RSL HISTORY

RSL History
A History of the Forbes Sub-Branch
1918-1966

The not unexpected happening – loss of early records – applies to the Forbes Sub-branch of the RSL as it no doubt does to many others. However, with the co-operation of the local newspaper, civic bodies and a number of our senior residents, it has been possible to establish certain facts which are now presented for your information.

During World War 1 various organisations were operative in Forbes in support of our local men who enlisted for service – these included Red Cross and a War Service Committee. Many functions were held and comforts dispatched to the troops.

Anzac Day 1918 was celebrated in Forbes when a ‘goodly’ number of returned soldiers participated in an assembly at the town hall and afternoon tea was served by Red Cross Ladies. The Mayor, Ald. Bates, presided over the gathering.

In June, 1918, the Mayor tendered a civic reception to Sgt Howell VC, MM, Lieut. Burcher, DCM, and Pvt Mapstone. Sgt Howell thanked the Red Cross for their splendid work.

Again in June the Deputy Mayor, Ald. Luke McDonnell, officiated at a function when local servicemen Gnr. PJ Girot, Pvts Birt Smith, HC Sams, LW Waller, Syd Hill were honoured.

In this particular month there appears a short paragraph in the local paper to the effect that ‘Major E P McDonnell returned home after serving twelve months with the Army Medical Corps in Egypt and elsewhere with important missions in South East Africa taking him to Basutoland, Delegoa Bay, Capetown and other places.’

This man, it appears, was to become keenly interested in establishing an ex-serviceman’s organisation in Forbes and can perhaps, along with Mr TE Drane, be considered as the ‘fathers of the RSL in Forbes.’

Forbes Advocate of 19th November, 1918, gives notice that ‘A Meeting will be held in Council Chambers on Thursday, 21st, for the purpose of forming a Sub-branch of the Returned Soldiers’ League in Forbes. The chair will be occupied by Dr E P McDonnell.’ The notice was authorised by TE Drane, Secretary Pro-tem.

A later note indicates the meeting lapsed for lack of sufficient support but continued effort resulted in a Sub-branch being formed during December, 1918.

January 3, 1919, was the occasion of a ‘Reunion’ attended by about 50 ex-servicemen, and the chair was taken by Major EP McDonnell, President of the Forbes Branch of the League.

On 7th February, 1919, we again find mention of the ‘Returned Soldiers’ League’ when a meeting regarding the ‘Soldiers’ Carnival’ was held in Victoria Park under the Chairmanship of Mr P McNamara. The meeting was well attended.

On 14th March, 1919, the First Annual General Meeting of the Returned Soldiers & Sailors Imperial League was held in the town hall when a vote of thanks was passed to the retiring President, Major EP McDonnell. The exact date of his election to office is not known, but apparently he declined re-election at this meeting.

On the 14th March, 1919, the following office bearers were elected: President, P McNamara; Vice Presidents, SG White, GW Brownhill, H Ledger; Secretary, TE Drane; and Treasurer, J Rath.

It is interesting to note that Mr H Ledger is still with us in Forbes and a member of the Sub-branch while we have Tom Drane, Jr, son of our foundation Secretary, also a member.

The RS & SIL commenced to play an active part in matters appertaining to the welfare of ex-servicemen here in our town and from that year have been almost in continuous effective operation.

The Charter of the Forbes Sub-branch was issued on 1st June, 1919.

Mr Percy McNamara continued in office for three years. Following this period a lack of interest apparently was suffered resulting in four years of inactivity for the Sub-branch.

The year 1927 brought revival and the keen Secretary, TE Drane, convened a meeting on 8th July at which Mr Shaw Strickland accepted office as President, which office he held until replaced by Mr M Cahill in 1930.

Two years later (1932) saw the chair occupied by Mr TC Jago who at the time was Jemalong Shire Clerk.

