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Gayndah War Memorial

  • 600517
  • 32-34 Capper Street, Gayndah


Also known as
Rawbelle Shire War Memorial
State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Monuments and memorials: Memorial/monument
8.6 Creating social and cultural institutions: Commemorating significant events
Gunderson, Ernest
Gunderson, Ernest
Construction periods
1903, Gayndah War Memorial - War trophy - gun (1903 - 1903)
1921–1995, Gayndah War Memorial (1921 - 1995)
1921, Gayndah War Memorial - Memorial - honour board (1921 - 1921)
1986–1994, Gayndah War Memorial - Memorial - other (WWII-) (c1986 - c1994)
Historical period
1919–1930s Interwar period


32-34 Capper Street, Gayndah
North Burnett Regional Council
-25.62584, 151.610695


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

Unveiled in 1919, the Gayndah War Memorial is important in demonstrating Queensland’s involvement in a major world event. World War 1 (WWI) memorials are representative of a recurrent theme that involved most communities throughout the state and are a tribute from a particular community to those who served and those who died. They are an important feature of Queensland's towns and cities and are also important in demonstrating a common pattern of commemoration across Queensland and Australia.

Criterion BThe place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland’s cultural heritage.

The Gayndah War Memorial is a rare example of a war memorial that was privately commissioned, then donated as a public memorial, and later supplemented by another major private donation. The memorial is uncommon as a large WWI honour board as its centrepiece which is located outside.

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

The Gayndah War Memorial is a good example of a well-designed and finely crafted WWI memorial. Designed and built by leading Brisbane metal manufacturers Gunderson & Co., the memorial at Gayndah demonstrates the principal characteristics of a commemorative structure erected as an enduring record of a major historical event. This involves the use of appropriate materials and displays the names of the enlisted and the dead.

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The Gayndah War Memorial and its setting are significant for their high degree of workmanship and design and  contribution to the aesthetic qualities of the townscape.

Criterion GThe place has a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons.

The Gayndah War Memorial has a strong and continuing association with the community as evidence of the impact of a major historic event and as the focal point for the remembrance of that event.

Criterion HThe place has a special association with the life or work of a particular person, group or organisation of importance in Queensland’s history.

The Gayndah War Memorial has a special association with well-known Queensland manufacturer and supplier of honour boards and memorials Ernest Gunderson and is recognised as the finest example of his work in Queensland.


The Gayndah War Memorial, located between the Gayndah post office and library on Capper Street, comprises a large bronze metal honour board honouring the 270 local men who served during World War 1 (WWI), including those who died, on a decorative concrete mount. The memorial, designed and produced by leading Brisbane metal worker Ernest Gunderson, was privately commissioned by Mr Harold Wilson and donated to the Rawbelle Shire and Gayndah Town Councils in 1919. The memorial is important in demonstrating Queensland’s involvement in a major world event and has a special association with the Gayndah community as the principal site for commemoration.[1]

Gazetted in 1849, the town of Gayndah initially developed as the centre for a number of large sheep stations taken up in the Burnett region during the 1840s. Gayndah's early growth as a pastoral "capital" is largely attributed to the determination of the squatters, and for a short time, the town reputedly rivalled Brisbane as the capital for Queensland. Gayndah also developed as the administrative centre for the area: a court house and post office were established in the 1850s and a school [QHR 600516] was erected in 1861. A branch of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney was opened in 1864, and a Town Council was established in 1867, comprising a mayor and three aldermen. In 1880 the Rawbelle Divisional Board was established and attended to all business outside the jurisdiction of the Town Council. In 1922, a new board known as the Rawbelle-Gayndah Joint Board was formed and comprised a delegation from Gayndah. By the late nineteenth century, cattle had replaced sheep as the dominant pastoral activity. Citrus orchards also flourished, and together with cattle and dairy farming, provided the basis for the development of Gayndah from the turn of the century.[2]

Like all Australian communities, Gayndah was 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. No previous or subsequent war has had a physical impact on the nation of that scale. Even before the end of the war, memorials became a spontaneous and highly visible expression of national grief. To those who erected them, they were as sacred as grave sites, substitute graves for the Australians whose bodies lay in battlefield cemeteries in Europe and the Middle East.  

Australia's first permanent WWI memorial to honour the men from a particular community was unveiled at Balmain, New South Wales, on 23 April 1916.[3]

Australian war memorials are distinctive in that they do not commemorate only the dead. Australians were proud that their first great national army, unlike other armies, was composed entirely of volunteers, men worthy of honour whether or not they paid the supreme sacrifice. Many memorials honour all who served from a locality, not just the dead, providing valuable evidence of a community’s involvement in the war. Such evidence is not readily obtainable from military records, or from state or national listings, where names are categorised alphabetically or by military unit.

