The Eltham Shire War Memorial, a tower of remembrance, was built with public donations to commemorate the memory of the fallen soldiers from the shire who enlisted in the 1914-1918 war. The tower is reminiscent of the peel-towers or watchtowers that lined the English-Scottish border from the mid 14th century to around 1600 and is constructed from locally quarried stone.
This uncommon and picturesque war memorial, which affords an excellent view of the surrounding district was unveiled by His Excellency the Governor-General (Lord Stonehaven) on November 11, 1926.
In July 1922 a deputation of returned soldiers from Panton Hill, presumably the Panton Hill branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA), proposed to Eltham Shire Council that the monument should be a cairn of local stone “sufficiently high to form a prominent and conspicuous landmark, and crowned with some suitable device”.
Eltham Shire Councillor and President of the Panton Hill branch of the RSSILA, Basil Hall, was credited with being the first to suggest a tower, and with organising a Memorial Park committee to raise funds for the monument in the Memorial Park.
A meeting for those interested in the establishing a War Memorial monument in the park was held in January 1924 and the Eltham Shire War Memorial League was formed for this purpose. It appears that the broad and rounded cairn that had been recently built was considered by the League a temporary affair, and not the substantial cairn-as-monument, sufficiently high to form the conspicuous landmark, which had been envisaged by the Panton Hill RSSILA.
A design competition was held for the monument. The chairman of the League, Councillor Basil Hall, suggested that the site of the memorial in Kangaroo Ground would lend itself to something rugged, instead of polished stone. By April 1924 thirty designs for a memorial had been received from which three designs were selected and of those, the design by the shire engineer Mr McCormack, for a 70ft tower suitable for construction in rough stone, was chosen.
Artist Harold Herbert suggested that a peel tower-like design reminiscent of those along the English-Scottish border would be fitting for the site. Herbert drew up a rough sketch that was approved of, and later, Melbourne architect Percy Meldrum volunteered to draw up the design from sketch to architectural drawings. By January 1925 the Soldiers’ Memorial League had adopted Meldrum’s design for a 50ft high tower. Meldrum had also offered his design and supervision of construction free of charge.
The Shire provided the stone to the builders, which was a gift quarried from land owned at Kangaroo Ground by Dr Ethel and Professor William Osborne
The Shire of Eltham War Memorial, a tower of remembrance, and honour board were unveiled on November 11, 1926, by the Governor General Lord Stonehaven. At this stage a temporary honour roll was painted on the panels on either side of the tower entrance.
In September 1930 bronze plates were added above the portal with the names of men who fell in the 1914-18 war.
On November 16, 1951, the Governor of Victoria, Sir Dallas Brooks re-dedicated the war memorial tower and unveiled the names of men who gave their lives in the 1939-45 war.
Two additional bronze plaques which recognise service in the armed conflicts of Korea, Borneo, Malaya, and Vietnam were unveiled November 11, 2001, by the Governor of Victoria, John Landy, A.C., M.B.E.
The tower was first used for fire spotting activities following the Black Friday bushfire in January 1939 in response to a request from Mr R.D. Ness, secretary of the Kangaroo Ground bush fire brigade, who asked Council that the tower be used as an observation tower for detecting bush fires, and asked
Council to arrange a telephone to be installed. It was suggested that if the Shire were to appoint a caretaker for the Memorial Park, his duties could also include raising the alarm in the event of a fire. Later in 1939 Council applied for a radio transmitter, which the Forestry Commission planned to install at vantage places throughout the state. The first dedicated fire spotter appointed from December1948, was Mr Smith of Warrandyte.
A prefabricated glazed cabin was installed in 1974, which involved the removal of the original stone structure around the rooftop exit door.
A new fire spotting cabin, which included the latest technology, was installed soon after the 2009 Black Saturday fires and is manned by CFA personnel on high fire danger days.
Covered under Heritage Overlay, Nillumbik Planning Scheme.
Published: Nillumbik Now and Then / Marguerite Marshall 2008; photographs Alan King with Marguerite Marshall.; p123
This collection of almost 130 photos about places and people within the Shire of Nillumbik, an urban and rural municipality in Melbourne's north, contributes to an understanding of the history of the Shire. Published in 2008 immediately prior to the Black Saturday bushfires of February 7, 2009, it documents sites that were impacted, and in some cases destroyed by the fires. It includes photographs taken especially for the publication, creating a unique time capsule representing the Shire in the early 21st century. It remains the most recent comprehenesive publication devoted to the Shire's history connecting local residents to the past. While published in the book in black and white, this collection features the original colour digital photographs.
Born digital image file