Mr JJ Collingwood took office in 1934, was replaced for one year (1935) by Mr WJ Cox (Electrical Engineer of the Municipality), then served a further two years (1936-37).

Well known jeweller Mr Percy West was President 1938-39. World War 2 commenced and thrust new challenges and opportunities before the Sub-branch.

1940 saw Mr JG Waldron elected as leader. Mr OC Whitelaw, a banker, followed in 1941 and the Sub-branch was prominent in activities connected with the welfare of serving soldiers and ex-servicemen.

A.E. “Uncle” Clarence, another banker, presided in 1942-43-44 and had the opportunity to assist at Civic Welcome Home Ceremonies and functions tendered to Diggers returning home from the Middle East and other war theatres.

Mr Keith Macintosh, who had been Vice President, took over following Mr Clarence’s transfer from Forbes and occupied the position at the cessation of hostilities.

1946 saw Mr Percy Conridge serve a term as President to be followed in 1947 by the first of the young Diggers, Dr Jim Delohery.

Four years of enthusiastic leadership was given by Dr Delohery, and a great deal of attention given to the creation of a Club for ex-servicemen during this period.

The Air Force flew in and Mr Graham Charles held the reins in 1951 with solicitor and ex-8th Div. POW John Meillon following in 1952.

Mr AC Perry, who had given long and valued service to the RSL, accepted office in 1953 and with great devotion continued to lead the Sub-branch until 1959.

To answer the call, an old Digger stepped forward, Mr LH Tickner, and he was elected in 1959, giving service until 1963 when Mr JD McFarland, MBE, one of the “Tobruk Rats” took up the duties. Honorary Life Membership was conferred on Mr AC Perry in 1963.

Current President, Mr AH Brown, succeeded to office from the Vice Presidency in March of this year (1966) and the Sub-branch continues to spare no efforts in its endeavour to render service and assistance to all ex-servicemen and women.

This is of necessity a brief history and as such has only mentioned the Presidents of the Sub-branch. However, let it be clearly understood that full acknowledgement is recorded of the service rendered by all office bearers and committee and in particular those who performed the ‘back bone’ duty of Secretary, and the loyal members who have supported and worked for the success of the Sub-branch over the past half century.

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Our “Helping Hands”

It would surely be appropriate on this anniversary to include some reference to organisations closely associated with the RSL over the past fifty years.

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Red Cross Society

During World War 1 the Australian Red Cross Society was extremely active in Forbes and was associated with many activities organised by the RS & SIL. Mrs EJ Murphy, MBE, and Mrs AA Sharp have been members of the Red Cross for 50 years, and they remember much of the early association of the two bodies. Mrs Murphy was awarded the MBE for community service in the Queen’s New Year Honours, 1960.

World War 2 saw Red Cross still a most active force in working for the benefit of ex-servicemen and their dependents. Since 1939 the Society has had only four Presidents – Mr HB Sweet, Mrs IA McLean, Mrs WJ Green, MBE, who occupied the position for 19 years, retiring in 1966 when Mrs GW Edmonds accepted office. Mrs Green received the MBE in the Queen’s Honours List in June, 1961, for outstanding voluntary service to Red Cross.

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RSL Ladies’ Auxiliary


The RSL Ladies’ Auxiliary was founded in Forbes on 27th May, 1944, at a meeting presided over by Mr AE Clarence, President of the Forbes Sub-branch of the RSL. Over many years their actions included the raising of funds, waiting on tables and preparation of gifts for hospital patients. Except for one short lapse in 1983/84, their service has been continuous and still continues.

Foundation President was Mrs AE Clarence, followed by Mrs K Hastings in 1945.

The next year, 1946, saw the election of Mrs GW Edmonds who one year later was succeeded by Mrs K Macintosh, who occupied the office for three years until the annual meeting in 1949.

Mrs EJ Murphy was elected at that meeting and commenced a mammoth effort in managing the affairs of the Auxiliary until retirement in 1964.

