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Australian History

On this day (Australia): In 1934, the ANZAC War Memorial in Sydney was opened


Opening of the ANZAC Memorial

On 24 November 1934, the ANZAC War Memorial in Sydney was opened.

The Anzac Memorial is a heritage-listed war memorial, museum and monument located in Hyde Park South near Liverpool Street in the CBD of Sydney, Australia. It is also known as Anzac War Memorial, War Memorial Hyde Park and Hyde Park Memorial.

The Art Deco monument was designed by C. Bruce Dellit, with the exterior adorned with monumental figural reliefs and sculptures by Rayner Hoff, and built from 1932 to 1934 by Kell & Rigby. This state-owned property was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register on 23 April 2010.

The memorial is the focus of commemoration ceremonies on Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and other important occasions. It was built as a memorial to the Australian Imperial Force of World War I. Fund raising for a memorial began on 25 April 1916, the first anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landing at Anzac Cove for the Battle of Gallipoli.

It was opened on 24 November 1934 by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. In 2018, refurbishments and a major expansion were completed. The memorial was officially reopened by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex.

Aboriginal land

Material in rock shelters reveals that Aboriginal people inhabited the Sydney Harbour area from at least 25,000 years ago. The Cardigal, who formed part of the Darug nation, were the Aboriginal traditional owners of the inner Sydney area, upon which the Anzac Memorial stands. 

It is believed that the southern end of Hyde Park, where the ANZAC Memorial is located, was used as a “contest ground” for staging combative trials between Aboriginal warriors, watched avidly by the British in the early days of the colony. 

It is remarkable that the State’s most grand and monumental war memorial should be positioned on this historical site of indigenous combat.

The Cenotaph, Martin Place

The uncertainty about both site and building style of the ANZAC Memorial combined with the long wait for its construction left Sydney without a focal point for Anzac Day ceremonies. Around 1925 the Lang Labor government responded to the urging of the NSW RSSILA by donating 10,000 pounds for a cenotaph in Martin Place, near where wartime appeals and recruitment rallies had been held.

This was also the place where the Armistice Day crowds had honoured their “Glorious Dead” at the war’s end on 11 November 1918. It was consecrated on 8 August 1927, becoming the focus of Anzac Day ceremonies some eight years before the ANZAC Memorial building was available for such purposes.

Sydney’s Anzac Day Dawn Service was never moved to the ANZAC Memorial because the Cenotaph had already become the accepted site and Martin Place had stronger war-time associations than Hyde Park.

The ANZAC Memorial design competition

A competition for the design of the memorial was commissioned on 13 July 1929. Entrants were required to be Australians qualified to work as architects within or outside NSW, the latter persons being required to register in the state if they won.

Competitors could confer with an Australian sculptor, either while designing the competition entry or during its construction. All entrants had to register by 30 January 1930 and present their entries two weeks later. The judges were Professor A. S. Hook, Dean of the Sydney University Faculty of Architecture Professor Leslie Wilkinson, and the Public Trustee E. J. Payne.

The winner would be appointed the ANZAC Memorial architect. The cost of the building was limited to £75,000 calculated at rates current at the time of entry. In addition to the memorial itself the building was required to provide office accommodation for the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League, TB Soldiers’ Association and the Limbless Soldiers’ Association.

The Trustees received 117 entries in the competition and chose seven for second stage consideration which were exhibited in the Blaxland Galleries in Farmers Department Store (now Grace Bros). In February 1930 the prize-winning entries were announced by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Philip Game.

Third prize was awarded to Peter Kaad, second prize to John D. Moore and the winner was Bruce Dellit. The successful contractors for the building works were Kell & Rigby. According to Building magazine, most people agreed that Dellit’s design for the ANZAC Memorial was the best in the competition.

In his entry, Dellit submitted a model with photographs of it from all angles and 17 drawing sheets including an aerial perspective and an isometric section in Dellit’s own words: “ENDURANCE COURAGE AND SACRIFICE – these are the three thoughts which have inspired the accompanying design, and it is around the last mentioned that it develops”.

Dellit explained that the central sculpture “sacrifice” was placed in the lower chamber “like a famous French tomb” – Napoleon’s tomb – to “offer visitors an opportunity for a quiet, dignified, physical and mental acknowledgment of the message”.

The Opening Ceremony, 24 November 1934

Crowds attending the opening of the ANZAC Memorial were estimated at 100,000. Archbishop Sheehan boycotted the event on the grounds that it was “not entirely Catholic in character”. In keeping with the words on the foundation tablets, the ceremony aimed to show that the building was of and for the people.

The Duke of Gloucester made the dedication speech and the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Dr Howard Mowll gave the prayer: ‘To the Glory of God, and as a lasting monument of all the members of the Australian Forces of the State of NSW, who served their King and country in the Great War, and especially in grateful remembrance of those who laid down their lives, we dedicate this ANZAC Memorial’.

To familiarise the public with the symbolism of the monument and to mark its completion, in 1934 the Trustees published The Book of the Anzac Memorial in a limited edition. This volume both commemorated and explained the memorial. The December 1934 issue of Building magazine also focused on the ANZAC Memorial, devoted nine pages to explain its details and symbolism.

Source: Wikipedia

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

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