The Bimbi Cenotaph will be turning 100 years old on Saturday the August 27, 2022, and members of the community are invited to mark the occasion. The community event is set to begin from 11am with morning tea. This will be followed by a tour of the diggers graves in Bimbi Cemetery at 11:30am. During this, a poppy will be placed on each of the graves. A BBQ lunch will begin at 12:30pm, followed on by the official proceedings from at 2:30pm. Before 2:30pm guests can lay wreaths outside the fence.
The official proceedings will include a speech from Lt. Colonel (retired) John Burns and a rededication of the War Memorial by Father Crowe. Member for the Riverina Michael McCormack has been invited to join the community at the ceremony. Bruce Robinson and Margaret Nowlan-Jones, Bimbi ANZACS have researched the history behind Bimbi's Cenotaph and put together some of the story.
Although World War 1 officially ended when the Armistice was signed on 11th November 1918 it was not until late in 1919 that many of the Australian soldiers serving in Europe and the Middle East arrived back in Australia. This delay was brought about by an acute shortage of shipping and the large numbers to be repatriated. Some men took part in various education programs devised by the Army to help pass the waiting time, but some had been away for as long as four years and became impatient to see home and loved ones. Some who had been previously posted missing were now found to have been killed in action, as old battlefields were revisited. Many others returned home with limbs missing and other life changing injuries, both mental and physical. Sixty thousand Australians had died and were buried overseas, thousands with no known graves. Economic conditions were such that most families had little prospect of ever visiting the graves of their loved ones or the monuments being erected on the far off battlefields to honour those without known graves. Only now was the full cost of the war being realised by the Australian population.
Communities all over Australia began to look for some way to remember and honour these men in the towns that had given them birth and from whence they had left to serve and die, and a monument bearing their names seemed the most appropriate. The Government of the day set up a Committee to oversee the erection of monuments on public land. Some guidelines were set, one being that a soldier's name appeared on one monument only.
The Bimbi community formed a Memorial Committee to design and erect a suitable Monument in their town, with Mr. J.M. Nowlan as President and schoolmaster Mr. J. S. Smith as secretary. The following letter from Secretary Mr. Smith appeared in the Grenfell Record on March 16, 1922: "The Committee of the Bimbi Soldiers Memorial desires to compile a complete list of the names of all soldiers who volunteered for active service during the Great War from the Bimbi Police Patrol District. Any information will be thankfully received by the Secretary Mr. R. Smith, Bimbi. All names will be inscribed on the tablet, and any soldier not desiring his name thereon is asked to notify the Secretary."
On June 8, 1922 the Grenfell Record wrote that while at the Waverley Monumental Works 'We were, by the courtesy of the manager, Mr. Tipper, shown the splendid monument of polished trachite to be erected at Bimbi. The base bears the following inscription': This monument was erected by the residents of the district to those who fought and fell in the Great War 1914-1918.
No doubt to the surprise of the Bimbi community the following article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on ]July 25, 1922, under the headline: Soldiers memorial plan disapproved.
"Grenfell, Monday, Bimbi, a village 20 miles from Grenfell, is in a fever of excitement. The village has perhaps 40 dwellings all told and there is little chance of its improvement, because of the Forbes-Stockinbingal railway six miles away, where other little townships are springing up. The people of Bimbi showed their loyalty by raising £250 for a soldiers' memorial. They purchased the memorial stone from Sydney, had the soldiers' names cut and then formally applied to the Weddin Shire Council for permission to erect the memorial. The Bimbi folk thought that was all they had to do. The Weddin Shire Council forwarded the plan of the Memorial, also the site chosen to the Local Government Department, who forwarded it to the War Memorial Committee, and the Committee did not approve of the plan. A second appeal was made but a point-blank refusal is made to allow it to be erected in any public place. The Sydney firm which made the memorial thinks it is most suitable. The Bimbi people unanimously approve of it, so do the Weddin Shire Council, but the Memorial Committee say it is not to be erected."
