Honour for the dead
THIS is the latest instalment in our 1918 historical feature where we look back at the stories, people and events that shaped our region from the 1918 editions of The Morning Bulletin.
It was not until 1924, some six years after this article was penned, that Rockhampton got a permanent memorial to is fallen soldiers.
OUR obligations to the returned soldier have at last been definitely acknowledged and if there is any neglect in their fulfilment the man who has safely passed through the ordeal of war has a voice which he can raise in protest.
But what of the great army that has departed, and is still departing, from the shores of Australia, never to return again?
There are already 50,000 of them and the tale is by no means complete. Already their graves lie thick in France, in Gallipoli, in Palestine, some of them marked by a rough wooden cross or other frail memorial. But there are many that lack even that fragile monument.
They have no visible sepulchre, for they have been swallowed up in the cataclysm of war as if they had been devoured by an earthquake. But there is none of them all whose name is not known and cherished in some household or among some little circle of friends and it is certainly the duty of the public to see that those names are preserved for the future.
But for the heroic sacrifices of the dead there would be few of the things that make life precious left to the survivors. The red-white-black pirate flag of the Huns would long ere this have supplanted the starred flag of Australia on all our public buildings. Our parliaments would have been dissolved, like the Ukrainian Rada, by Prussian bayonets, and the lamb-like bleatings of the pacifists for "peace by negotiation” would have received small consideration from Marshal von Hindenburg.
Our fate would have been the fate, not of Russia, for Russia is too large a morsel to be swallowed all at one gulp, but of Belgium, Serbia and Rumania.
We owe a debt of gratitude and honour to the men who have saved us from that fate; a debt of which the payment will enrich instead of impoverish us but little effort has been made to pay it.
There are various honour boards in existence, one of them in the Council Chambers, but our dead heroes deserve a nobler and more enduring memorial.
A resident of Rockhampton who has just returned from Britain relates how the councils in the various towns there are erecting handsome marble monuments, inscribed with the names of the local heroes who have lost their lives in the war.
There is no reason why Rockhampton should not follow the example. We have stores of granite and marble in the district, which would preserve the names of our dead heroes for ages to come. If we have no artists we have at least honest craftsmen who could design a monument that would be noble and dignified in its massive simplicity.
Neither is there any lack of excellent sites for such a memorial; the Botanic Gardens and the fine esplanade in Victoria Park, overlooking the river and the Berserker Ranges, have been suggested.
But the site is a matter for future consideration; the only indispensable point is that the spot should be attractive and a place of public resort.
No extravagant sum would be required to carry out a project that would do justice to the dead and possess a historical interest for all future times.
The initiative steps ought, of course, to be taken by the council, which has hitherto displayed a very lukewarm interest in such matters. The resident who makes the suggestion is willing to make a contribution towards the cost and many others would gladly do the same if the Mayor opened a subscription list.
The federal authorities have been sorely taxed of late to maintain the reinforcements that are required for the army in France. There can be no greater incentive to recruiting than the knowledge on the part of the potential volunteers that their services would be justly appraised by their fellow citizens and that both in life and in death they would be regarded with respect and gratitude.
A scheme that has much to recommend it in that direction has been set on foot in the south, whereby insurance policy-holders are asked to surrender their bonuses for the purpose of insuring the lives of the soldiers. The proportion of married men and those with other dependents is gradually increasing and while the relatives of the fallen soldier are provided for by pensions, which are very liberal as pensions go, a further addition to their means of livelihood would not be unwelcome.
The premiums are heavy and it is unfair that the men themselves should be expected to make such a provision.
The plan of securing the bonuses for that purpose is both worthy and ingenious, for it imposes no perceptible burden on the donor.
But there is no reason why others besides policyholders should not contribute and a few days ago Alderman Kingel suggested that some of our leading citizens should subscribe to an insurance fund for the benefit of the local recruits.
But in such matters it is the Mayor and the aldermen who ought to lead and they display a singular reluctance to do so.
Surely Alderman Kingel has sufficient influence with the mayor to induce him to give his official sanction and support to the two projects, that of a civic memorial to the fallen soldiers and an insurance fund for those who still have to face the perils of war.
If the Mayor is reluctant, then the resource of a public meeting, suggested by Alderman Kingel, can be adopted.
In whatever action the Mayor and the council may take they may rely upon the wholehearted support of the public.
None of the Allied communities have shown more spontaneous enthusiasm for the war than Australia but the curse of an incurable apathy seems to have fallen upon all its governing authorities, from the Federal Parliament itself down to the Rockhampton Council.