November 11 marks Remembrance Day – a time when Lake Macquarie’s 20-plus war memorials and monuments become a focal point for our community.
This year’s commemorations are particularly special, with 11am on the 11th of the 11th marking exactly 100 years since the armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany, bringing to an end history’s bloodiest conflict.
Lake Macquarie was a young and sparsely populated shire when World War I broke out in 1914, yet still an estimated 1000 local men signed up to join the fight half way around the world. More than 10 per cent of them never came home.
That is what makes our war memorials and monuments such important features of our community. Many were erected soon after peace was declared, listing names of those killed in action. It is deeply moving to visit these sites and spend a few quiet moments reading through these names.
I’m pleased to note restoration work underway on two memorials in Lake Macquarie, and on a monument to the Great War that has stood sentinel in Speers Point Park since the 1920s.
The two memorials are at Killingworth and West Wallsend, while the monument is a 25cm trench mortar captured from the Germans by Australian troops advancing across the Western Front in August 1918.
Captured artillery often found its way back to Australia and other Allied countries, to be placed on public display in parks and outside buildings. But the mortar is particularly rare – one of only a handful of its type in Australia.
Conservation specialists in Sydney are building a new support system for the mortar’s corroded base, and removing rust from the barrel and working parts.
By Christmas it should be back in Speers Point Park, hopefully ready for another 90-plus years of public display.
Meanwhile at Killingworth and West Wallsend, the first stage of memorial restoration has included repairs to weathered sandstone bases and replacement of badly damaged lettering.
Council will continue to assess and prioritise other memorial restorations.
I encourage everyone to observe a minute’s silence at 11am on 11 November and reflect on the tremendous sacrifices made by our servicemen and women in war.
- Picture: The Killingworth memorial, which is being restored