I have written separate reviews on Gundagai’s Boer War Memorial, located in front of the town’s ornate court house, and the WWI Memorial at Rusconi Place near the former railway station. Typically, and especially so in smaller country towns, World War I memorials have been expanded to also commemorate sacrifices in WWII and later wars and conflicts. Indeed this occurred in Gundagai but in 1958 a new memorial park, with a grouping of memorials to various wars and conflicts was built in what is now known as ANZAC Park, which also includes a football stadium and various other recreational facilities. This is now Gundagai’s main war memorial.
The ANZAC Park War Memorial is located in a grove of trees which includes 52 Kurrajong trees, one commemorating each person lost in WWI. These line a short avenue – the Walk of Honour – and form part of the Memorial (picture 1). Look carefully and you will notice that the ‘Walk of Honour’ also features some 400 engraved pavers which commemorate the men and women of Gundagai who have served in Australia’s Military Forces over time.
The nearby 40mm Bofors anti aircraft/ anti tank gun serves as an additional memorial and tribute to all Australians, not just those from Gundagai, who served during all wars and conflicts.
The centrepiece of the Memorial is a grey “stone” tree stump – hand sculpted by Frank Rusconi (yes, him again), a prolific local sculptor more famous for his Dog on the Tucker Box and his Marble Masterpiece. Apparently hanging from (though firmly attached to) the tree stump is a green and red stone laurel wreath while the names of those from Gundagai and the local area who fell in WWI are inscribed on marble plaques around the base of the ‘tree stump’. Close by is a small plaque and a pine tree – the Gallipoli Memorial – specifically dedicated to the memory of Sqd.Sgt.Maj George Elliot of the 6th Australian Light Horse Regiment and all those soldiers who fought and fell at Lone Pine, Gallipoli (Australia’s most famous WWI encounter) in 1915. The entry gates to the grove are also, in themselves, dedicated to the memory of those who gave their lives in WWI.
What look like two black marble headstones each about 30 metres from Rusconi’s WW1 memorial are the park’s WWII and Vietnam War Memorials.
Note the reference to “our fallen mates” on the WWII Memorial. The term mate is uniquely used in Australia and by Australians to refer to very special friends and while formerly it typically referred to male friends of men it can, nowadays, refer to people of either sex.
The Vietnam Memorial incorporates a black and white picture of a helicopter and soldiers in Vietnam. Readers may be familiar with the key role helicopters played in Vietnam where, due to the guerilla nature of the war and the jungle terrain, moving troops around on land was incredibly unsafe and in many areas impossible. Along the base of the memorial are depictions of three medals (via pictures of their ribbons) awarded to veterans of Vietnam; the Australian Active Service Medal (also awarded in other post WWII conflicts pre-1975, most notably the Korean War), the Vietnam Medal and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal. The Republic of Vietnam Medal was a (pre-communist) Vietnamese Government medal awarded to members the Republic of Vietnam Military Forces for direct participation in major military operations. The medal was also awarded to foreign military personnel for service in Vietnam between 1962 and 1973, hence its depiction here on the memorial in Gundagai.
I am sure you will agree, quite a collection of memorials – one can only hope it is not necessary to add to it.
Address: Anzac Park, Landon Street
Directions: Adjacent to the golf course.