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Temple of Peace

  • 600334
  • cnr Mount Coot-tha Road and Frederick Street, Toowong


State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Monuments and memorials: Memorial/monument
1.4 Peopling places: Family and marking the phases of life
Ramo, Richard
Ramo, Richard
Construction period
1924, Temple of Peace (1924 - 1924)
Historical period
1919–1930s Interwar period


cnr Mount Coot-tha Road and Frederick Street, Toowong
Brisbane City Council
-27.47437284, 152.98277165


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Criterion AThe place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland’s history.

The self-styled Temple of Peace was erected in 1924 by Brisbane dissident Richard Ramo and its dedication took the form of a pacifist rally. The monument purports to mourn the deaths of Ramo's three natural sons on active service in World War I along with the more recent suicide of his adopted son and poisoning of his dog, however these claims are spurious. The monument is, rather, an impassioned anti-war statement and has outstanding historical significance in reflecting the volatility and instability of post-war Australian society. Designed and largely built by Ramo himself, its inscriptions reveal his links to the dissident organisation, the Industrial Workers of the World, which sought to unite workers to overthrow capitalism and resist war.

Criterion DThe place is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a particular class of cultural places.

As an anti-war monument, its form an amalgam of mausoleum and Indian temple, combining stock war memorial imagery with subversive features and inscriptions, it is unique among Australian war memorials.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The Temple of Peace has aesthetic significance for its extravagant and eccentric design and embellishments and its emotive inscriptions, evoking a sense of loss, instability, despair and hopelessness.


The Temple of Peace, located near the main entrance of Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, was erected in 1924 by local dissident Richard Ramo. Its dedication took the form of a pacifist rally.

Like all Australian communities, Brisbane was profoundly affected by the impact of WWI. Of the 330,770 Australians who embarked for overseas service in WWI, 58,961 died and 170,909 were wounded, went missing or became prisoners of war. This meant that around 69% of embarked personnel became casualties - or 21% of eligible Australian males.[1] To date, no previous or subsequent war has had such an impact on Australia in terms of loss of life; almost every community in every Australian state lost young people. Even before the end of hostilities, memorials were being erected by Australian communities to honour local people who had served and died. These memorials were a spontaneous and highly visible expression of national grief; substitute graves for the Australians whose bodies lay in battlefield cemeteries in Europe and the Middle East.

WWI memorials took a variety of forms in Australia, including honour boards (from 1915), stone monuments (including obelisks, soldier statues, arches, crosses, columns or urns), tree-lined memorial avenues, memorial parks, and utilitarian structures such as gates, halls and clocks. In Queensland the soldier statue was the most popular choice of monument, while the obelisk predominated in southern states.[2] Australia's first permanent WWI memorial to honour the men from a particular community was unveiled at Balmain, NSW, 23 April 1916.[3]

The Temple of Peace, a unique and highly unusual monument, appears to commemorate the deaths of Ramo's three natural sons on active service in World War I, along with the more recent suicide of his adopted son and poisoning of his dog. Since its dedication in 1924, the monument has become widely known and its claims have been accepted at face value. Extensive research since 2001 has revealed significant inconsistencies between the monument's claims and genealogical and military service records related to Ramo and his family. Dr. Judith McKay's 'Brisbane's Temple of Peace: war and myth-making'[4], (which forms the basis of this entry), further explores and discusses the Temple of Peace, Ramo's family background and possible motivations behind its construction.

The monument bears inscriptions recording the deaths of Ramo's three soldier sons: Victor, killed at Messines at the age of 33; Henry, died of wounds in Belgium at the age of 29; and Gordon, killed at Gallipoli at 18. According to contemporary accounts of the dedication, the ashes of two of the sons had been recovered and re-interred here.[5] The monument also has the sarcophagus of Fred Borell, Ramo's adopted son, who committed suicide at the age of 27; the inscription reads, ‘A misguided love brought me to an early grave'. The monument also commemorates Pup, Ramo's faithful dog, which had been ‘maliciously poisoned'. A statue of Pup sits atop Fred's sarcophagus. At its base Ramo added the words, ‘All my hope lies buried here'.

