem to have had great respect and admiration for those who were prepared to give their lives in the spirit of freedom. The ANZAC legend has endured eighty decades. Gallipoli was the first test for the Australian nation, and as such it was a make or break situation. With so many having given their life, many small communities were affected. In small communities such as Carrum and Chelsea, which only numbered 1,150 collectively in 1922, fifteen young men from Carrum alone never returned from war, a seemingly small number now, but a shock for a relatively naive, newly federated nation and small community. [1]

In 1922 after the enormous casualties in the First World War, and with much sentiment regarding the loss still present in the community the people of Carrum resolved to construct a war memorial. The South Ward War Memorial committee was made up of five permanent members who were responsible for the raising of revenue, the design of the memorial and the organising of the opening ceremony. It was built as the monument itself proclaims ‘in grateful remembrance of the heroes of Carrum who made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War.’ [2] It was thought by the members of the South Ward committee, led by the town mayor Cr. W. Stephens, that the remembrance of past losses would led to the prevention of future losses. [3] The memorial ‘(occupied) a commanding position on Point Nepean Road, close to the railway in the heart of the town’, so that all members of the community could acknowledge the memorial and, thus, acknowledge the significance of its existence. The local paper The Borough of Carrum Gazette reported the unveiling on the November 18,1922 and the main speaker Returned Chaplain Dexter summed up perfectly the motivation for the monuments construction. It was said that the monument was an emblem of gratitude, a remembrance. It was not erected as a matter of self-glorification but as a token of love. [4]

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Inscription on the front of the Beauty Spot Memorial.

The present Chelsea memorial on the other hand was built primarily because the previous cenotaph had been demolished to make way for municipal building in the late 1960s. [5] Eric Saynor of Chelsea Methodist Church dedicated it on November 11,1973. [6] He summed up the motivation for its construction in his opening speech at the dedication stating, ‘Man is a forgetful creature. He needs to have ways of remembering, he needs to have his memory jogged.’ [7] His speech further indicated how the current social climate, one of significant anti-war sentiment, impacted not only on the construction of the memorial, but also on what was said at the dedication of the memorial. ‘There is a section of the community which is out of harmony with ceremonies of this sort. They say that this is a glorification of war, but it is important that we never forget the peace we enjoy was costly in human lives.” [8]

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The memorial in front of the Town Hall of the former City Of Chelsea.

Here we can already see differences between the Carrum and Chelsea memorials emerging. Whereas Carrum’s monument was built immediately after World War One, Chelsea’s was built five decades later, which has subsequently effected the motivation for the construction of both memorials. The fact that the Chelsea memorial was constructed so much later means that its purpose was rather an ongoing recognition of all casualties in all conflicts in which Australians were involved. Chelsea’s was tailored to be a perpetual reminder of sacrifice rather than a display of gratitude, whereas the Carrum memorial was a specific, almost immediate, response to the First World War, more as a display of the community’s gratitude for the contribution of fifteen men.

Each memorial’s inscription further acknowledges this. Carrum’s is inscribed with ‘grateful remembrance’, indicative of everlasting thanks. Chelsea’s is inscribed with ‘lest we forget’ suggesting more the importance of remembering and acknowledging the atrocities of war. In a society such as Carrum where the local newspaper of 1921 was employing psychics to write columns about the location of the brave dead soldiers in an effort to placate the mothers and wives of the heroes who lost their lives in the Great War, [9] it is not surprising the construction of a memorial in Carrum would be aimed rather at a constant symbol of gratitude to those who were prepared to pay the ultimate price, in what was previously an unimaginable state of total war. Carrum’s memorial seems more personalised to the residents of Carrum and the price paid by those fifteen men whose names are inscribed on it. Chelsea on the other hand seems more generalised and has applicability to everyone. Perhaps this is due to the fact that in light of World War Two, Vietnam and Korea, the Chelsea memorial needed to have wider appeal.

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Inscription on the Chelsea Memorial.

The reference to the peace rallies of the seventies reinforces the significance of later conflicts such as Vietnam and World War Two on the dedication of this memorial. The Carrum memorial dedication makes no reference to any anti-war sentiment primarily because the thought at the time would have been considered abhorrent. Thus we find further evidence for the claim that as a result of conflicts occurring after World War One Chelsea’s memorial is more a symbol of remembrance than thanks. With the social climate at the time a monument which was openly thankful would have been considered too controversial and indicative of some sort of glorification of war, which is exactly what the Returned Servicemen’s Women’s League in its designs of the memorial wanted to avoid.

