Gardner Soldier Memorial Commemorates 100 years

The Soldier memorial of WWI commemorates 100 years on the 16th September 1916.It is believed to be Australia’s first memorial of the Great War that incorporated a soldier-statue. The memorial was a gift of Commander Frank Gardner V.D. to the soldiers of Newcastle, who will never return. He presented the memorial monument and statue which stands at the front of the former Newcastle Post Office.

The photograph below was taken by Thomas Rodoni an avid amateur photographer who had also served in  Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force’s (ANMEF) to take German New Guinea in August 1914.  Rodoni’s image is rare and captures the moments just prior to the unveiling of the statue  showing the large crowd and many dignitaries present.  A band is at the base of the podium ready to perform and flags and bunting adorn the image.

Unveiling of the Gardner Memorial Statue, Newcastle Post Office, Newcastle, 16 September 1916. Courtesy of the Rodoni Archive, University of Newcastle (Australia)
Unveiling of the Gardner Memorial Statue, Newcastle Post Office, Newcastle, 16 September 1916. Courtesy of the Rodoni Archive, University of Newcastle (Australia)

The foundation stone for the memorial was laid by Mayor of Newcastle Mr Moroney early April 1916, however it would be several months until the memorial would be unveiled because the statue had to be shipped from Europe. The statue was made in Italy of marble and arrived in Newcastle on the 11th September 1916, it was carefully stored at Brown’s Monumental works in Newcastle West until a date was decided for the official unveiling.

The unveiling took place on the afternoon of the 16th September.

The proceedings embraced the presentation to the Consul-General of France, M. Chayet, of the Australian flag and the flag of France (which were subject of such keen public enthusiasm on France’s Day at Newcastle), the presentation to Mrs. J. A. Mitchell of the Royal Humane Society’s medal and certificate, and the unveiling of tile beautiful memorial-the gift of Commander Frank Gardner, V.D.-to the soldiers of Newcastle, who will never return. When, shortly after three o’clock, Alderman M. J. Moroney, the Mayor of Newcastle, opened the proceedings, there was an immense crowd present. Lined up on the roadway- in front of a specially-erected platform, were soldier veterans, members of the police force, returned soldiers, and members of the Naval Reserve, with their band. On the stage were the Consul-General for France, M. Chayet, Police-superintendent Goulder, Commander Gardner, Mr. J. C, Reid, French Consular Agent, Colonel Kirkaldy, the town clerk, Mr. E. S. Holland, Mr. Donald Fraser, schools’ inspector, Mr. P. J. Ryan, secretary of the Public Schools’ Association, and other prominent citizens. The Mayor apologised for the absence of the Chief Secretary, Mr. Black, and Mr. J. Mitchell, Inspector-General of Police. (Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, 18 Sep 1916)

The marble soldier statue was carved in Italy and local architect Edward Tingle designed the pedestal and setting for the statue. Thomas Brown a local stone mason carved the pedestal. statue

The memorial was unveiled in the afternoon of the 16th, a French-Australian souvenir flag was displayed and later handed to the Counsel- General for France to be sent to the President of the French Republic. Another flag in possession of the Newcastle Police is reported to be presented to a representative of the Paris Police.

"The Gardner Memorial' Newcastle Herald 16 September 1916
“The Gardner Memorial’ Newcastle Herald 16 September 1916

On unveiling of the statue by Mayor of Newcastle Moroney the Municipal Band played LISTEN HERE TO “Boys of the Dardanelles.” boys-of-the-dardenelles
“The returned soldiers advanced to the base of the statue and saluted. The Mayor referred to the kindly act which had brought into existence that monument to the heroes of the war. Commander Gardner was a resident whom everyone was proud to honour. (Applause.) The monument was erected at great expense, and it formed a fine adornment to the city. Commander Gardner’s actions had always been praiseworthy. Mr Moroney stated that among the crowd were veterans-men who were always carrying the standard. He then read the following list of names of Newcastle soldiers who had made the supreme sacrifice, and said every effort would be made to obtain a complete roll or honour:

First-lieutenant T. Cadell, 3rd battalion
First Infantry Brigade, killed in action it Gallipoli
First-lieutenant F. G. Smith, 2nd Battalion
First Infantry Division, died of wounds received on Gallipoli.
Second-lieutenant W. H. Lynch, 4th Battalion, First Infantry Division, died of wounds received on Gallipoli
Sergeant M. R. Macdonald, C Company, Second Infantry battalion, killed in the fighting on Gallipoli
Corporal H. Fullford, died in Egypt
Lancs-corporal Eldred Belford, died of wounds received In France
Private Frederick J. Grown, Second Battalion killed in action in Gallipoli
Private J. E. White, killed in action in Galllipoli
Private Francis Walter Gibson killed in action in Gallipoli
Private Alexander Armstrong, killed in action in Gallipoli
Private D. C. Hay, Second Battalion, killed in action in Gallipoli
Private Albert Edward Dudley, killed in action in. France
Private Raymond Clarke, killed In action
Private Arthur W. Spurr, killed in action in Gallipoli
Private Alfred .John Smith, killed in action in France.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate 18 September 1916

Alderman Kilgour, who said the commander had provided an everlasting memorial to the boys who did their duty.

Commander Gardner, responded saying “no one was prouder than he to see the beautiful statue. He had seen a little war himself in his younger days, He hoped that on the anniversary of that ceremony peace would have been declared. In handing the statue over to the Mayor for the people, he thanked them all for having sung that “he was a jolly good follow.” He knew he was. (Laughter.)”

The Mayor accepted the memorial for the people with thanks. The singing of the National Anthem closed the ceremony.

Newcastle is fortunate to have the Stature Memorial because in October 1916 the federal government brought in the War Precautions Act prohibiting appeals unauthorised by War Councils for memorial costing more than 25 pounds. Believing that excessive costs could be a drain on community resources. (Sacred Places:War Memorials in the Australian Landscape By K Inglis & J Brazier 2008.p 120). This new act would have restricted Gardner’s efforts to gift such a memorial for Newcastle and was timely that he saw it important early to honor the men who would never return home to Newcastle and the Hunter .

Gardner Memorial Statue
Gardner Memorial Statue. Photograph by Ann Hardy 2015
Shadow of Soldier Memorial reflected on former Newcastle Post Office. Photograph: Ann Hardy (2015)

More about Frank Gardner

Commander Frank Gardner
Commander Frank Gardner

Gardner was associated with the Newcastle Naval Brigade since 1863 where he rose to the post of commander. He had been involved with the Australian Naval and Military Associations since its inception. He was a founder of the Newcastle Sailors Home and Newcastle School of Arts and a strong promoter of the city of Newcastle. He was also a patron of sport, known as the ‘Father of Bowls’ in Newcastle. Gardner was devoted to Newcastle Cathedral gifting the beautiful marble alter that sits in the Warriors Chapel.Commander Frank Gardner was a charitable person, he had also donated land at Dudley for housing to accommodate men who needed care on their return from the war. The Dudley Red Cross Home a repatriation and convalescent facility would be established there.

Also see, COMMANDER FRANK GARDNER VD, RANR, 1841 – 1926 By Dr Richard Walding
Research Fellow – School of Science – Griffith University

Research for this story by Patrick Lindus (UON Student Historian in Residence at Cultural Collections, University Library)


Commander Gardner’s Death Long and Useful Life  Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate 3 November 1926

100-year Birthday for World War I Memorial By Mike Scanlon Newcastle Herald


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