Significantly, the Temple of Peace bears none of solemn inscriptions normally associated with war memorials. As Ken Inglis observes in his definitive study of Australian war memorials, these were often of ancient origin, including Biblical or apocryphal, or incorporated patriotic verse.[6] In place of these, Ramo added words expressing his own anguish and generally denouncing war, calling on the world's workers to unite in brotherhood.

Ramo is said to have designed the monument himself and undertaken most of its construction, labouring nine months on the project. This was apart from the help of Brisbane monumental mason WE Parsons with the marble and stone work. Parsons was responsible for another rather irreverent war monument: an extraordinarily relaxed soldier statue, standing pipe in hand and rifle slung from one shoulder, on the Beaudesert War Memorial, which had been unveiled a few years earlier, in 1921.[7]

The monument is essentially a mausoleum, defined in the Macquarie Dictionary as ‘a stately and magnificent tomb'[8]; at the time of its dedication it was likened to an Indian temple,[9] reflecting its curious mix of architectural styles.

The Temple of Peace was described in a newspaper at the time as:

... an elaborately conceived and executed rectangular structure of stone, plaster, and marble, standing about 12ft [3.6m] high. Four corner columns support a canopy, and surmounting this there is an urn. ... A low, pillared marble balustrade is erected on two sides, and the end opposite the entrance steps is entirely enclosed. At the sides of the canopy wooden slabs are inscribed with the names of the three soldier sons of the builder, and with that of his adopted son. At the enclosed end ... is a poem exhorting the nations of the earth to cease from warfare. ... The mausoleum is adorned with ferns hanging from the canopy, and with ornaments in plaster and gilding. Over the steps is a little metal dove.[10]

Ramo's edifice was dedicated on 6 December 1924 in the presence of a large pacifist gathering. The dedication was organised by the Australian Rationalist Association and addressed by its national President, Harry Scott Bennett, who urged those present to not only honour the dead but also promote international fraternity and reject war as an evil of modern capitalism. A trembling Ramo responded by paying tribute to his departed sons and calling for an end to the ‘cursed slaughter of war'.[11]

The coffin bearing the Borell's remains was borne in procession from the Anglican section of the cemetery, where it had been interred a year earlier. The coffin was draped in a red flag and, as it was placed in the monument, the Labor Band played the socialist anthem the ‘Red Flag'.

Absent from the proceedings were any of the religious or military rituals often to be seen at the unveiling of war memorials. The monument's radical and highly orchestrated dedication, together with its subversive features and inscriptions, make it unique among Australian war memorials. As Ken Inglis writes, ‘The count of anti-war memorials is small' and this is ‘a monument like no other anywhere'. Its nearest equivalent, he states, is a pair of plaques erected in Melbourne's Trades Hall in 1918 to commemorate opponents of conscription.[12]

As well as being a strong anti-war expression, the monument appears to be the work of a devoted father mourning the loss of his sons. In this regard, the documentary evidence indicates otherwise. Richard Ramo was born Karl Paul Richard Retzlaff in Prussia in 1863. Migrating to Australia in 1887, he worked as a cabinetmaker and gilder and in 1890 in Sydney married a fellow Prussian, Auguste Elise Seidel, a servant. Between 1891 and 1896 the couple had three sons, all born in New South Wales: Percy, Cecil and Gordon; there was no Victor or Henry, as claimed on the memorial, Gordon is the only son verified. Ramo was naturalised in 1905, at which time he changed his surname from Retzlaff,[13] but his sons adopted different variations of both names.

Two of Richard Ramo's sons did serve in World War I. Gordon, who used the name Redcliff, was a Private in the 19th Battalion and was killed at Gallipoli on 1 November 1915.[14] Cecil, who used the name Raymo, was a Sapper in the 5th Divisional Signal Company and, though wounded, managed to survive the war and went on to serve in the next war.[15] The third son Percy, who used the name Redcliffe, did not serve and spent the war years in Sydney.

