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Rockhampton War Memorial

  • 600818
  • Penlington Street, Rockhampton


State Heritage
Register status
Date entered
21 October 1992
Monuments and Memorials: Memorial/Monument - war
8.6 Creating social and cultural institutions: Commemorating significant events
Hockings & Palmer
Simmons, R
Allen, FM
Simmons, R
Construction periods
1924, Rockhampton War Memorial (1924 - 1924)
1924, Rockhampton War Memorial - Memorial - obelisk (1924 - 1924)
1924, Rockhampton War Memorial - Trees/plantings (1924? - 1924?)
1924, Rockhampton War Memorial - Garden beds (1924? - 1924?)
Historical period
1919–1930s Interwar period


Penlington Street, Rockhampton
Rockhampton Regional Council
-23.40092225, 150.49155388


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

The Rockhampton War Memorial, erected in 1924 as a regional monument representing Rockhampton and surrounding districts, is important in demonstrating Queensland's involvement in World War I (WWI). War memorials are a tribute to those who served, and those who died, from a particular community. They are an important element 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 Rockhampton War Memorial is of uncommonly large scale. Dominating its immediate surroundings, it is the largest and most costly of all regional war memorials in Queensland.

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

The Rockhampton War Memorial is a good example of a well-designed and finely crafted WWI memorial, and is important in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a commemorative structure erected as an enduring record of a major historical event. Designed by architects Hockings and Palmer and built by monumental masonry firm FM Allen, with landscaped surrounds by Botanic Gardens curator Richard Simmons, the memorial incorporates classical references symbolising regeneration (obelisk) and victory (palms).

Criterion EThe place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The Rockhampton War Memorial is of aesthetic significance for its high level of workmanship, materials and design. The towering obelisk, set on a grassed mound encircled by the original planting scheme comprising pathway, low hedge and evenly spaced Canary Island Date palms, evokes a sense of awe and reverence, and has strong symbolic meaning to the community of Rockhampton and its region.

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

The Rockhampton 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.


The Rockhampton War Memorial, situated within the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens [QHR 601819], was unveiled on 16 October 1924 by the Governor of Queensland Sir Matthew Nathan. It was designed by architects Hockings and Palmer and produced by monumental masons, F M Allan. The granite memorial honours those who served in World War I.

The area in which Rockhampton is located was first discovered by Ludwig Leichhardt and Thomas Mitchell between 1844 and 1846. The Fitzroy River was later discovered by the Archer brothers in 1853 and lead to the establishment and success of the region as a pastoral district. The initial development of the city itself was due to the discovery of gold at nearby Canoona in 1858.

The Botanic Gardens were established in 1869 when Mayor RM Hunter’s request to turn the Native Police paddock into a reserve for botanic gardens was approved. The impetus for the gardens came from Frenchman Monsieur Thozet who was among the first to re-establish substantial plantings in Rockhampton by planting trees from his private nursery along the river bank in Quay Street. The first gardener, appointed in 1873, was J S Edgar, partially trained by Thozet. He was succeeded in 1903 by naturalist Richard Simmons. Simmons was still in charge of the gardens when war was declared in 1914.

The memorials erected in the wake of WWI became the country’s first national monuments, recording the devastating impact of the war on the burgeoning nation. Australia lost 60,000 from a population of about 4 million, representing one in five of those who served. No previous or subsequent war has made such an impact on the nation.

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. British policy decreed that the Empire war dead were to be buried where they fell. The word 'cenotaph', commonly applied to war memorials at the time, literally means 'empty tomb'.

Australian war memorials are distinctive in that they commemorate not only the dead. Australians were proud that their first great national army, unlike other belligerent armies, was composed entirely of volunteers, men worthy of honour whether or not they made the supreme sacrifice. Many memorials honour all who served from a locality, not just the dead, providing valuable evidence of community 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.

Australian war memorials are also valuable evidence of imperial and national loyalties, at the time, not seen as conflicting; the skills of local stonemasons, metalworkers and architects; and of popular taste. In Queensland, the soldier statue was the popular choice of memorial, whereas the obelisk predominated in the southern states, possibly a reflection of Queensland's larger working-class population and a lesser involvement of architects.

In Rockhampton, a public meeting was held in February 1919, when it was decided to erect a memorial to those who served in World War I. It was to be a regional monument, representing surrounding districts, but erected in Rockhampton. In 1921, a site was selected on the riverbank and a national design competition was announced by the newly formed Central Queensland War Memorial Committee. This however, was not successful as most designs were too costly.

In 1922, the committee commissioned Rockhampton architects, Hockings and Palmer to present a design for a memorial to be situated in the Botanic Gardens. Their design, at a cost of £2,654 was accepted and Rockhampton masons, F M Allan were contracted to complete the work. Hocking and Palmer’s design comprised an obelisk, a symbol of regeneration and related to the sense of national birth associated with WWI.[1]

The firm of Hockings and Palmer was a partnership between Edwin Morton Hockings and Leslie Tarween Palmer.

