Backward Glance - Memorials to WWI
  • Wednesday 18 April 2018

Anzac Day is a time when we, as Australians, gather to reflect on those who served and sacrificed their lives in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

Anzac Day marks the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during World War I.

Many people living on the Sunshine Coast and throughout Australia lost family members in WWI.

More than 61,000 soldiers died so far from home, never returning to Australian soil.

Monuments to the fallen and those who served are common in our towns and cities.

Australia’s memorials and honour rolls are unique in that they name everyone who went to war at that time.

Other countries have created war memorials, however only name those who’d been lost, not identifying everyone who went to war.

An Australian battalion was raised within weeks of the declaration of war in August 1914 and embarked just two months later.

After preliminary training, the battalion sailed to Egypt, arriving early December.

The 3rd Brigade was the covering force for the ANZAC landing on April 25, 1915, and so was the first ashore at around 4.30am.

The battalion was heavily involved in establishing and defending the front line of the ANZAC beachhead.

As part of the attempt to seize the Gallipoli Peninsula in order to supress the Turkish defences, military landings were made at Cape Helles and also on the west coast near Ari Burnu.

The Australians landed two divisions of the ANZAC forces over one kilometre north of their planned objective, Gaba Tepe.

In the darkness and confusion of early morning, they faced rugged and difficult country.

All hell broke loose on that terrible day.

By the first evening 16,000 men had landed, of those more than 2000 Australians had been killed or wounded.

Falling back on improvised and shallow entrenchments, the ANZACs held on for a crucial first night.

Evacuation in that region did not occur until December 1915.

Life in Australia changed politically, economically and socially.

Men and women from Australia served with distinction in combat and support units, including the Army Nursing service and Army Medical corps.

The hopes and fears of our entire country were focussed on the front line and much energy was diverted to the war efforts.

Troop trains travelled throughout the country raising funds for the war effort and to gather support for more enlistments.

Many towns began fundraising to create local memorials, this was an important way for communities to pull together, as the reality and the horror of war spread throughout our country. 

Practical and enduring monuments were built, including community halls, parks and sporting facilities.

Many trees were also planted to remember those who did not return.

In 1916, the Australian Government secured land around Beerburrum to create a Soldier Settlement, which would become the largest in Queensland, to assist returning soldiers.

The site was chosen because it had an established rail service and the surrounding area was deemed suitable for the cultivation of pineapples and citrus. 

Beerburrum was central to the settlement and development of the area.

Known as the “Digger”, Prince Edward, Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) visited from July 26 to August 5, 1920 on behalf of his father, King George V, to thank Australians for their part in WWI.

Travelling by royal train, Prince Edward visited Maryborough, Gympie, Nambour and Landsborough, stopping specially at the Beerburrum Soldier Settlement where he was presented with a pineapple.

Train platforms were decorated and the route was lined with crowds.

Special emphasis was given to meeting ex-servicemen, including visits to soldier settlements at Amiens and Cottonvale, near Stanthorpe, and Beerburrum, as well as Anzac House, Rosemount and Enoggera military hospitals.

Since colonial times, Australian troops have been characterised as larrikins, even in their darkest hours.

One such story is about Dick Caplick, a Eumundi pioneer and soldier.

His statue stands tall, adjacent to Eumundi Markets, in a park named after him.

Private Dick Caplick, a machine gunner, was one of the soldiers from the 26th Battalion who retrieved the German tank “Mephisto” which was stuck in a trench at Villers-Breronneux.

On July 13, 1918, Lt Colonel Robinson, Commanding Officer of the 26th Battalion, was determined to have the disabled tank taken back to Queensland.

Under the cover of darkness, Dick with fellow soldiers prepared the tank for retrieval.

They dug it from the mud during bombardment on the third night and it was towed about five kilometres behind Australian lines by a British tank.