Ramo's claim that his son's ashes were recovered and re-interred in the Temple of Peace is inconsistent with Australian and British military practice at the time. Other fallen Australians, like their comrades from other parts of the British Empire, were buried (not cremated) beside the battlefields in which they fell and eventually in the cemeteries of the Imperial War Graves Commission.[16]

The service record of Gordon, the son who died at Gallipoli, provides evidence of Richard Ramo's fractured relationship with his family. A statutory declaration by Percy Ramo stated that Ramo had deserted his sons at an early age and that Gordon, the youngest, had become a ward of the state. It is also known Ramo's wife Elise spent time in a Newcastle mental asylum, losing contact with her surviving sons; according to Ramo's great-granddaughter, he had his wife ‘put away' after years of cruelty and abuse.[17] Other evidence indicates Ramo also is also likely to have suffered from mental health issues.[18] By 1918, Ramo, estranged from his family, had moved to Brisbane where he bought a hairdressing salon at 180 Roma Street. In July 1923 he sold this for a second-hand shop two doors away, where he also lived.

Richard Ramo's adopted son, Ferdinand (Fred) Christian Borell was born in Queensland in 1896. The son of German immigrants Carl Heinrich Borell and his wife Auguste Anna, née Mutzelburg, he grew up on a farm near Laidley. Fred Borrell was a blacksmith by trade and first met Ramo as a hairdressing client. In 1922, when Ramo was ill and needed assistance, Borell began working and residing with Ramo, and was ‘adopted'. Their relationship deteriorated after Borell had an affair with a neighbouring married woman. This led to a showdown, after which Borrell seized a revolver and shot himself. He died on 28 November 1923 and was buried at Toowong Cemetery two days later.[19] A six day inquest followed, attracting much press attention.[20]

The final victim commemorated in Ramo's monument, Pup, his poisoned dog, is not mentioned in accounts of the dedication, so is possibly a later addition. According to Ramo's former neighbour in Petrie Terrace, where he lived at the end of his life, he kept a pack of dogs.[21]

The motivations behind Richard Ramo's decision to to erect the Temple of Peace remain unclear; Ramo, scarcely literate, left no papers. Queensland, along with the rest of Australia, experienced significant volatility and instability in the years following World War I, marked by industrial strife and social, political and ideological conflict. The sanctification of war, expressed most visibly through the erection of war memorials, was not supported by all members of the community. Ramo was certainly a pacifist and socialist, though the precise nature of his beliefs remains unknown.

The monument's inscriptions suggest that he was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World [IWW], or Wobblies; or at least familiar with its propaganda. This was a revolutionary movement that began in the United States in 1905 and soon spread elsewhere. Committed to overthrowing capitalism through industrial action, the IWW sought to unite the world's workers and was implacably opposed to World War I, which it saw as pitting workers against one another in the cause of imperialism and profit. Though the IWW was never as strong in Queensland as in the south, it had a sizeable following in the north among meat and sugar workers and miners, and was involved in the 1916 Shearers' Strike and the 1919 Red Flag Riots. Ramo came to Queensland just as the IWW was at its strongest; its numbers swelled by exiles from the south, where federal legislation banning dissident groups was enforced.[22] Such groups were subject to persecution, so their members and activities were rarely recorded, hence it is impossible to prove Ramo's involvement.

Though the Australian Rationalist Association played a major role in the dedication of Ramo's monument, it is unlikely that he was a Rationalist. The association, a group of freethinkers and socialists, was established in London in 1899. Formed in Queensland a decade later, its members tended to be middle-class intellectuals who held discussions but did not engage in militant propaganda.[23] Though sympathetic for a dissident like Ramo, they would have had little in common with him.

