Remembering on Remembrance Day

Every year on Remembrance Day, and indeed Anzac Day, The Workshops Rail Museum hosts a service at the Ipswich Railway Workshop War Memorial. This year we are preparing to mark the day in a different way.

We are privileged to have the War Memorial established by workers of the North Ipswich Railway Workshops on our grounds at The Workshops Rail Museum. It stand as a silent sentient sentry, honouring the men who served in the First World War. While this monument speaks for itself, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Those that served and those left behind     

Since 1919, the memorial has proudly proclaimed the names of the 300 workers who went away to serve in the First World War, 31 of whom gave their lives. Their sacrifice has been marked for one hundred years, but there were another 1600 men that stayed, working to keep the railways going – railways that moved enlisting soldiers, and departing troops, that transferred the horses and vehicles to the ports, that took recruiting teams to the country and carried the mail to the loved ones of those serving. The North Ipswich Railway Workshops played a key role in this network, keeping the railways going.

Queensland Railways was also at the forefront of establishing a Munitions Workshops, with a building constructed and equipped at the Railway Workshops in Ipswich and Rockhampton. A high profile initiative, it warranted a Parliamentary visit in 1915, hosted by Commissioner Charles Evans. However the Workshop eventually met with failure, as the cost of transporting munitions across the world was prohibitive. Nevertheless, it was one of the ways in which railway workers who remained in Queensland contributed to the war effort.

Commemorative Paperweight, marking a visit by a parliamentary delegation to inspect the munitions workshop at Ipswich Railway Workshops in 1915. Collection of The Workshops Rail Museum, Queensland Museum Network. For more information on this object:

Women and Children   

Women across Queensland were recognised for undertaking many different fundraising activities during the First World War.. They organised social activities, and production lines for necessities like socks and scarves, the marshalled supplies for Christmas boxes to lift morale and established programs to help raise money for munitions.  

In Queensland, the Railway Patriotic Fund was started in 1914 to match the shortfall in pay to ensure the well-being of dependents left at home. In 1915 it was entirely supported by subscriptions from Queensland Government Railways staff and their families, including staff at the Ipswich Railway Workshops. Amongst the men who left to serve, many left behind families – wives and children who needed assistance.

Bella Martin was one such child. The daughter of David Martin, who had died of wounds sustained at the Battle of Polygon Wood in October 1917 and is commemorated on the war memorial, Bella presented Lady Goold-Adams with a bouquet during the unveiling ceremony of the North Ipswich Railway Workshops memorial.

Just like the unveiling of the memorial in 1919, there was a large community presence for the dedication of the new memorial in 2019. Check out a copy of the Programme for the opening of the memorial in 1919, held in our collection:

The War to End All Wars    

 Sadly, as the history of the twentieth century showed, the “war to end all wars” did not. In the 50 years after the Armistice on 11th November 1918, Australian troops were involved in a further seven conflicts including the Second World War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

In a mirror of the efforts of the workers at the Ipswich Railway Workshops in 1918, the Railway Sub-branch of the Ipswich RSL raised funds from 2015-2019 for the development of a monument to mark all other conflicts, and managed the delivery of the memorial  as part of the commemoration activities marking the centenary of World War 1. This new memorial was unveiled next to the Ipswich Railway Workshops War Memorial as part of the Anzac Day ceremony in 2019.

Catafalque party at the Anzac Day Ceremony at the Ipswich Railway Workshops, 2019.

This year, the year of all things “unprecedented”, there will be no service. Instead there will be a laying of wreaths to quietly mark Remembrance Day. And the soldier atop our memorial will continue his silent, sentient, sentry duty, one that he has now performed for more than one hundred years.

To find out more about the War Memorial at the Ipswich Railway Workshops you can read David Hampton’s article in the “Queensland Remembers” volume of the Memoirs of the Queensland Museum – Culture Volume 11 available to purchase from our on-line shop

Dr Geraldine Mate
Principal Curator – History, Industry and Technology