The “Mephisto”, eight meters long and weighing 33 tonnes, is the only surviving German A7V Sturmpanzerwagen tank in the world from a batch of 21.

Although it was enormously heavy and cumbersome, arrangements were made to ship the tank to Queensland.

After being put on a barge to England, it was loaded onto a ship bound for Melbourne and then transported to Brisbane.

In June 1919, two Brisbane council steam rollers towed the tank to the Queensland Museum, which was then located at Bowen Hills.

It remained out in the weather with just a canopy for protection for years, until it was relocated to the new Queensland Museum in South Brisbane which opened in 1986.

To mark the centenary of WWI, the Australian War Museum in Canberra exhibited the “Mephisto” in Anzac Hall.

It will be returned to the Queensland Museum at South Bank later this year as it one of the best-known objects in the Queensland State Collection.

To hear Dick Caplick speak about the timber industry and other aspects of life in the Eumundi area in his younger days click here.

A transcript of the complete interview is also available on council’s heritage website.

Local First Nations man Trooper Horace Dalton, then aged 19, gained his parent’s permission and enlisted in early 1918. 

He embarked for active service overseas aboard HMAT Port Sydney.

An experienced horseman and member of the Light Horse Regiment, Trooper Dalton went AWOL with some other soldiers during this terrible time. 

This was not unusual as soldiers generally only stayed away a few days.

The charge for this behaviour included docking a few days’ pay and it is common to see this in many WWI records of Australian soldiers.

What was remarkable was that the absent soldiers took their horses with them.

Well liked in the Caloundra and Beerwah community, Horace was much respected by all who knew him. 

He had a great outlook on life and was mates with fellow WWI veteran and later Premier of Queensland, Sir Frank Nicklin, who always stopped for a yarn when he saw Horace.

Horace worked at fishing, helped build the Bruce Highway and gained employment at Brown and Broad Sawmill in Beerwah.

A full military funeral was held for Trooper Horace Dalton in 2012 many years after his death.  

A sad story was that of Tom Lillingstone, who married Stella Booth just days before he left for WWI.

Stella was the daughter of George Booth, a farmer in the Nambour district.

Tom was the son of an early Maleny pioneer.

He was killed in action, at age 34, during the Battle of Passchendaele at Broodseinde Ridge in Belgium, near the French Border on October 5, 1917. An estimated 36,000 Australians were killed during an eight-week period.

Private Lillingstone was a member of the 41st Battalion and went to war as a medic where he died on the front line, helping and healing his fellow soldiers.

His body was never recovered.

In 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, hostilities between Germany and the Western Allies ended.

Australia had lost more than 61,000 of its finest.

Lest We Forget.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images.

Image captions

Hero – Soldiers from the 15th Battalion Regiment at Enoggera during ‘Visitors Day, bring cakes etc.’ ca 1915.

Image 1 – Locomotive PB15 No. 530, a Queensland Railways locomotive built in Maryborough and in service from 1910 until 1968. Wording on the headboard reads ‘in memory of the brave heroes of Gaba Tepe’. 

Image 2 – Anzac Day service at the Cenotaph, Nambour, 1961.  

Image 3 – Montville Hall and Memorial Gates, Memorial Close, Montville, ca 1990. The Memorial Gates at the entrance to the hall were unveiled on 11 November 1921 by W.H. Harvey, the then Chairman of the Maroochy Shire Council. 

Image 4 – First ANZAC Day service held at the Caloundra Head War Memorial, 25th April 1950 

Image 5 – Tom Lillingstone early resident of Maleny who was killed in the Battle of Passchendale where he died helping his fellow wounded soldiers ca 1907

Image 6 – Aeroplane nose-dived onto Kings Beach after attempting to land in soft sand, 1926. The plane was the first to land in Caloundra. It was used for joy flights and was flown by World War 1 ace fighter pilot, Captain Jack Treacy.

Image 7 – Armistice Day Parade in Maple Street, Maleny, 1919.