The Temple of Peace is located close to two other major war memorials at Toowong Cemetery: the Cross of Sacrifice and Stone of Remembrance. Replicas of structures found in British battlefield cemeteries across the world, they were the first such memorials to be erected in Australia, to honour the many soldier burials within the cemetery-men who had died upon return from service. The memorials, affirmations of imperial loyalty, were erected by the instigators of Anzac observance, the Queensland Anzac Commemoration Committee, with the assistance of the State Government, and were to become a focus of future observance. They were unveiled on Anzac Day 1924 by Governor-General Lord Forster, with Christian rites and official pageantry, before a crowd of 3000. These memorials would have been under construction just as Ramo was planning his monument.[24]

Whether the siting and form of Ramo's monument was a deliberate pacifist response to the official structures nearby is uncertain; it remains as an impassioned anti-war landmark in its context.

How Ramo, a hairdresser turned second-hand dealer, had the means to erect such a monument which, in its day, would have cost almost as much as an ordinary worker's dwelling, is unknown. He funded another monument in Toowong Cemetery: that of his former hairdressing assistant Albert Willcock (in portion 4, near the Temple of Peace). More curiously, Ramo's name appears on this and other monuments as monumental mason (the Innes and Herd monuments in portion 8) and these share similarities with the Temple of Peace, namely the eccentric ornament.

Richard Ramo remained in Brisbane until his death in 1951 at age of 87. He was cremated and his ashes were added to the Temple of Peace.

Alterations have been made to the mausoleum over time. The enclosing of the sides above the balustrade with leadlight panels, is likely to have been undertaken before Ramo's death in 1951. After falling into disrepair and damage from vandals, the mausoleum was restored in 2009 through funds partially donated by the Queensland Government, the Brisbane City Council, the Friends of Toowong Cemetery and raised from the community.[25] Transparent protective panels were added to all elevations at this time.


The Temple of Peace mausoleum stands on flat ground shaded by mature trees within the 43-hectare Toowong Cemetery (QHR 601773), in Toowong, a suburb of Brisbane. The monument is prominent, standing near the main entrance, surrounded by smaller burials and memorials.

A rectangular stone structure, 2.7m long, 1.7m wide and 3m high, the monument stands on a low, rusticated stone base. Tapered, corner pillars support a stepped roof over the burial chamber. Embellishing the exterior are moulded swags, bosses, and egg and dart ornament; features harking back to classical antiquity and to be found on many war memorials. Other features seem to mock such tradition. The canopy has corner finials shaped like urns - from which sprout stylised, metal plants. Surmounting the canopy is a miniature mausoleum: a dome supported on columns housing a lamp of remembrance (an urn with wreath and flame). Perched above the entrance is a metal dove bearing an olive branch in its beak, presumably a dove of peace though it is black and menacing. The mausoleum's elevations and plan are symmetrical.

The front of the mausoleum faces south, as do the other burials in this portion of the cemetery. A narrow stair leads to a decorative, metal gate, providing access into the mausoleum. Marble plaques with leaded inscriptions are mounted on the pillars beside the entrance and ask for peace, or declare 'THERE IS NO HEAVEN!'. On the entablature above the entrance is a leaded marble plaque inscribed 'THE TEMPLE OF PEACE'.

Originally the mausoleum's sides were open, but now they are enclosed by leadlight windows of Gothic trefoil shape with coloured leadlight above an original painted, stone balustrade. The rear wall is solid.

The mausoleum has a richly-coloured leadlight frieze on all elevations, as well as moulded, render embellishments fixed by nails. The pillars and back wall are rendered and painted. Transparent glass panels cover leadlight and the front, fixed to the mausoleum with stainless steel anchors. The front glass panel has a hinged door to maintain access to the interior.