Henderson Brothers designed the Carrum war memorial after initial debate regarding what type of monument was to be built. [10] It was a rather contentious issue at the time the South Ward Memorial Fund committee was originally formed because of conflicting views on the issue. [11] On the June 11, 1921 the committee held a meeting where the various plans were considered. Following this meeting, because of unresolved conflict, the memorial committee wrote to the local council asking for steps to be taken to conduct a plebiscite of the ratepayers at the next municipal election on the form and situation of the proposed memorial. [12]

The idea was later vetoed as it was considered too expensive. There were, however, extensive debates regarding what would be the best use of memorial funds. Suggestions included:

- The erection of a technical school which was later considered impractical because of cost
- A high school
- A memorial hall
- A monument [13]

What was foremost in the minds of the committee members was what would serve the purpose of gratitude and remembrance best. By October 1922 the committee had decided, with the assistance of the community, that a monument would be the most practical, money-wise. Also, in terms of sanctity of the memorial, some felt that it would be disrespectful for a gymkhana or hall to be constructed in lieu of a monument. A hall, it was decided, would conflict with the sanctity that a memorial to the dead should embody. [14]

By February 9,1922 the memorial had been designed in the form of a soldier in uniform with rifle by his side. The original design, as reported by the Moorabbin News of February 25, 1922 included a sailor by the side of the soldier standing on a small column. However the sailor design never came to fruition and the simple solider design was decided upon as raising revenue for the monument with the soldier itself was difficult enough. [15] Perhaps this is indicative of the community’s lack of interest. However, the historical records of the time tend to indicate that the monument was of great importance to the community. Many community members simply did not have the money to keep giving to the fund, especially in light of the economic situation at the time.

The statue was made in Italy and modelled for by Arthur Fell, a returned Carrum serviceman who illegally joined the army underage so he could be with his brothers, and was the only one of the three who returned. [16] Selected primarily because he exemplified the sound mind and healthy picture of a digger, he was asked to model for statues which would feature in war memorials nationwide. By Remembrance Day 1922 the memorial was ready to be unveiled. [17]

The design of the Chelsea monument, unlike the Carrum counterpart was hardly debated, and there was little to no input from the community. What did encourage debate was the construction of a memorial at all, particularly the removal of the old cenotaph dedicated in 1927 to make way for the new. In one scathing letter to the editor an elderly resident of Chelsea expressed his concern regarding the destruction of the old memorial stating, “What thoughtless people could stoop so low as to remove the memorial. They sure don’t know the constitution of the R.S.L.” [18] The R.S.L responded to such attacks by stating that the old memorial would not blend in with landscaping at the front of the newly constructed town hall. [19]

The monument was constructed of black granite and flanked by red granite columns on either side, engraved with the words ‘lest we forget’. At its dedication the Mayor, Cr. Allen Coombes, recognised the memorial was a “tribute to the local men and women whose war time sacrifices the memorial acknowledges.” [20] He further stated that it was appropriate that it should be located in the heart of the city as “it is where our hearts are and where their hearts were.” [21]

Difference in the design and construction of the two memorials gives further insight into the objectives of these memorials. The Carrum memorial was shaped in the image of a serviceman, and more importantly a local returned serviceman, in contrast to the design of the Chelsea memorial, thus providing further evidence for the claim that the Carrum monument had more specificity to the residents and servicemen of Carrum at the time of its construction. This is as a result of the casualties of the recent war at the time of the memorial’s construction, being on the minds of all Carrum residents. Those killed were considered “simple Australian soldiers not chivalry-trained in the traits of self sacrifice yet their heroism had been unequalled in history.” [22] It reflected the ordinariness of those to whom it paid homage. Chelsea’s was designed to have wider appeal so that it was appropriate not only for those associated with First World War diggers, but also to those who were involved in other services and other conflicts.

The Chelsea memorial in the simplicity of it construction, both in terms of its actual design and the form in which it was designed, provides further insight. The fact that it does not specifically make reference to any soldiers of any particular conflict in my opinion results in it losing effectiveness. Many citizens would be unable to relate to it specifically because of its generality. Some would argue that this would serve only to widen its appeal; rather I see it as being too generalised, too unspecific. If a monument suffers from this then it tends to be ignored. If it had been constructed at the same time as the Carrum memorial then it would have less appeal because of the fact that it would not personify the feelings of the Chelsea population in regard to the loss of life in World War One.

The design of the Chelsea memorial reflects the fact that it was built for a different purpose, a purpose that would only be considered appropriate once the later conflicts had occurred. Its main function, being the monument around which ANZAC day ceremonies are performed, meant it could not be as specific to World War One or to the feelings of the Chelsea people personally. This is both as a consequence of the later conflicts and the fact that Chelsea has grown in population, and with the amalgamation of many local R.S.Ls Chelsea is the place where many people from other suburbs come to celebrate at ANZAC day ceremonies. It had to risk losing specificity to the Chelsea people to gain acceptability by the-wider community. If the monument said ‘from the people of Chelsea in gratitude’ as the Carrum monument states, how could other citizens from the surrounding districts relate? Memorials built after the 1970s need to encompass all conflicts. It would be considered inappropriate for a monument around which ceremonies are performed not to include all conflicts as any exclusive monument would be deemed a silent snub towards the service of those men and women who took part in the unacknowledged conflict.

