The History of the RSL Movement in Milton Ulladulla
After WW1, memorials were built in most towns and cities across Australia. Communities seeing ‘the need to express their grief for the loss of loved one and for the remembrance of the debt owed by the nation to those who paid the supreme sacrifice in the service of Australia’. (1)
The town of Milton had its first War Chest Day on 3 October 1917, which was proclaimed a local public holiday. This was organised by the Milton district Repatriation committee who also held stalls to raise funds. There was also the Soldiers medal committee with Frederick William Cork acting as Secretary. In the beginning veterans got together at the Commercial Hotel at Milton, but due to objections by some returned veterans it was organised for all to meet next door at the barber’s shop.
This was owned by Frank Poole and Charles Grisby and later became locally known as the “Diggers” Rest”. After the meetings some then visited the Commercial or Star hotel. Early members include Ken Davis, Sid Kendall (after which Kendall Cottage Ulladulla is named), Ernie Blackburn, Robert Cork, Sid Ingold, Frank Poole and Jim Mackay.
One of the first matters attended to by the RSL was the possibility of erecting a memorial hall. We know that a Peace March was held in the streets of Milton in November 1919 however it fails to be mention in the Ulladulla Council minutes.
The Ulladulla Council under a grant scheme from the Commonwealth government’s Department of Repatriation was actually employing many of the returned veterans.
In June 1920, there was notice for a public meeting to be called on the suggestion that a War Memorial be built at Milton after the council accepted a German machine gun from the War Services Trophy Committee along with the 3-inch (75mm) trench mortor, which was given to the Milton Community by the NSW Trophy Committee. The 56th Battalion at Bellecourt that included some local men had captured it on October 29 1918. The whereabouts of this machinery is unknown today.
The RSL movement was well established in Milton Ulladulla when the land for the town memorial was officially subdivided on 20 February 1922 with Ulladulla Council as trustees. Also in early 1922 the local Soldiers Memorial committee requested a memorial avenue of trees from Stoney Hill down to the memorial site, which council decided to give the matter consideration at a later date. The unveiling of Milton’s Memorial was on the May 5 1923.
The approval for the memorial avenue of tress was eventually granted in September 1926 with many of the trees being replanted in 1928.
In June 1924 Poole was given the contract to commence work on concreting the base of the memorial. Ulladulla Council requesting photographs of the memorial to be taken in 1926 to be sent off to Head Office of the Returned Sailors & Soldiers Imperial League.
Were local aboriginals who served in WW1 allowed to participate in the early meetings of the RSL or any of their social activities? Henry Cooley was one such aboriginal who served with the 56th Battalion; he enlisted on November 11 1915, returning to Australia January 18 1919. Yet was he allowed to a have drink at the local hotel with fellow ex-servicemen? He had been ordered to list himself on the electoral roll in 1915 before going to war.
Peace day or Armistice Day in due course became known as Poppy Day, with the league selling poppies to raise funds. Each year the RSL continually asked permission from Council to conduct Poppy Day. There is no mention of Anzac day in the Ulladulla Council minutes 1913 – 1948.
The Methodist, Congregational and Church of England established their own honour rolls, along with most of the schools. Ulladulla Council too had an honour roll which they call a Peace Tablet that once hang in the old Town Hall at Milton, the location of this today is unknown. The monies were approved for the tablet as early as 1915 and are mentioned in the Council’s minutes in later years. Eventually the Diggers Rest became to small to hold the RSL meetings and by mid 1927 the league was renting a section of the Town hall for its meetings.
In 1930 council decided to remove the guns away from the memorial. At the same meeting it was also resolved that the lettering on the memorial be redone by calling for tenders. Part of the monies for this was a donation of £10 from John Boag being his mayoral allowance. Along with concerts and other fund raisings events conducted by the RSL. One such concert was held in the Milton School of Arts in August 1931 featuring G Prior and the Merrymakers.
In 1932 David Boag gave permission for a Scout hall to be erected on his property, with no guarantee of ownership. The RSL put £100 towards the project on the understanding they would be able to use the hall as a meeting place. This too soon became too small to hold meetings; so additional meetings were eventually held at the Town Hall for a rental if 1/- per year.
It was not until 1934, with the election of policeman Charles Love as secretary that is was discovered that the Milton RSL was not affiliated with the State branch of the R.S.S.I.L.A (Returned Sailors & Soldiers Imperial League). The Milton Ulladulla charter membership commenced on 8 September 1934.
During 1938 a committee was formed to establish a memorial hall for the RSL. At the time plans were in place to divert the Princes Highway through Ulladulla. The mayor of Milton W Davies suggested there might be some land overlooking the harbour that could be made available to the RSL. In September 1938 the RSL took on as trustees to the land. Plans to build a memorial were halted with the arrival of WW2 (1939 – 1945).
After the war ex-serviceman Cec Mellick bought the old Salvation Army Hall opposite the Milton Hospital. He immediately offered the hall to the RSL as their meeting place. In 1947 it was decided at a public meeting that the left over funds of £1300 from the local war auxiliary were transferred to the ‘Milton District War Memorial Committee’, along with the Lord Mayor’s Patriotic Fund of £1375. The committee then starting to raise extra funds for the hall – street stalls, dances, sports days, regattas and such.
It was decided to first build a small cottage (today known as Kendall Cottage) to house the men who would eventually work on the memorial hall, and later to be used as the caretaker’s cottage. The committee were at this stage already receiving objects about the purpose of the hall planned for Ulladulla both from members of the RSL and the public. Kendall Cottage was named after Sid Kendall a foundation member of the RSL and was built by Charles Kingsley (local real estate agent, auctioneer and ex-navy serviceman) for £1000, with both the RSL sub-branch and the war memorial committee contributing £500 each. The RSL sub-branch then took over the responsibility for the cottage and used it for its meetings. But no Memorial hall or RSL club was ever built.
With objections and concerns from RSL members, church groups and the general public about the possibility of alcohol and gambling, eventually in the early 1960’s the proposal to build a licensed club on the land was rejected. Several months afterwards the land rights of the trustee were restricted to just Kendall’s cottage. Local builder Sylvester Robinson in 1972 completed extension, re-roofing and others works at Kendall Cottage for £7000 from monies raised by the RSL 100 club lottery.
Many social events have been conducted by the RSL as a service to returned veterans of both WW1 and WW2, one being a regatta at Burrill Lake on Boxing Day 1935, with funds raised going to help the unemployed returned servicemen in the district. Others over the years have been card nights and dances. A dance was held at the Burrill hall in August 1957 featuring old time, rag and new time dancing.
As future generations show remembrance for the servicemen and women who answered their country’s call to arms and gave their all in fight for freedom. LEST WE FORGET WE SHALL REMEMBER THEM
1. Extract of letter written by Rusty Priest, NSW State President of the Returned and Services League of Australia, 27 July 1999.
Australian War Memorial – Nominal Roll of the AIF. AWM 133
Milton Court records 28 July 1915, PS/72 and Milton 1922 Electoral roll.
Milton Ulladulla Times, 8 August 1947, p. 1.
Ulladulla Council minutes