Pakenham South War Memorial 

Top: The Pakenham South War Memorial; Middle: Barry Ellett speaking at the dedication of the Memorial (Courtesy of Pakenham Gazette): Above: The Memorial Roll in the Pakenham South Hall. 

The most recent memorial to the district’s WWI Diggers was dedicated at Pakenham South in January 1997, nearly 80 years after the first roll of honour was unveiled at Pakenham Upper. Originally, Pakenham South’s Diggers were commemorated on the Pakenham & District Soldiers’ Memorial (PG 29/10/1920 p.3). Of the seventeen listed on that memorial, several were also claimed by neighbouring Koo Wee Rup and honoured there too. There was a strong desire however, to have a memorial in Pakenham South too, in the form of a memorial hall. At the time, there was no community hall in Pakenham South, with the local state school providing the venue for Sunday church services, social dances, euchre parties and other community events, including the farewells and welcome home socials organised for the local Diggers.

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In order to “get the ball rolling”, a committee was formed, including Tom Jeremiah, Alf Stubbington and Jack Ellett as members, while social dances were organised by Tom Banks to raise money. In early 1920, a one acre block of land was purchased opposite the State School as the memorial hall site (Argus 24/2/1920, p. 8). Years later, locals remembered the land being purchased from Gordon Woodward for £30 (B. Ellett, 1997 p.1). Contemporary newspaper reports though, indicate the land was actually bought from Henry Braham (DA 24/2/1920 p. 8). Henry had been a farmer on the McDonald Drain Rd and also a member of the School Board before  leaving the district in 1916 (DA 8/6/1916, p.2). In addition to a memorial hall, the plan was to lay out the site with gardens and tennis courts (Argus 24/2/1920, p. 8). There are memories of an honour roll also having been dedicated at Pakenham South, but no one knows what ever happened to it. Unfortunately, there was no progress towards the memorial hall during the 1920s. Irene Lee could remember “parking” her shetland pony on the still vacant block while attending the state school across the road. The pony would sometimes escape through the old wire fence into the neighbouring property, with Dick Stephenson having to chase it out onto the road! (B. Ellett 1997, p. 1) In 1928, the Department of Lands proposed that the title of the still vacant block be handed over to the Crown for formal reservation as the site of a future memorial hall (DJ 23/2/1928, p. 6 & 26/4/1928, p. 2). A new committee was formed in the early 1930s to raise £500 needed to finally build the hall. This was chaired by Charles Lansdown, with Jack Ellett as Secretary and Jim Leadoux as Treasurer. (DJ 26/10/1933, p. 8). That Australia was in the grip of the Great Depression probably did not help the fund-raising effort and with the outbreak of WWII, the prospects of ever building the hall must have seemed fairly remote. The last recorded meeting of the Hall committee was in 1946. With the subsequent acquisition of the former Pakenham South State School building to serve as a public hall, the memorial hall site “faded into Stephenson’s front paddock” (B. Ellett op.cit). At one stage, the site was planted with peas that were harvested for Raleigh’s factory at Pakenham East (Ibid). Nevertheless, long-standing Pakenham South residents such as Maureen Atkins would sometimes ask: “what happened to the Hall Ground?” (B. Ellett op. cit). A public meeting organised in 1986 by Ray Rickard decided to erect a war memorial on the site, “fulfilling the desire of the community all those decades ago to honour the service of Pakenham South’s WWI volunteers” (Ibid). 

 

The Pakenham South War Memorial was dedicated on 26 January 1997 at a ceremony attended by Russell Broadbent MP. Amongst the speakers was Barry Ellett, a nephew of three of the original Pakenham South Diggers. The Memorial is in form of a granite boulder. The attached plaque commemorates not only those who served in WWI, but also WWII and Vietnam. Given the memorial was dedicated nearly 80 years after the end of WWI, some of the original Pakenham South Diggers had been long forgotten and their names were inadvertently not included. Conversely, the memorial includes the names of several post-WWI soldier settlers who became integral members of the local community. A roll of honour has also been dedicated in the Pakenham South Hall, to which names are added as research turns up more Pakenham South Diggers. 

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