“The Anzac Parade Obelisk, unveiled in 1917 when Randwick Road was widened and rebuilt as a memorial avenue, was the a major site for such observances, despite being located several kilometres from the city centre. The obelisk was fitted with hooks to hang wreaths.” (http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/the_beginnings_of_anzac_day_commemorations_in_sydney)
Prior to the opening of the major official war memorials in Sydney (1934) and Canberra (1941), the Anzac Parade Memorial Obelisk was the diggers’ own war memorial. It marked the place where many of the battalions of volunteers who left Australia to fight had marched in 1914 past the cheering crowds, on their way from the Randwick barracks to the ships bound for service.
In 1917 the Memorial Obelisk was placed at the head of the boulevard that had been renamed in the diggers’ honour to Anzac Parade.
In The News
“As with all outdoor ceremonies the observance of the days significance at the Memorial Obelisk, Anzac Parade, was somewhat marred by rain. There was however a representative gathering of relatives and soldiers (many of the latter maimed).
"A number of soldiers mostly from the First Infantry Brigade, mustered at Darlinghurst Junction and under Lt Jackson marched behind a Boy Scouts band to the monument. Here, in a brief address, Lt Colonel A.B. Stevens, who commanded the 2nd Battalion at Gallipoli, recounted the now historic movements of the Australian force from the time of its departure from Australia to the landing at Anzac Cove.
“The obelisk, forming the main feature of the monument, was decorated with wreaths and flowers, and presented a beautiful and inspiring spectacle. Surmounting it was a magnificent representation of the map of Australia, consisting of massed white chrysanthemums, upon which was emblazoned in purple clover blossoms the significant “A”. This symbol, as in past years, was made by the pupils of the Long Bay Public School. At the base of the obelisk floral tribute were piled, every one bearing a card on which written words conveyed the sorrow and pride of relatives of a dead soldier. Some cards were in memory of a battalion, others the mingled emotions of Australia on her national day. On account of its central position, the obelisk was the goal of many a pilgrimage from the city and neighbouring suburbs throughout the day, and late in the afternoon it was a mass of foliage, in which white predominated. With the electric arms also decorated, the monument resembled a white cross.
"An interesting feature was the placing of emblems at the foot of the column by little children from a nearby clinic. Led by a couple no higher than the knee of an Anzac helping with the decorations, they marched twenty strong, across the wet roadway, and solemnly placed their tributes on the basal steps.” ANZAC PARADE: Impressive Ceremony (Sydney Morning Herald, 26 April 1923)
Floral Tributes (Sydney Morning Herald. 26 April 1928)
“The Anzac memorial at the entrance to Moore Park was bright with floral tributes. As on previous occasions a floral map of Australia formed the apex of the decorations and every inch of the obelisk was covered with wreaths: whilst across the roadway was stretched a line from which fluttered a multitude of silk ribbons, preserved from former occasions.”
By the late 1920’s the big Anzac Day ceremonies were being held in the city near where the official war memorial in Hyde Park was being built. But the original diggers were still returning to their own Anzac Parade memorial.
Although their numbers were dwindling the tradition of marking Anzac Day at the Memorial Obelisk continued until the very end for the original diggers. It was their own memorial – the place where they had marched as young men, the place where they returned throughout their lives to remember those who had fallen. And now it has been almost entirely forgotten, seen as little more than a road marker.
“Up until the last of the Anzacs there used to still be gatherings out at the Anzac Obelisk. As much as it was in the middle of the road, they would have little gatherings on the side of the road. So we see it as a memorial grove of trees, with the Anzac Parade as a pavement and a memorial called the Anzac Obelisk.” (Rod White, state president, NSW RSL, Radio National 2016)
The Anzac Parade Memorial Obelisk
The Diggers own memorial and a family tradition