Cairns First World War Sailors and Soldiers Monument

The Cairns First World War Sailors and Soldiers Monument is located on the Esplanade, opposite the Cairns Hospital. This sandstone monument, approximately twelve and a half metres in height, comprises a tall clock tower topped by a life-size statue of an Australian soldier standing at ease and facing towards the sea. Four leaded marble plates bearing relevant inscriptions are recessed behind red granite columns, around the base of the clock tower.

The memorial originally had a four-faced electric clock however this was eventually removed as it was no longer functioning properly, being replaced by painted clock faces showing 4.28am, the time of the original landing at Gallipoli. At the time it was erected, it was the most expensive war memorial in the area and has since been a major landmark in Cairns. The masons were Melrose and Fenwick who were responsible for a number of other memorials erected in various North Queensland communities. Planning for a memorial in Cairns began as early as 1916, with funds being progressively raised by the community, but it was to be 1926 before it was completed and unveiled by the mayor of Cairns, Mr. Draper. The unveiling took place on ANZAC Day 1926 in front of a huge crowd, with the event reported in detail in the Cairns Post as well as a number of other newspapers.

The main inscriptions on the memorial are as follows:

“To the sacred memory of those who enlisted from Cairns and made the supreme sacrifice in the Great War 1914-1918.

The moments pass, but ne’er shall die
The memory of our honoured dead
Who marching whither duty lead
With death met immortality

The names of those who paid the price for us
And for the land we love
Be beacon fires to all who move
On lowlier ways of sacrifice

The memorial was originally located at the intersection of Abbott and Shields Streets, but was subsequently relocated to its present position in 1972. A time capsule was originally placed in the memorial’s foundations at the time it was built, and this was replaced by another time capsule when relocated. As well, it is now flanked by two war guns, one an 1887 naval gun and the other a 1940 field gun as well as being bordered by concrete fence posts and a path.

Cairns War Memorial, 1926, State Library of Queensland Neg. No. 70121

Cairns War Memorial, 1926, State Library of Queensland Neg. No. 70121

This photograph shows the memorial, in its original position, at the time of its unveiling in 1926.

Brian Randall, Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.

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