Bimbi people knew that the great majority of the soldiers had enlisted from Bimbi before the new towns existed and became functional late in the war. Most had been farewelled from and welcomed home to Bimbi, and supported throughout the war by Bimbi residents, so that was where they should be remembered now with a memorial. The names on the list of donors that paid for the memorial were mostly Bimbi residents. So they ignored the War Memorial Committee's ruling and erected the Monument alongside the Bimbi Hall, where it stands today one hundred years later. On August 28, 1922 the Grenfell Record wrote:
"The unveiling ceremony of the Bimbi Soldiers' Memorial took place on Sunday 27th August 1922 despite inclement weather, and there was a very large gathering, including visitors from Grenfell and other centres.
Proceedings opened with the singing of the National Anthem. Mr. J.M. Nowlan President of the Memorial Committee explained the object of the gathering that day and referred to the mighty deeds done by their soldiers in the Great War. The gathering then sang "O God our help in Ages Past." Mr. A. H. Grimm MLA then performed the unveiling ceremony and speeches were delivered by the Mayor of Grenfell (Alderman John Taylor) and the President of Weddin Shire (Mr. W. H. Simpson).
The Dedication prayer was given by Rev. Beck (Presbyterian Minister) after which Kipling's Recessional, "Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget" was sung. Mr. Hamilton Morrow spoke on behalf of the returned men, after which Rev. Beck pronounced the Benediction. Mrs. Steele Caldwell presided at the organ and wreaths were placed on the Monument from 'Eurabba', Mr. and Mrs. G Robinson (Manly), Bimbi Public School, Miss Millard, Mrs. Napier Snr. and Miss Greig.
The Monument presents a very fine appearance and the Bimbi people may be justly proud of it, containing as it does the names of sixty-eight Australians who answered the call to duty. Many of those names on the stone belong to the oldest families to come to the district, 'the people who blazed the trail'. The amount collected for the Monument was £246, of which £205 10s was spent. The balance will go to a suitable fence."
The Grenfell Record and the Lachlan District Advertiser wrote on Thursday December 26 1922:
"Following are the amounts donated for the Bimbi Soldiers' Memorial:- Mr Steel Caldwell £26.5s, Messrs. Blayney and Son £15.15s; Messrs J. G' Nowlan, Geo. Robinson, J. M. Nowlan, E. Millard £10 10s; Messrs. Gault Bros. £10, Messrs. J. R. Gault, J. H. Granleese, Leonard Bros., Kirk Bros., Aleck Peterson, J. Murray and Sons, W. G. Caldwell, M. N. Conn, Napier Bros., Clem Aston, J. Norton, A. Grimm MLA, Talbot Snr. £5. 5s, Messrs. N. Forbes, Cecil Robinson £3.3s, Messrs. Beazley Bros., - George, R. B. McAlister, Wm. Bewley, G. Troy, J. P. Ellis, J. Causer, M. Goonan, T. Carr £2.2s each. Messrs. J. B. Turner, H. Morrow, Thos. McCawley, W. R. Mahon, Wm. Bush, G. McNamara, R. Hamilton, H. Sinclair, T. Lanigan, Les Hoad, J. M'Evoy, J. Mahon, C. Keir, R. Saint-Smith, F. Ellis, Misses Nowlan, Greig, Mrs. J. Death £1.1s each. Messrs. A. Heidtman, C. North, W. P. Demery, A. Anderson £1 each, G. Sinclair Jnr., G. Sinclair Snr. 10s each. Bimbi Red Cross Society £17.15s."
The Government Memorial Committee's direction to place the monument in one of the nearby new towns beginning to grow on the Forbes-Stockinbingal railway line, namely Quandialla and Bribbaree, upset the people of Bimbi so much that they decided to ignore it. Those towns hardly existed when the war started in 1914. Quandialla was not named until June 19, 1916 and most of the men from the district had already enlisted before that date, giving their home address as Bimbi. By 1918 the residents of Bimbi had four years to adapt to the gradual movement of people to Quandialla and Bribbaree. It was different for those who went away to war, especially those who left before 1916. When they dreamt of home, they dreamt of Bimbi.
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