narrabeen cenotaph and RSL History: Two Anniversaries in 2021 - ANZAC Day tributes
The Narrabeen RSL Club in its present location has been servicing and supporting the community since 1956, which means this year the club and its members are celebrating their 65th year. The club would like to hear from or see any old photographs people have associated with its members and history.
This year, 2021, also marks a centenary for another tribute to those who have served our country from Narrabeen - the installation in October 1921 of a War Trophy, or German Machine Gun captured in France in the triangular reserve at the corner of Ocean street and Pittwater road Narrabeen which today serves as a cenotaph for all conflicts Narrabeen residents, and members of the RSL.
When a search of the National Archives of Australia is done there are numerous residents of Narrabeen who will be represented, not all of them from Narrabeen as the district as a Parish extended into Pittwater and some names are from Mona Vale, Newport and further afield, but of those who are known to have been residents of this place then, there are few families whose sons and daughters did not serve in WWI, WWII and conflicts Australians have served in since.
Many of the street names of Narrabeen, when these first began to be allocated and then expanded from 1881 on were given to honour the names of famous generals and soldiers of the past by John Wetherill. This was reiterated as the suburb grew and subdivisions followed the 1913 opening of a tramline to the Narrabeen terminus near the lagoon itself.
When Britain declared war on Germany on August 4th 1914, most Australians, who had strong ties to the ‘mother country’, responded with great enthusiasm. They had little idea of how long, and how devastating, the war would prove to be. At that time, most people living in Australia were known as British subjects (it was not until 1949 that the status of ‘Australian citizen’ was created under the Nationality and Citizenship Act). The declaration of war came in the middle of a federal election campaign in Australia. Even before war broke out, Prime Minister Joseph Cook and Opposition Leader Andrew Fisher had pledged their full support for the British Empire. In a speech at Horsham, Victoria, on 31 July 1914, Cook said, ‘Remember that when the Empire is at war, so is Australia at war … all our resources in Australia are ... for the preservation and the security of the Empire.’ On the same day, in Colac, Fisher declared, ‘Australians will stand beside our own to help and defend her [Britain] to our last man and our last shilling.’
During the course of World War I, approximately 420,000 Australians volunteered to serve in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), and many more attended medical examinations but were rejected. The AIF’s name acknowledged Australia’s national identity while at the same time declaring its allegiance to the British Empire. Of the 324,000 members of the AIF who served overseas, more than 60,000 were killed and 156,000 were wounded or taken prisoner.
In 1914, the Australian public celebrated its allegiance to the British Empire in a variety of ways. Britain was widely referred to as ‘the mother country’; school children swore allegiance to the King and learned about the Empire and its values through textbooks, songs and plays; and images of the King were displayed in schools and other public buildings. Empire Day was celebrated each year on 24 May – the birthday of Queen Victoria – with gun salutes, displays of the Union Jack, patriotic music and speeches, and street carnivals with bonfires and fireworks.
References and Extras
- TROVE - National Library of Australia
- Pittwater Roads II: Where the Streets Have Your Name - Narrabeen
- Furlough House, Narrabeen – Restful Sea Breezes For Children And Mothers