WWI memorials took a variety of forms in Australia, including honour boards (from 1915), stone monuments (including obelisks, soldier statues, arches, crosses, columns, urns, or slabs), tree-lined memorial avenues, memorial parks, and utilitarian structures such as gates, halls and clocks. In Queensland, honour boards were displayed in Schools of Arts, churches and public halls from 1915. The soldier statue became the most popular choice of monument in Queensland, while the obelisk predominated in southern states. Many WWI monuments have been updated to record local involvement in later conflicts.[4]

A scheme to erect a memorial for those from the Gayndah district who enlisted in WWI was put forward by the Gayndah Town and Rawbelle councils in 1918. This scheme was for a local memorial hall to be shared by both local authorities as a public hall. However, it was not until 1935 that this hall, known as the Gayndah and District Soldiers’ Memorial Hall [QHR 602124], was opened.[5]

The Gayndah War Memorial, comprising a large WWI honour board, was originally erected on the median strip at the junction of Capper, Meson and Warton streets. It was unveiled on 9 September 1919 by Mr Bernard Corser, MLA, in the presence of around 2000 people, including around 100 returned soldiers. The memorial, which cost around £300, was privately commissioned by Mr Harold H Wilson of nearby Cooranga station, and then donated to the Rawbelle Shire and Gayndah Town Councils. Mr Wilson, who was a prominent member of the local community and known to be ‘the foremost in helping the “Diggers”’, provided the funds for the memorial in late 1918. He was strongly associated with local sporting bodies and was president of the Gayndah Show Society for a number of years. Following his death in 1925, Mr Wilson was remembered as the ‘Burnett Diggers Friend’, his generosity embodied in the Gayndah War Memorial.[6]

The WWI honour board was designed and manufactured by leading Brisbane metalworker Ernest Gunderson, of Ernest Gunderson Engraving and Manufacturing Company. The board’s frame was erected by the Rawbelle Shire and Gayndah Town councils. [7]

At the time of its unveiling, the “magnificent” memorial received much praise from the Mayor of Gayndah, the local community and the returned soldiers.  The memorial was named “one of the finest in the State” following Anzac Day commemorations in 1921.[8]

Ernest Gunderson had established his metalworking company in Brisbane by 1908. The company manufactured cast bronze honour boards and tablets, which had a distinctive dark bronze background contrasted with polished brass lettering and ornamentation. Gunderson also individually moulded decorations for his honour boards, making them quite distinctive as a Queensland type. The company operated until the mid-1930s and supplied honour boards state-wide. By 1917, the company had completed honour rolls for the Jimboomba, Esk, Logan and Strathpine districts, the Cloncurry Shire Council, Toowoomba Grammar School (QHR 600850) and many others. The Gayndah War Memorial is Gunderson’s best-known and largest memorial and is regarded as one of the company's finest pieces of work. Indeed, Gunderson himself considered it to be his finest work.[9]

Gunderson's honour boards are unique to Queensland and few remain as intact as the one at Gayndah, including the Strathpine Honour Board (QHR 600766), Pinkenba War Memorial (QHR 602453) and Dalby War Memorial and Gates (QHR 600441). The memorial at Gayndah has a design that combines British and Australian emblems.

Although honour boards are a common type of war memorial, they are usually situated inside a publicly accessible place such as the local Shire Hall. The Gayndah War Memorial, located in a public square, is one of a small number of Queensland war memorials comprising outdoor honour boards. [10]  

In 1927, in an effort to maintain the memorial in the best condition, it was dismantled and moved to a local workshop where the lettering and ornaments were treated with gold leaf and the flags recoloured.[11]

In 1935, strips of lawn were added to the front, back and sides of the memorial. During a visit in the same year, Queensland Governor, Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, acknowledged the ‘splendid work’ which had been done to the memorial.[12]

In the 1960s, some unsuccessful renovation work was undertaken, resulting in the original brass lettering and backing (which still exists in storage) being replaced with the present nameplates. Other minor alterations were also made at this time.

In 1988, the memorial was moved to its current location on Capper Street due to a planned road upgrade.[13]

In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War (August 1945-1995), some of the damaged and lost items of the intervening wars were reinstated. The lost figure of Liberty was remodelled in bronze by Brisbane sculptor Fred Waitehouse from photographs of the original, and the rather two-dimensional bronze horsemen were cast (and made slightly more three-dimensional) from the identical figures on Gunderson's honour board at Strathpine [QHR 600766].

The Gayndah War Memorial was expanded to include a surrounding series of concrete slabs and plaques – erected by the Gayndah RSL – holding recent memorials commemorating personnel from the locality who served in World War II (WWII), and later conflicts up to Somalia. A small commemorative garden was also constructed behind the memorial and a 1903 Krupps trophy gun was repaired and fitted with replicated wheels and armour and mounted to address the street. [14]

Completed in 1995, the new work and repairs to the WWII items were researched and organised by local RSL identity 'Sam' Weller and the costs were donated by Frank Robinson on behalf of his family.