It was with pleasure the RSL supported the successful recommendation for Queen’s Honours for Mrs Murphy and the RSL Auxiliary conferred Life Membership on this very worthy member in July, 1957.

Mrs GW Edmonds, who had recently returned to Forbes after a long absence, was elected to the Presidency in 1964 and still serves in that capacity. Despite the lapse of eighteen years, Mrs Edmonds brought an abundance of vigour to the office.

The RSL is indeed deeply indebted to the Red Cross Society and, of latter years, the RSL Ladies’ Auxiliary in particular for the splendid assistance and support rendered on so many occasions.

Acknowledgement is made of the co-operation of the Forbes Newspaper Co., without the information contained herein could not have been collated.

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1967-2003

Following an eventful first FIFTY YEARS, the Forbes Sub-branch settled down to a busy and fruitful period and – in 2002 – continues to be a strong organisation.

During the period under review, the Sub-branch has operated under the control of eight different presidents each of whom has made his valuable contribution.

It can be noted that the steering of the Sub-branch has gradually passed from the WW2 members to those from later conflicts. However, a group of the ‘Old and Bold’ still remain and exert their influence in 2003.

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Ceremonies

Each Anzac Day, returned personnel were joined by other groups in a march terminating at the cenotaph.

A service commencing at 11:00 AM was conducted at the conclusion of the march.

In earlier days the march commenced at the Commonwealth Bank in Lachlan Street.

This was then moved to the Forbes Services Memorial Club in Templar Street.

In 1996, due to the ageing of the Diggers, the assembly point was moved to Cross Street where is still remains the starting point for our Anzac Day march.

Recent years have shown an increase in interest and attendance, particularly by younger people.

In addition, short services were held at the cenotaph marking Retreat on Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and Long Tan Day.

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Lachlan Legacy

At all times the Sub-branch and the Services Memorial Club have strongly supported Lachlan Legacy not only financially but also in the provision of facilities and services.


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The Cenotaph

As custodian of the Cenotaph in Victoria Park, the Sub-branch has attended to its maintenance and various modifications.

In 1973, lettering was added to accommodate the Korean, Malayan and Vietnam conflicts.

In 1990, additional stonework was added for the same purpose.

In 1994, a protective picket fence was erected but later considered too restrictive and was removed in 2000.

In 1999, the four figurines were added.

Following prolonged negotiations with other interested bodies, the Honour Walls were constructed and dedicated by Major General Peter Cosgrove AC MC on 17th June, 2000.

The cost of this construction was $34,000.00.

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Boer War Memorial

The Boer War memorial situated at the intersection of Lachlan and Templar was a matter for concern for many years.

At first the Sub-branch opposed its removal but eventually following a number of traffic accidents agreement was reached with the Forbes Council.

The Council would pay removal costs and the Sub-branch cost of repairs.

The monument was moved to its present site in Victoria Park in 1974.

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Forbes Services Memorial Club

The RSL sowed the seed for the development of the Forbes Services Memorial Club.

A sub committee was formed in 1946 to conduct a Social Club.

Since that time the RSL has been continuously involved in the evolution of the club as we know it today.

In 1954, the Forbes Services Memorial Club as such was established in new premises in Templar Street.

In 1970, the responsibility of conducting the Memorial Hall was handed on by the RSL to the club.

The club continued to expand, but the land occupied was still owned by the RSL.

The problem that this created was overcome in 1990 by the sale of the land by the RSL to the club.

The sale was subject to certain conditions, which were recorded in the minute book on 18th September, 1989 and were also incorporated in the club’s constitution.

Largely as a result of this agreement, the club and the RSL have continued to prosper in harmony.

The sale resulted in the Sub-branch holding monies in excess of $250,000.00.

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Hospital Visitation

Regular weekly visits to members in hospital have been a feature for the Sub-branch.

Initially these visits were accompanied by gifts of cigarettes and sweets. With changing attitudes the cigarettes were deleted.

