Seated in the sun outside Marrickville Town Hall in Sydney on Sunday morning to witness the unveiling of the Marrickville War Memorial I was thinking back 93 years to the same ceremony. The great difference of course was that the audience then included mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and even children of the 458 local lads who had so recently given their lives.
Marrickville War Memorial Opening Ceremony, 1922
That said almost 100 years on it was a very moving experience to be part of, but, you may well ask, why was a war memorial being unveiled now.
The original Marrickville Soldiers’ Memorial was unveiled in 1919 by Sir Walter Davidson, Governor of NSW, before 15,000 people. The monument for the top of the Memorial was created by local artist and sculptor Gilbert Doble. Doble created a hollow Winged Victory sculpture, surrounded by a copper cast that created a dominant artwork within the tight constraints of the Memorial Fund’s budget. The instability of the resulting artwork became apparent as early as 1927. Within 40 years, the condition of the sculpture had deteriorated so badly that it had to be taken down in 1962. Despite being returned to the Memorial in 1988 following restoration work, the continued instability of the Winged Victory sculpture saw its removal a second time in 2008.
Gilbert Doble's original Winged Victory sculpture
Here at ICS we considered various options for restoring and reinstalling the statue but in July 2013, Marrickville Council voted to commission a new sculpture for the Memorial. Council also endorsed the transfer of ownership of Doble’s original Winged Victory to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. We undertook the complicated restoration of the original and oversaw its transfer to Canberra, where the sculpture has now become the focal point of the Memorial’s new First World War Galleries, which opened in November 2014.
Doble's Winged Victory sculpture
now on display at the Australian War Memorial
Meanwhile Winged Victory, 2015 was commissioned from Melbourne's Meridian Sculpture with lead artists Peter Corlett and Darien Pullen in cast bronze. Reflecting and respecting the original Doble sculpture, there are subtle changes, most noticeably with the position of the sword changed from being raised in triumph to pointing down to touch the earth (‘earth to earth, ashes to ashes’ etc). Along the way it stopped the sword from being a lightning rod, which we had discovered was a significant cause of the damage that had been inflicted to the original.
Winged Victory, 2015 by Peter Corlett and Darien Pullen
So Doble’s legacy lives on, both in original form at the Australian War Memorial and in reinterpreted form in its original location, and the citizens of Marrickville once again have a focal point to honour their local war heroes.