Balmain Loyalty Square
This is possibly Australia’s first memorial to WW1 soldiers, unusual because it lists only those killed in action prior to the involvement of the AIF on the Western Front in France. It was unveiled on 23 April 1916 just before the first anniversary of the Gallipoli landing to record the names of soldiers form this district who have fallen in the service of the Empire. It was the subject of a a Balmain Council design competition in 1915.
A functional structure it was built as a drinking fountain with a circular base and steps of Bowral trachyte and a four sided superstructure of Pyrmont Sandstone. Balmains dead 38 at the time of its completion are honoured on four marble tablets, below which are four bowls . It is interesting that on later honour roll honour in the Balmain Town Hall there were then 1500 names of serving soldiers.
Source: Sydney’s Hard Rock
Story by Robert Irving,
Ron Powell and Noel Irving
Why Balmain became the site for one of Australia’s earliest war memorials is unknown. However, at the time of the memorial’s unveiling, Balmain was a working-class suburb whose main industry came from its busy docks. At the outbreak of World War I the population of Balmain stood at around 32,000, with approximately 5,000 men eligible to enlist. Nearly all of these men did enlist, and considering the physical nature of the main industry of Balmain at that time, their absence would have been sorely felt. Apparently without prompting from any military or civil central authority, the local council allocated £200 for the monument, while four local businessmen volunteered to pay for the marble tablets. Funds also came from local residents, and the design was created by a soldier from Balmain.