Numerous people have been involved, but a special note is JD (Jack) Murray who performed this service from 1967 until prevented by ill health in 2001.

In addition to this service, with the assistance of the RSL Ladies’ Auxiliary, gifts were given out to all people in hospital and both nursing homes each Christmas.

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Home Visits

In 1974, Sub-branch member Charlie Morton sought approval for him on behalf of the Sub-branch to visit members who were sick or otherwise confined to their homes.

The authority was given and Charlie carried out this service at no cost to the Sub-branch for many years until prevented by his own ill health. Charlie died in 1994.

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Servicemen Serving Overseas

At all times the Sub-branch has strongly supported servicemen and servicewomen serving overseas.

This was especially evident during the conflicts in Vietnam (1962 to 1973) and Korea (1950 to 1953).

In 1967, it was resolved to send each 6 months parcels to each serviceman/woman serving overseas. In addition, the Forbes Advocate was to be sent to each person.

In 1968, it was resolved to send a Christmas parcel to all local servicemen/women serving overseas.

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Publicity

For many years, a ‘Diggers Session’ was broadcast from 2PK at Parkes on Sundays.

A number of Sub-branch members were involved in preparing tapes which were forwarded to the Parkes Studios each week.

This useful service was commenced in 1975 and continued until 1990. Another method of promoting Sub-branch news was through the publication of the ‘Furphy Column’ in the Forbes Advocate each week.

This service continued for a number of years mainly through the work of Jack Murray until discontinued in 1990.

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Old Diggers Dinner

For many years, the Sub-branch sponsored an annual dinner for its members from the 1914 – 1918 conflict.

The members attending slowly dwindled until this function through lack of numbers was last held in 1985.

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Diggers Ball – RSL Dinner

An annual function held for many years was the ‘Diggers Ball’. This took place on the Friday nearest Remembrance Day and was well attended by members and their partners.

In 1971, a Cabaret was substituted, and in 1979 it was resolved that a dinner would be more suitable.

The first RSL Dinner took place in March 1980 and has been conducted by the Sub-branch each year since then.

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The Diggers Trotting Club

This club was formed in 1952 and is the only trotting club in Australia operating under the auspices of the RSL.

In earlier years of operation, the club contributed handsomely to the Memorial Hall Fund.

The club still operates strongly and is supported by the Sub-branch.

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The Diggers Race Club

This club operated for many years, racing once a year on the Friday prior to the Forbes Picnic Races on the Saturday.

The club was wound up in 1969.

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The Diggers Swim Club

This club was formed under the auspices of the Sub-branch and continues to operate each season. The trip to Nelson Bay is a feature each year.

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Small Bore and Pistol Club

This club has had a chequered existence but has had Sub-branch support throughout.

In 1970, rifles were purchased for use by the club only to be sold in 1979 to the Young Police & Citizens Club.

The pistol range in Gaymards Quarry was developed in 1973 and still operates.

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Northcott Neurological Diagnostic Centre

For a number of years in the mid-seventies the Sub-branch supported this institution situated in North Sydney.

This centre provided a very useful service not otherwise available to an ex-serviceman/woman.

In time, the development of more modern methods rendered the centre obsolete.

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CMF

For many years, the Sub-branch agitated for the establishment of a CMF unit in Forbes.

In spite of great effort, their representations were not successful.

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Anzac Essay

To encourage the interest of younger folk, an Anzac Essay Competition is promoted by the State Branch.

The Sub-branch has supported this with local awards being presented.

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Diorama

The diorama on display in the club foyer is the work of Sub-branch member Kel Woodside.

Sub-branch members carry out the maintenance of this and the display case.

Members renovated the display in 2001.

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Secretary’s House

A property at 10 Ryan Street Forbes was purchased for the use of the Sub-branch and club secretary. When no longer required for that purpose, it was at first let and then sold in 1979.
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