This week, with ANZAC Day and the Centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign nearly upon us, it seemed appropriate to look at one of many cards in The Past Present collection relating to war and the ANZACs. There were many to choose from, but this image of ANZAC Parade in Sydney was chosen because so many people are familiar with the street, yet may not know it’s history.
ANZAC Parade is a major road in South East Sydney which was originally known as Randwick Road. The road was an important part of the road network to Randwick and was also how people entered Moore Park in the 1860s, but it was then just a sandy track. Although always an important road, the stately and formal Parade we know today was built during the ‘Great War’ as it was then known, World War One. In fact, ANZAC Parade, and the ANZAC Obelisk which is pictured in the postcard above was one of the first memorials built to the ANZACs, being officially opened in March 1917, well over a year before peace was declared.
Many may wonder why this road, seemingly no more important than any other, was chosen as the memorial. The route was very significant though, being the parade route which was taken by the 1st Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) when they left their camp at Kensington Racecouse to embark for overseas service. The road was constructed to feature a beautifully maintained flower bed in the centre strip, though this has long since been replaced by grass. The Obelisk, one of the earliest memorials to the Australian soldiers who left to serve overseas, predating both the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park and the Cenotaph in Martin Place, has sadly been moved from its original, prominent position. Once, the Obelisk marked the beginning of ANZAC Parade and was part of ANZAC commemorations, often pictured covered with flowers and wreaths, but it is now less prominent and partially obscured by fencing. It was moved 300 metres south in order to allow for construction of the exit portal from the Eastern Distributor onto ANZAC Parade itself.
This week, with Remembrance Day nearly upon us, The Past Present is taking the opportunity to share the joyous scene in the image above.
When peace was declared on the 11th of November, 1918, Sydney residents were jubilant and enormous public celebrations began to occur. The news came through early in the morning, but spread quickly and soon Sydney was a mass of excitement. Sirens associated with the harbour sounded in a cacophony rarely heard, trains blew their whistles, trams rang their bells and cars sounded their horns in a joyous (if probably rather dissonant) celebration of peace. The streets quickly filled with cheering crowds and soon enough patriotic bunting was hung and flags began to appear, being waved frantically from amid the excited throng.
Moore Street was just one street which filled with people celebrating the long awaited peace and the photo above captures the excited throng which flocked to the celebrations. If you look closely though, you may notice that women outnumber the men taking part in the celebrations, reflecting the fact that many of Australia’s menfolk were still abroad, serving in foreign theatres of war, or had already lost their lives to the conflict.
Last week, as many readers will be aware, the Lancers Parade was held in Parramatta to commemorate 125 years of the Royal New South Wales Lancers. What many do not know is about the important history of this military group in Australia’s and indeed world history.
The Royal New South Wales Lancers were formed in 1885, though they were then known as the New South Wales Cavalry Reserves. They were renamed the New South Wales Lancers in 1894, but the ‘Royal’ in their title was not added until 1935. Today they are known as the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers. Since the late 1800s their barracks have been located in Parramatta and their nickname is the Parramatta Lancers. The Barracks themselves predate the formation of the Lancers and have a fascinating history in their own right.
The Lancers have a distinguished history of active service, dating back to the Boer War. In 1899 a squadron of the Lancers who had been training in England were the first Colonial troops to actually arrive in South Africa. During the 1st World War, the Lancers were a militia unit and as a result they did not serve abroad, though they did receive a number of battle honours. However, many pre-war members of the Lancers did join up for service, joining the Australian Imperial Force. Many of them served in the famous Light Horse Regiments which fought in Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine. In fact the Light Horse Regiments included a substantial number of Lancer trained men. Subsequently the Royal New South Wales Lancers were actually designated the successors of the 1st Light Horse Regiment and later still, in 1956, the 1st was linked with the 15th, making them also the successors of the 15th Light Horse Regiment. During the 2nd World War the Lancers were incorporated into the 2nd AIF as an armoured regiment and served in New Guinea and Borneo. In fact, the regiment made the heaviest Australian tank attack of the war.
Since the 2nd World War, the Lancers have continued to serve, with full time units seeing service in Bougainville, Malaysia, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. They currently hold 21 military honours, making them one of the most decorated units in the Australian Army.
This week, with a number of military anniversaries being celebrated all around the world, not least the start of the First World War, it seemed the perfect time to look Neutral Bay. There are many places in and around Sydney which have played a role during times of war and in the defence of the city, but Neutral Bay is rather special being, as the name suggests, an historic neutral harbour.
