Love, sorrow and sacrifice will overflow in the form of 10,000 poppies and violets in an art installation that will be displayed at Toowoomba’s Mothers’ Memorial for the city’s 2019 Anzac Day commemoration services.
Trees, embankments and the sides of a pathway to the main East Creek Park memorial will be adorned in panels of red and purple flowers.
It is a case of art imitating life for installation artists, Toowoomba’s Jayne Hodge and her partner in polar fleece, Chris Just.
The childhood friends share not only a love of art, but a bond forged by their fathers’ World War Two service in New Guinea
The artists have shown smaller installations at various exhibitions (a Spring Bluff 25th Battalion memorial service and Remembrance Day service), but decided to pay a special enlarged tribute to the region’s service personnel and civilian helpers by expanding their display for the Toowoomba Anzac Day service at the Mothers’ Memorial.
“We want the visual impact of our poppy and violet installations to linger in the minds of the Toowoomba community on Anzac Day,” Chris Just explained.
“Each poppy represents a life and honours a service. The white netting signifies the women who never became brides while the violets pay tribute to the mothers and women of Toowoomba who bundled violets for sale to help fund the Mothers’ Memorial following World War One.
“Our respective fathers, Nev Hodge and Malcolm Just, signed up to the 25th Battalion in Toowoomba and later served in various New Guinea campaigns, including Milne Bay, Bougainville and Pearl Ridge. (Nev Hodge also saw action in the Battle of the Coral Sea, while Malcolm Just, who became the youngest captain in the British Commonwealth Forces, also served at Slater’s Knoll)
“While they survived the war and went on to become a builder and an architect respectively, they didn’t speak about their war experiences like many men of their generation.
“One of the projects they worked on after the war was the construction of Toowoomba’s Milne Bay pool.
“Their resilience in a time of war led them to a hopeful future and instilled a passionate optimism for life.”
The floral tribute was developed in conjunction with Toowoomba U3A members and women’s groups across Australia, many of whom had family members who served in various campaigns.
The 25th Battalion, also known as the Darling Downs Regiment, joined the 9th and 61st Battalions in the deployment of the 7th Infantry Brigade’s first and most significant World War Two battle at Milne Bay in August 1942.
The men of the 25th Battalion, who were engaged in their first combat missions, played a vital role in the defence of a key airstrip and helped to secure the first land defeat of the Japanese forces in the Pacific war.
More than 370 Allied troops were killed, lost or wounded in the campaign following the initial Japanese landing at Milne Bay on Papua New Guinea’s south east tip on the morning of August 26, 1942.
Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio said it was heartening to see a modern re-telling of the violet story.
Mayor Antonio said the installation would bridge generations by throwing new light on the story behind the Garden City’s floral emblem, the sweet violet.
“Residents attending a service at Toowoomba’s Mothers’ Memorial for Anzac Day might wish to reflect on the story behind its existence,” Mayor Antonio said.
“Anzac Day is an important time to pause and pay respects to all servicemen and women.
“I’m particularly drawn to the tale of one of our richest traditions.
“The magnificent Mother’s Memorial was built on the mothers’ love for their sons and relatives who did not return from World War One.
“These bereft women and family members gathered small bundles of sweet violets to sell for threepence to raise funds to build the memorial. Around £1800 was raised and the memorial was unveiled by the Queensland Governor in January 1922. (firstly at the intersection of Margaret and Ruthven Streets, before it was relocated to East Creek Park)
“The memorial serves as a timeless and poignant reminder of the far-reaching effects of war, even on the people left at home on the other side of the world.”
The Mothers’ Memorial, like thousands of similar memorials across the region and country, will be the centre of community Anzac Day commemorations on Thursday, April 25.
Mayor Antonio is encouraging residents to join any of the services across the region to honour the lives of the fallen and the selfless service of all past and present military and civilian personnel.
Commemorative services in Toowoomba this weekend are a solemn prelude to Anzac Day services.
Mayor Antonio will lay a wreath on behalf of the citizens of Toowoomba at a commemoration service at the Toowoomba Garden of Remembrance and Crematorium Wall of Memory on Sunday, April 14. The service starts at 8am.
In the afternoon, Mayor Antonio will lay a wreath at the Solemn Service of Remembrance at the Cross of Sacrifice, Memorial Wall, Toowoomba War Cemetery at the Drayton and Toowoomba Cemetery. This service starts at 3pm.
Mayor Antonio said while services honoured the ill-fated Gallipoli landing and subsequent campaign in Turkey in World War I, the date had become a broader national memorial day.
“These services are important occasions for us to formally remember and reflect on the sacrifice of past generations of servicemen and women from this area,” he said.
“Apart from honouring their selfless deeds, we must remember there is a new generation of men and women who recently have been involved in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Australian personnel, including people from this region, also remain on duty in numerous peace-keeping and other operations around the world.
“Councillors will attend Anzac Day services around the region along with Australian Defence Force representatives, RSL and veterans’ association members, community groups and the general public as a mark of respect for all civilian supporters and military personnel.
“This is in addition to many school and other community services. While the ranks of veterans might thin each year, attendances at Anzac Day services ensure current generations never forget the sacrifices of our forebears.”
For a list of regional Anzac Day services, please visit www.tr.qld.gov.au/anzac