The differences in what was said at the opening ceremonies illustrates important clues as to how the Second World War and Vietnam influenced the motivation for and the symbolism behind the Carrum and Chelsea monuments. Whilst both ceremonies make reference to the fact that the memorials were not aimed at glorifying war, Carrum’s makes reference to a feeling of gratitude and thanks, while Chelsea’s on the other hand is centred around remembrance. Another aspect where change is noticeable between the two memorials is in their location. Whereas the Chelsea memorial is located outside the town hall in the middle of the town, Carrum’s is located in the more picturesque part of foreshore in all of Kingston. Carrum’s monument location indicates a reflection of the community’s personal connection to the memorial, having it placed in the most scenic area of the town. Chelsea’s location reveals a more functional purpose to the monument. Chelsea’s monument location was decided in the 1970s and Carrum’s in the 1920s so therefore it is obvious that the later conflicts had some influence on the location of the memorial.

Chelsea’s monument was built primarily with the aim of having a monument around which to conduct ANZAC day and Remembrance Day ceremonies. The Carrum memorial was never really intended for this purpose because of the fact that there were numerous halls in the surrounding towns that could adequately fulfil this purpose. After the construction of the Chelsea memorial and Chelsea town hall in the 1970s, allowing locals to travel to Chelsea to take part in the ceremonies there, the use of the Carrum memorial as a site for ceremonies became defunct. It is not known whether the memorial was used for ceremonies leading up to the construction of Chelsea’s monument, because of the lack of acknowledgment of the issue in the local newspapers at the time. What is known however, is that regardless of the monument itself being used as the place for memorials the erection of the Chelsea monument has affected the use of the Carrum monument. People are more likely to go to the Chelsea memorials on days such as ANZAC day and Remembrance day because of the fact that it is the site for ceremonies, which many citizens of the city of Kingston enjoy taking part in.

The usage of Carrum’s memorial has changed more than that of Chelsea’s. Before the Carrum memorials relocation it was the site for ceremonies, but its relocation in the late 1920’s to the park where it is now situated, altered its usage, with it now becoming more of an area for quiet reflection or family barbeques. Chelsea’s memorial has continued to be used for the purposes for which it was built. The usage change of Carrum’s is seen as being due to the fact that in light of recent conflicts it would not be appropriate for a ceremony to be held around a monument which predominantly recognises the contribution of those in the Great War. [23] This is where a less specific, all-war-encompassing memorial such as Chelsea’s is better suited.

Author

Catrina Denvir

Footnotes

  1. Interview with Ron Jacobs President of the Chelsea Historical Society, May 8, 2003, transcripts held privately
  2. Carrum, Memorial Wall Plaque, located at ‘The Beauty Spot’ Nepean Highway, Carrum.
  3. South Ward Memorial Fund ‘Minute Book, 18 September 1922.
  4. Carrum War Memorial Unveiled’ Borough of Carrum Gazette, November 18, 1922.
  5. Denvir, Catrine, Interview with Ron Jacobs President Chelsea historical Society, May 8, 2003.
  6. Chelsea Memorial unveiled’ Mordialloc-Chelsea Standard Wednesday November 21, 1973.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. “Anzac day where are our brave dead?” Moorabbin News, April 15, 1922.
  10. “Carrum News Brief,” Moorabbin News, February 25, 1922.
  11. Denvir, Catrine, lnterview with Ron Jacobs President Chelsea Historical Society, May 8, 2003.
  12. ‘Carrum’s war Memorial: What shall it be?’ Moorabbin News, June 4, 1921.
  13. Ibid.
  14. “South ward Memorial Committee, Minute Book, 9 September, 1922.
  15. Moorabbin News, February 25, 1922.
  16. Denvir, Catrina, Interview with Ron Jacobs President Chelsea Historical Society, May 8, 2003.
  17. Southward Memorial Committee, Minute Book, October 17,1922.
  18. Scott, Bill, ‘Letter to the editor re: removal of Cenotaph,’ Mordialloc-Chelsea Standard, June 20, 1973.
  19. “Removal of Cenotaph” Mordialloc-Chelsea Standard, June 20, 1973.
  20. “Chelsea Memorial Unveiled” Mordialloc-Chelsea Standard, November 21, 1973 page. 2.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Brian Smale reports that the Carrum RSL used the Beauty Spot memorial for Dawn Services for many years. With many members marching along Nepean Highway in the dark, concerns were expressed about the safety of participants. As a result the Carrum RSL built their own cenotaph in the park at the rear of Launching Way where Dawn Services were subsequently held.

Article Cat. At War
Article Ref. 257

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