Edwin Morton Hockings (1870-1942) commenced his architectural career under the tutelage of Brisbane architect Richard Gailey. In 1890 Hockings won a design competition for the new Rockhampton Girls' Grammar School [QHR 600780], and departed to Rockhampton as the project's clerk of works. In 1895 he was elected an Associate of the Queensland Institute of Architects and commenced his own practice in Rockhampton, designing amongst others, the CJ Edwards Chambers (1914) [QHR 600803]. In 1916 he formed a productive partnership with Leslie Tarween Palmer, a Victorian-born architect who was educated in Melbourne and practised in Horsham from 1907. He was later employed by EA Scott and Green, Architects in Sydney.[2] He worked alone for two years in Rockhampton before entering into partnership with Hockings in 1915. Hockings and Palmer designed a number of structures around Rockhampton, including the Therapies Block and Medical Superintendent’s Residence at the Rockhampton Hospital [QHR 601967] and the Rockhampton Town Hall [QHR 601572]. The partnership continued until 1938, when Palmer left for a job in Brisbane. Hockings died late in 1942, and Palmer in 1958.[3]

Australia, and Queensland in particular, had few civic monuments before the First World War. Although there were many different types of memorial erected throughout Queensland, few were of the scale or cost of the Rockhampton one. Funds however, did not cover the cost of recording the soldiers’ names on the monument and it was proposed at the unveiling that a list of names would be kept at the Town Hall. This is one of the few memorials in Queensland without lists of names.

The Rockhampton War Memorial was unveiled on 16 October 1924 by the Governor of Queensland Sir Matthew Nathan. The Gracemere grey granite memorial obelisk stood on a plinth and was 64 feet (19.5 metres) high. The surrounding grounds were landscaped by Richard Simmons, with the memorial centred on a grassed mound that was surrounded by a circular path, a hedge of Pentas (Pentas lanceolata) in alternating colours and a circle of Canary Island Date Palms (Phoenix canariensis), which symbolise victory.[4] This arrangement reflected Simmons’ reported views on the need for a landscape treatment that could be readily maintained, as the effectiveness of the memorial depended, in part, on the condition of the surrounding area.[5]

The landscaping around the War Memorial remained relatively unchanged until the 1980s, when a paved pathway accessing the western side of the circular path was added.[6] Garden beds pruned to read ANZAC, ARMY, RAAF and RAN were also added to the grassed mound in the late 1990s to early 2000s, and by 2008 a curved path connected the memorial to the arid gardens to the east.[7]


The Rockhampton War Memorial, a 64-foot Gracemere Grey Granite obelisk on a plinth, is located to the south of the kiosk in the upper section of the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens. The obelisk is situated on a raised circular mound and encircled by a path, low hedge and evenly spaced Canary Island Date Palms (Phoenix canariensis).

The pedestal is located in the centre of a double stepped base which has rock faced vertical surfaces and smooth horizontal surfaces. The plinth is square in plan and is surmounted by the pedestal dado which is made up of three granite blocks. On the front face (west) of the dado are the words IN REMEMBRANCE TO THOSE WHO FELL and the dates of WWI and later conflicts. A polished granite plate has been bolted to the lower front face and also has dates of later conflicts. The top block displays the words SACRIFICE (north), UNITY (east), and FREEDOM (south). The pedestal is surmounted by a tall obelisk, which culminates in a pyramidal apex.

Modern garden beds on the mound contain herbaceous plants pruned to form the words ANZAC (west), ARMY (north), RAN (east) and RAAF (south); these additions are not of cultural heritage significance.

A gun or war trophy is located adjacent to a modern pathway that accesses the memorial from the west. The gun is a German-built Krupp 10.5cm IeFH 16 serial no. 7785, manufactured by the Rheinmetall Company, Germany, in 1917 and deployed for service with Turkish Forces in Palestine that same year. The gun was captured by the 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment in October 1917 at what was reportedly the Battle of Beersheba.


[1] Judith Mackay and Richard Allom, Lest we forget: a guide to the conservation of war memorials, Brisbane, RSL (Queensland), 1984, p9.
[2] Horsham Times, 20 September 1907 p3, 24 September 1907 p3; Morning Bulletin 23 July 1915 p6.
[3] Watson and McKay, Queensland Architects of the 19th century, 1994, p96; Queensland deaths register no B24808 (1958).
[4] John Taylor Park Planning and Management et al., 2001, p19.
[5] ‘Rockhampton’s War Memorial’, Capricornian, 10 May 1924, p27.
[6] ‘Rockhampton War Memorial located in the Botanic Gardens’, c1936, JOL image 114870; Aerial image QAP0616079, 1956, DNRM; Aerial image QAP1209082, 1961, DNRM; Aerial image QAP2153027, 1970, DNRM; Aerial image QAP34828899, 1978, DNRM; Aerial image QAP4786098, 1988, DNRM.
[7] Aerial image QAP5711123, 1999, DNRM; Aerial image 2003, Google Earth; Aerial image 2008, Google Earth.

Image gallery


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