The Forgotten, Original, Anzac Memorial (1915)


 The Anzac memorial, Adelaide. Picture: Michael ChurchThe Dardanelles memorial , possibly Australia’s first monument to the original Anzacs, is now ignored and forgotten in Lundie Gardens on South Terrace.

An obscure war memorial in the South Park lands, opposite the Trades and Labour Council building, is possibly Australia's first monument to the original Anzacs.

Inscribed "Dardanelles, April 25th, 1915", the granite obelisk was dedicated on Tuesday, September 7, 1915, while the Anzac Corp was still hopelessly pinned down on the shores of Gallipoli. The memorial remembers not just the landing but, from the cross atop it, the dead.

It was erected in a heady atmosphere of ultranationalism, driven by the heart-breaking casualties, a decline in recruiting troops to such a hopeless cause, division over conscription, and the desire to prove our commitment to the Imperial effort as a young nation in a European war.

Even the Governor General Sir Ronald Munro-Ferguson, a military Scot and former British MP, thought it worth his while to make the long train journey to Adelaide to give the memorial his vice-regal tick.

The unveiling occurred on Wattle Day, in a grove of newly planted wattle trees originally along Sir Lewis Cohen Drive. That evening, a patriotic concert was held at the Norwood Town Hall.

The memorial's enthusiastic promoter, designer and builder was Walter Torode, a solid citizen with a genius for self promotion. He was also responsible for producing some of Adelaide's best-known city landmarks.

Described as "vigorous and genial" by the accounts of the time, Torode was prominent in the Wattle League, a middle class group of hip-hip-hooray nationalists who favoured cornpulsory military training and a White Australia.

He was among the first to promote the exploits of the Anzac Corps as a quintessentially Australian contribution to the Imperial war effort, and also was later credited as the originator of tree planting in memory of Australian soldiers.

Torode's effort

Torode organised for the memorial to be erected at no cost to the public purse. The materials and labour were, as The Register noted, "given voluntarily and cheerfully by Australian Britons, each of whom was anxious to 'do his little bit' to bring to a successful culmination a plan so patriotic".

At an afternoon tea put on for the workmen who erected the obelisk, on the Saturday prior to the official unveiling, it was noted that several men who lived at Mount Lofty had taken the afternoon off to help out, and that a carter had arisen at 3am to bring the stones to the grove.

The foreman, a J. Meinchke from Kapunda, told the assembly that while he had a German name, he was patriotically proud of his British citizenship. It was also noted that the grove of wattles was supplied by the Botanic Gardens whose director was Dr Holtze.

The Register's account of the afternoon tea pushed all the right nationalist buttons: the obelisk was a "splendid patriotic enterprise", and those involved regarded it as a "duty and a privilege", and three cheers for King and Country.

But, by the 1930s, the obelisk and the wattle grove had become an eyesore. It was the Great Depression. The plantation had been allowed to run wild and, as The Advertiser reported in June, 1935, "from axe marks on some of the larger trees it would appear that someone has found cheap firewood in this reserve".

A surrounding pergola had become so overgrown with creepers, the obelisk was now completely obscured from passers-by.

Adelaide City Council decided the memorial should be transferred from its original site on Sir Lewis Cohen Drive, to its existing location in Lundie Gardens, on South Tee, the site of a World War 1 military camp.

It was moved in October, 1940, at a cost of 25, and was extensively renovated in 1969, again at a time when Australian troops were fighting overseas.

The original wattle grove site is still shown on some street directories even though the trees are all but gone.

Anzac Day draws large and increasing crowds to dawn services and the march afterwards, to the extent that it has a legitimate claim to be the one, true national day.

On Anzac Day 1998, not even a wreath was laid at the Dardanelles Memorial.

 


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