Australian History

FEATURED AUSTRALIAN HISTORY: 100-Year – Old Cenotaph Was Restored For Anzac Day Commemorations


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Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Apr.27: 2023:

#AceNewsDesk – Veteran Peter Lipscomb has been laying a wreath at Wollongong’s cenotaph every year for more than half a century……………My father died when I was four years old in 1968,” Mr Lipscomb said………….He was in the air force in World War II.”……….His mother was left to raise eight children on her own in a three-bedroom housing commission home in Unanderra.

Stone archway covered in dirt and blackened by pollution
Wollongong’s cenotaph was moved from its original location outside council chambers to its current MacCabe Park location in 1984.(Supplied)none

Legacy and Salvation Army came along to help my mum bring up the family,” Mr Lipscomb said.

“From around the age of eight, myself and my sister Alison became the unofficial Legacy Wreath Layers at all Legacy and commemorative services.”

Stonemason called in

The cenotaph will reach its century milestone on June 3. Its age has shown over recent decades, as it gradually blackened and chipped.

When Mr Lipscomb retired from 20 years of naval service in 2020, he made it his mission to restore the monument that holds a special place in his heart.

“It’s a 100-year-old monument, and you can’t just come down here with gurney and clean it off. There’s obviously a process,” he said.

A stone child stands on a war memorial monument, it's nose is broken
Restorations on Wollongong’s cenotaph have taken several months to complete.(ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)none

Stonemason Brad Rimmer specialises in heritage restorations and has painstakingly cleaned and repaired the sandstone and marble.

“Being close to Port Kembla I think has made a bit of a residue on it. So I scrubbed all that off and then re-pointed a lot of the joints,” Mr Rimmer said.

Australian-style masonry

While most stone carvings from the 1920s are in European styles, the Wollongong cenotaph has an interesting point of difference.

“A lot of the decorative carving is Australian flora and fauna. There’s some waratahs, flannel flowers, lyrebirds,” Mr Rimmer said.

The arch was originally erected in memory of those who served in World War I, with local communities fundraising for its construction.Brad Rimmer scrubbed off algal growth, mould and pollution. In the final stages, he applied a lime wash.(ABC Illawarra: Tim Fernandez)none

“The families back at home couldn’t go through the normal grieving process of going to a funeral and then having a grave to go to and visit and mourn their sons,” Mr Lipscomb said.

Cenotaphs were constructed in towns all over Australia.

“This was the place that enabled families to come and grieve in some way.”

Remembering veterans

Wollongong’s cenotaph lists the names of 360 veterans.

“The names weren’t provided by the military, as they would be today,” Mr Lipscomb said.

Instead, an organising committee asked the public to come forward with names of local veterans.

“There are articles in The Mercury from 1922 basically begging the public to provide names. They knew the 360 names wasn’t the complete list,” he said.

At least another 140 people from Wollongong served in World War I, and many hundreds more in the Illawarra region aren’t listed, according to Mr Lipscomb’s research.

The Wollongong RSL Sub branch aims to add a more complete list of veterans’ names to the cenotaph in the coming months.When Peter Lipscomb’s father died in 1968, Legacy supported his family.(Supplied)none

Once one of the youngest wreath layers, Mr Lipscomb is now the Master of Ceremonies at Wollongong’s Anzac Day dawn service.

A commemorative service will be held on June 3 with the NSW Governor in attendance, to mark 100 years since the cenotaph was completed and dedicated.

“It’s such a difference from what it was. There’s some beautiful, hand-carved areas on this that you couldn’t even see before and now you can. It’s fantastic,” Mr Lipscomb said.

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