Bronze Toukley statues guard men and memories
IT MAY not be large in number but, in its 70th year, the 250-strong Toukley RSL Sub-branch is achieving big things.
Sunday November 11, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, Toukley members will dedicate two 1.8m (6ft) bronze statues as a reminder of all those who have served their country and to act as eternal guardians for the 410 veterans interred in its memorial gardens.
Club president Bob Wilson said the statues of a soldier and sailor, costing $85,000 and each weighing 350kg, stand guard either side of the cenotaph, and are replicas of those at Sydney's Martin Place cenotaph.
The plan is in the near future to replace the cenotaph itself with granite, which will better stand the test of time than the current sandstone monument, and incorporate an eternal flame.
Bob said the plaques which mark the final resting place of so many sub-branch members interred there since the cenotaph was built in 1971, including several Gallipoli veterans, will also be given a granite setting befitting the respect they deserve.
"We think we are the only private military cemetery in Australia," he said.
There are a total of 580 plots, with a further 25 of the 170 remaining already reserved by sub-branch members.
While he admitted $85,000 was "a lot of chook raffles", Bob said the sub-branch had benefitted from a $16,000 Federal Government grant, and wanted to give the community a lasting reminder of the sacrifices of so many men and women in campaigns and service from the First World War to this day.
He hopes that because this Remembrance Day falls on a Sunday, more people will be able to mark the occasion, which generally attracts only a fraction of the 5000 or so who attend Toukley's Anzac Day Dawn Service.
Guest of honour at the dedication ceremony will be Mia Thomas, the 16-year-old great great granddaughter of Alfred Shout, one of the first of seven Lone Pine Victoria Cross recipients.
It is a symbol of the connection between the generations which the sub-branch hopes to promote, with just two Second World War and about 10 Vietnam veterans now among its membership.
The service starts at 10.30am on November 11 at the cenotaph, Main Rd, Toukley.
The club is also celebrating its 70th year with an anniversary dinner at Club Toukley RSL on Saturday, November 3.
For details go to toukleyrslsb.org.au or phone 4396 4855.