The interior of the mausoleum is painted and also bears moulded, render embellishments including ceiling rosettes with metal hooks for hanging potted plants. It contains a low marble slab 'sarcophagus' inscribed with 'ALL MY HOPE LIES BURIED HERE'. Standing on the head of the sarcophagus is a stepped, marble cairn inscribed with 'PEACE ON EARTH GOOD WILL TO MEN.', and at the foot is a plaster casket inscribed with 'PUP A FAITHFUL CANINE FRIEND MALICIOUSLY POISONED' with an effigy of a recumbent dog on top. On the rear wall of the interior are marble slabs with many leaded inscriptions, including 'WHEN THE RED FLAG OF HUMANITY FLIES OVER THE WORLD, I SHALL NOT HAVE LIVED IN VAIN. R.R.', 'IN MEMORIAM FRED, GORDON, VICTOR, HENRY, AND I.' and a poem that asks nations to cease 'YOUR WHIRLING DANCE OF DEATH' and for the 'WORKERS OF THE WORLD BE BROTHERS'.


[1] Casualties include those who died, were wounded, went missing or were captured. Casualty figures vary somewhat, depending on the source. If the numbers of those who suffered from sickness are included in casualty figures, the casualty rate rises to 96% of embarkations. Embarkation figure is from: Inglis, KS, Sacred Places: War memorials in the Australian landscape. Miegunyah Press, Victoria, 1998, p.92. Figures for total eligible males, and died, wounded, missing, POW or sick are from (accessed 5/08/2013).

[2] Inglis, Sacred Places: War memorials in the Australian landscape, p.161.

[3] Inglis, Sacred Places: War memorials in the Australian landscape, pp.108-109.

[4] Judith McKay, 'Brisbane's Temple of Peace: war and myth-making', Queensland History Journal, vol. 20, no. 10, May 2009, pp.457-469.

[5] Brisbane Courier, 8 December 1924, p.8; The Week, 12 December 1924, p.16.

[6] K.S. Inglis, Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1998), pp.190-96.

[7] Judith McKay, ‘Putting the Digger on a pedestal', Historic Environment, vol. 5, no.3, 1986, pp. 9, 11.

[8] Macquarie Dictionary Online,

[9] Daily Standard, 8 December 1924, p.4.

[10] The Brisbane Courier, 8 December 1924, p.8.

[11] Daily Standard, 8 December 1924, p.4.

[12] Inglis, Sacred Places, pp.231-33.

[13] Richard Paul Carl Ramo naturalisation papers, series A651/1, item 1721932, National Archives of Australia, Canberra.

[14] Military service record of Gordon Redcliff, series B2455/1, item 8026516, National Archives of Australia, Canberra.

[15] Military service record of Cecil John Valentine Raymo, series B2455/1, item 8070280, National Archives of Australia, Canberra.

[16] Only in exceptional circumstances, when necessitated to prevent the spread of disease, were bodies burnt; however, the ashes were never repatriated.

[17] Judith McKay, interview with Ruth Bannerman, 6 May 2007.

[18] See Judith McKay 'Brisbane's Temple of Peace: war and myth-making' for further discussion

[19] Inquest file of F.C. Borell, JUS/N776, file 1924/155, Queensland State Archives.

[20] Truth, 13 January 1924, p.5; 27 January 1924, p.5; 10 February 1924, p.2; 17 February 1924, p.15; 24 February 1924, p.2.

[21] Sunday Mail, 26 August 2001.

[22] Queensland's Ryan Labor government did not enforce the draconian Unlawful Associations legislation of 1916-17.

[23] Ray Dahlitz, Secular Who's Who: A Biographical Directory of Freethinkers, Secularists, Rationalists, Humanists and Others Involved in Australia's Secular Movement from 1850 Onwards (Balwyn, Vic.: Ray Dahlitz, 1994), p.109.

[24] The Toowong Cemetery Register of Special Grants (SRS5449, Queensland State Archives) records that Ramo purchased the plot in January 1924.

[25] 'Q150 facelift for significant Toowong memorials' accessed 18 October 2013.

Image gallery


Location of Temple of Peace within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last reviewed
1 July 2022
Last updated
20 February 2022