The expanded memorial was dedicated on the 50th anniversary of V-J Day on 15 August 1995 by Major Gordon Petersen Chaplain (Div. 2) Coord Chaplain 6 Bde to honour those from Gayndah Shire who served in WWII and later campaigns.

Pre-1988, the Gayndah War Memorial featured a fence and a light which were removed, possibly to make way for the 1995 additions. The original flagstaff has also been replaced. A memorial plaque in honour of a local soldier who lost his life in the Afghanistan conflict was added in 2010.[15]

In 2017, the Gayndah War Memorial is still the town’s focal point for community commemoration events and plays a pivotal role in annual Anzac Day processions. The memorial, and the nearby Soldiers’ Memorial Hall, also on Capper Street, have an important relationship as the principal commemorative structures in Gayndah.


The Gayndah War Memorial is situated between the post office and the library in Capper Street, directly addressing the street. The memorial makes an important civic contribution to the streetscape of Gayndah’s main thoroughfare, Capper Street, and is notable for its attractive garden features. Along with the Gayndah Shire Hall [QHR 602124] and Gayndah Court House [QHR 601294], the Gayndah War Memorial is part of a collection of important civic structures in the town centre.

The WWI memorial comprises a bronze honour board mounted on a freestanding, decorative concrete frame.

The concrete structure sits on a wide stepped base, also of concrete apart from the central portion of the upper step which is marble veneered. The structure itself comprises a flat central section (where the honour board is mounted) capped with a pediment and flanked by two pillars decorated with a simple repetitive motif on their front faces. The pillars are surmounted by artillery shells encircled with bronze wreaths. At the foot of each pillar are bronze plaques commemorating later conflicts.

The bronze honour board displays the names of the 270 local men who served in WWI, with those who died identified by a small crown after their name. The five columns of names are centrally located on the board.

The upper section of the board is capped with scrollwork flanking a female figure of Britannia holding a shield of 'Liberty'. The figure stands above a laurel wreath encircling crossed flags and the words FOR KING AND COUNTRY. An oval plaque explaining the origins of the memorial sits below the wreaths and is flanked by AIF badges. The words ROLL OF HONOUR follow the line of the scrollwork. On each side of this central section are pilasters capped by figures of mounted Light Horsemen above the dates 1914 - 1919. Infantry men in relief work are displayed at the bottom of each pilaster.

The lower section of the board displays oval plaques in each corner with an emu and a kangaroo in relief work. Additional relief work depicts a lion and a kangaroo in the centre and cannons at each side.   

Behind the memorial is a garden comprising a trophy gun, paving and garden beds, and surrounding concrete slabs that commemorate service personnel of World War II (WWII) and subsequent conflicts up to Afghanistan. The WWII names were originally incised in white granite, but have been replaced with bronze plaques. All other plaques are in bronze.


1] The Brisbane Courier, 9 September 1919, p.7.
[2] Northern Times, 7 April 1858, p.4; The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser, 8 September 1857, p.4; The Moreton Bay Courier, 12 May 1858, p.2; Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, 7 February 1861, p.2; 25 August 1864, p.2; 19 January 1867, p.2; 2 March 1867, p.2; 28 February 1880, p.3; Brisbane Courier, 4 February 1922, p. 9; QHR 600516.
[3] Inglis, 1998, p. 108-9; QHR 650029.
[4] The Brisbane Courier, 5 June 1915, p.6; 15 December 1915, p.7; The Telegraph, 18 November 1915, p.2.
[5] Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, 1 May 1918, p.6; 4 July 1935, p.9; QHR 600517.
[6] The Brisbane Courier, 9 September 1919, p.7; Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, 18 May 1915, p.15; 10 September 1919, p.5; 17 September 1919, p.6; Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser, 20 December 1918, p.6; The Queenslander, 18 September 1909, p.29.
[7] The Queenslander, 1 December 1917, p.7; Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, 17 September 1919, p.6; McKay, 1985 (copy in 600517 Site File).
[8] Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, 17 September 1919, page 6; The Queenslander, 14 May 1921, p.24.
[9] The Telegraph, 17 November 1908, p.6; The Brisbane Courier, 26 March 1909, p.8; Pugh's (Queensland) Official Almanac, Directory and Gazetteer, 1910; The Queenslander, 1 December 1917, p.2, 7; 14 May 1921, p.24; Daily Mail, 20 December 1918, page 7. J. McKay research notes, 600517 Site File, 1989, p.9. QHR 600766; QHR 602453.
[10] McIvor, 1994, p. 64, 306; McKay, 1985, (copy in Site File 600517).
[11] Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, 30 April 1927, p.6.
[12] Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, 15 May 1935, p.3.
[13] Converge (2014). Heritage Impact Statement – Gayndah Shire Hall toilets and sheds. North Burnett Regional Council, p.3.
[14] Monument Australia, 2016, accessed 20 April 2017, from
[15] Ibid.

Image gallery


Location of Gayndah War Memorial within Queensland
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated
20 January 2016
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