Enlistment rallies, anti-war demonstrations, peace celebrations. Yes, Sydney’s Martin Place has long been associated with Australia’s military history. From the Sydney Morning Herald on August 5, 1915;
CROWDS GROWING LARGER – ELOQUENT APPEALS
Each day the crowds of people who come to hear the speakers in Martin Place grow larger. Yesterday there must have been 7,000 present. The crowd stretched along and across the Post Office promenade and right across the street for a considerable distance, on each side of the flag bedecked rostrum from which the speeches were delivered…….As the recruiting week progresses the speeches grow more and more eloquent. The appeals take on a still closer and more intimate, personal note. Each speaker tells of blood relatives at the front, of sons or brothers or nephews in the firing line, or resting from grievous wounds in the hospitals, or lying beneath an honoured pile, having given their lives for their country.
And finally, finally….it was over.
Yes, the war had ended, but not the misery for men who were mentally and physically damaged, the friends and families of all those lost, and soldiers who returned to a land which was not really ‘fit for heroes’.
THE MARTIN PLACE CENOTAPH
On March 8 the premier of NSW, Mr Jack Lang announced that his government would provide ten thousand pounds for the design and erection of a Cenotaph in Martin Place to be completed by Anzac Day 1929. It was completed two years ahead of schedule. The block of granite was hewn from an even larger one at Moruya Quarry, supervised by none other than John Bradfield, designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
For more information, click HERE.
Below is a photo of the Dawn Service in 1930, at the height of the Great Depression. Many returned servicemen were unemployed.
Of course, it was not ‘the war to end all wars’ as so many hoped. In 1945 there were celebrations in Martin Place to mark the end of WWII.
The photo of Sydney below, is the most evocative I’ve ever seen. It was taken by photographer Ted Hood (Sam Hood’s son) in 1949, when the memory of WWII was still vivid.
In the background is the cenotaph. There are still wreaths visible; placed there during Anzac Day Services a few weeks earlier. The image captures a feeling of peace and normality. Here is Ted Hood’s description of taking the photograph;
‘Martin Place (Plaza) shrouded in a London fog, 17 minutes before sunrise. All ferry boats stopped and trains and buses delayed. I took this picture on my way to work (at the Sun Office, Under the Golden Ball) in Elizabeth Street, where I was due to start work at 6.30 am. I always carried my home made 1/4 plate camera, in case I came across the unusual. This time it paid off. The old milk-cart horse, Mollie, was a great favourite with the office cleaners, who kept her well fed with tit bits from the various offices. She was often seen jogging up Pitt Street wearing an old ‘biddies hat’ tied under her chin with pink ribbon. If it rained while her master was delivering milk she would turn the shafts around and mount the footpath, sheltering under the awning.’
And sadly, there have been many other wars, some that divided the nation and led to demonstrations. Note the sign on the right of the photo below; ‘Hey, Hey LBJ, How Many Kids Have You Killed Today?
Remembrance Day 2018 marked the centenary of the WWI armistice. Martin Place was again a focal point for commemoration in the city.