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Think Piece – From Obelisk to Dardanelles Cenotaph

Thursday 3 September, 2015

4The Dardanelles Memorial is a stark reminder of sacrifice as well as an example of Australia’s material history that symbolises the commemoration of Australasian war dead.  Builder Walter Torode originally suggested the erection of an obelisk in Adelaide’s south park lands to commemorate the landing of Australian troops on the Gallipoli Peninsular on 25 April 1915 and to honour the national flower, wattle. [1]

South Australians who helped Walter Torode with the realisation of his ideas are Jeanne Young the Hon Secretary and Organizer of the Australian Wattle Day League South Australian Branch, Members and staff of the Adelaide City Council and Julius Meincke foreman of those responsible for actually building the obelisk. [2]

In May 1915, Australians on the home front learnt of the battles in the Dardanelles via local newspapers.  Official lists of the missing, dead and wounded were a little slow in coming.  Minister for Defence, George Pearce, asked Australians for more understanding to allow time for news to filter back from the battle front.  Identification discs were a problem because there were reports of soldiers collecting the discs from the fallen, only to be killed themselves with a number of discs in their possession. [3]

Despite the political and media problems engendered by official communication channels, soldiers who had survived the chaos on the Gallipoli Peninsular were communicating via letters and telegrams with friends and relations.  In some cases next of kin found out about the deaths and injuries of their loved ones before receiving any formal notification from the Australian Imperial Force Base Records Office. [4]

Jeanne Young gained permission from the Adelaide City Council for the erection of the obelisk in ‘Wattle Grove’ on Sir Lewis Cohen Avenue.  On Wattle Day 7 September 1915, The Australian Governor General Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson unveiled the monument.

It is important to realise that the women of the Wattle Day League arranged the dedication of the memorial after the August diversionary battles in the Dardanelles when British forces at Cape Helles and the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (herein after Anzac) sustained horrific casualties, not only at the Nek, Quinn’s Post and Lone Pine but also at Chunuk Bair.

The remains of Australasian soldiers were not only missing or buried on the Gallipoli Peninsular but were also buried on the Island of Lemnos, in Egypt and in England where some of the Anzacs died after being taken to hospitals away from the Dardanelles.

Although the British Cabinet arranged the evacuation of Australasian Soldiers from Gallipoli in December 1915, the 1st AIF went on to fight on other battle fronts in the desert and on the Western Front.  Many people in Australia felt it was unlikely that they would ever have the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to overseas war graves.

For some grieving parents, relatives and friends, The Dardanelles obelisk became a cenotaph, or communal headstone for all soldiers and nurses who died overseas as a result of war service during World War One (hereinafter WW1).  Sacred ground for civic services and floral tributes.  The Soldiers’ Mothers’ Association organised Commemoration Services that took place at the Cenotaph on Anzac Day or Anzac Sunday between 1916 and 1926 when the dedication of local soldiers’ memorials began to take place throughout the State. [5]

Relocation of the Dardanelles memorial to its present site on South Terrace took place during the 1940s.  However, the memorial now represents a great deal more than Walter Torode initially envisaged.  Designed to signify the “rugged hills” at what we now know as Anzac Cove, the monument is a cenotaph, an empty tomb, in remembrance not only of A.N.Z.A.C. Soldiers but also British, French, Indian, Canadian and Turkish war dead who served in the Dardanelles during WWI. [6]

Changes in the layout of Lundie Gardens have resulted in the revitalisation of the memorial site.  The significance of the first Anzac soldiers memorial is now more inclusive.  During the last two years remembrance services held on the anniversary of Wattle Day include the participation not only of members of Australian and New Zealand Veteran organisations but also representatives of the Turkish Association of South Australia and SA Indian Ex Defence Officers Club.

For more information on the Dardanelles Centenary Commemoration event on Sunday 6th September click here.

The Australasian Soldiers Dardanelles Cenotaph, Lundie Gardens, South Terrace, Adelaide.

The Australasian Soldiers Dardanelles Cenotaph, Lundie Gardens, South Terrace, Adelaide.


Janice Pavils was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Adelaide in August 2005. Her research centred on Australian identity as expressed through the commemoriation of Australian war dead. After completing her PhD Janice travelled to Europe, in particular to England, Germany and the Western Front, furthering her research on Anzac Day and the Australian soldiers who gave their lives. 


[1] Advertiser 8.9.1915 [2] Adelaide City Archives 1915/2598.01 Wattle Day arrangement; 1915/2745 Wattle Day League; Register 6.9.1915, 7.9.1915. [3] Advertiser, 3.5.1915; 3.7.1915 [4] Defence Records, Series B2455, Dodson, A J., AIF No. 782 [5] Advertiser, April 1916-1926 [6] Advertiser, 8.9.1915

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