Neutral Bay was named and given a function very early in the history of European settlement in Australia. Just a year after the fleet first arrived, in 1789 Governor Phillip decreed the bay was to be the place of anchor for all non British, ‘neutral’ ships visiting Port Jackson. He called the area Neutral Bay. The ships which anchored in the area could use a small, unnamed creek to replenish their stores of fresh water, though they had to pay for the privilege throughout the 19th century. Neutral Bay was chosen as the site for foreign vessels to rest because it was seen as far enough from Sydney Cove itself to discourage convicts from attempting to escape and make their way home on a foreign ship. In addition, it kept any enemy ships at a safe distance from the settlement itself.
There are a number of images of Neutral Bay in the Past Present collection, so check back to see more at a future time!
The image above, showing a busy Cockatoo Island, is evocative of a time when this island in Sydney Harbour was not only the focus but indeed the heart of naval life in Sydney. Cockatoo Island has a long and fascinating history, but the image above, from circa 1920 harks back to a time when the island was the Commonwealth Naval Dockyard.
Cockatoo Islands history, in the era of European Settlement, dates back to the early years of the colony when the island was home to a prison which was built in 1839 to alleviate the overcrowding on Norfolk Island. By the 1850s, although still a prison, the role of the island was slowly starting to shift towards naval service with the Fitzroy Dock and a workshop built (by the prisoners in fact) to service the Royal Navy. By the 1880s shipbuilding and repair work done on the island was expanding rapidly and a second dry dock, Sutherland Dock, was built.
During this era the shipyard serviced the Royal Navy, but in 1913, with the establishment of a new, Australian Navy, Cockatoo Island became the Commonwealth Naval Dockyard, servicing not just the Royal Navy, but the new Australian Navy. In fact by 1930 Australias first steel warship had been built at the islands shipyard. Over the 20th century ship building and repair continued to expand, even servicing submarines, but in 1992 the dockyard closed. Today, the island is controlled by the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust and you can visit to discover more of the story of this historic island.
Nestles Plant on harbour front on Fig Tree Bay (Abbotsford) West End
This week, The Past Present again decided to investigate a snapshot of Sydney’s Industrial History. Many of the black and white photos in the collection, all from circa 1936 and by an unknown photographer, show industrial sites in Sydney and other cities along the Australian East Coast. Today we are focussing on the image above, showing the old Nestles Factory at Abbotsford on the Parramatta River.
If you look closely, in the centre of the photo there is an ornate old house amongst the factory buildings. This is Abbotsford House which was built between 1877 and 1878 for Dr Arthur Renwick and it is this house from which the suburb of Abbotsford takes its name. The property eventually passed to Albert Edward Grace, one of the founders of Grace Bros, who sold the property to Nestles in 1917.
The property was not just a house though. It included orchards, sporting fields, a boatshed and a large pavilion which had been built by the Grace family. This pavilion was the original site of Nestles production at the site while Abbotsford House served as an administrative office. A purpose built factory was constructed around the house between 1918 and 1920. Being located on the Parramatta River, the factory could easily be supplied with their raw materials, including coal. These products were delivered by boat to the factory jetty, and from there were transferred to a specially built narrow gauge tramway and then to the various storerooms and boilers.
Although the factory was most famous as the home of Nestles, producing their famous milk products and chocolate, it also served other, more surprising, roles in Australian history. In 1927 the grounds and riverfront were used to shoot scenes for the Australian film For The Term Of His Natural Life and later, in World War II the factory turned to packing supply rations for soldiers serving on the Kokoda Track. The factory closed in 1991 with the factory buildings being demolished and replaced by housing, while Abbotsford House survived the destruction, being preserved and restored. Today it is again a private residence.
This week, in honour of Remembrance Day commemorations earlier this week, The Past Present is examining a postcard of one of Sydney’s many coastal defences. The postcard above shows ‘Big Gun Practice At Middle Head’ and dates to the early 1900s. It shows troops practicing with the big guns at the coastal fortifications on Middle Head.
Early on in Sydney’s history, defences began to be built around Sydney Harbour, mainly to protect against foreign invasion but also to help in case of convict uprisings. Middle Head played a vital role in these coastal defences and in fact the first gun emplacement in Sydney was built at Middle Head in 1801, during the Napoleonic Wars. The main battery on Middle Head was built in 1871 and was designed by the colonial architect James Barnet. The fortifications were in a strategic position and additions continued to be made up until 1911. The aim of this fortification, and of those located on Sydney’s other heads, was to fire on enemy ships attempting to enter Sydney Harbour. Any ship entering the harbour had to go past North, South and Middle Heads and therefore, past the fortifications built there.
Although those visiting the site today see some of the fortifications above ground, the area was connected by a system of tunnels and there is a great deal more to the fort than what can be seen from the surface. Some of these underground rooms were even used during the Vietnam War to train troops, including training to withstand torture, interrogation and prisoner of war conditions.