The front wall of St Martin’s War Memorial Hospital on Anne Street in Brisbane carries the following inscription:
In humble thankfulness to Almighty God for the blessing of victory in the cause of justice and freedom 1914–1918. This hospital was dedicated by the churchmen of the diocese of Brisbane.
The Great War Armistice of 11 November 1918 fell on St Martin’s Day. St Martin of Tours was a soldier before he became a saint. He was beatified for his acts of charity, the most notable of which was dividing his cloak with a beggarman. But he also inclined to pacifism, a quality more widely appreciated, perhaps, after the war than before it.
Extensive canvassing for public subscription was undertaken to meet the cost of building and sustaining the hospital, which opened in November 1922. Like many hospitals since the Middle Ages, it was run by a women’s religious order: the Anglican Sisters of the Sacred Advent. It remained in service until the early 1970s, providing free care to men and women who had served the country in war.
Next door, St John’s Cathedral rises heavenwards, but not high enough to entirely clear the hospital building, which screens the cathedral from view. A suggestion that the hospital be demolished resulted in the formation of a Friend’s group: ‘Save St Martin’s Hospital’. Some people in local and state government and others in the Anglican Synod considered that such a demolition would improve the prospect of St John’s, by making the Cathedral precinct less crowded.
There was considerable public outcry in the 1970s, much of it concerning the fact that St Martin’s is a war memorial which, like thousands of others across Australia, had been constructed with generous community support. Some acrimonious exchanges followed and the debate had a considerable profile in the Brisbane press. The matter was eventually settled, the memorial saved and the building re-purposed.
Today St Martin’s houses the offices of the Anglican diocesan administration.
‘St Martin’s Hospital: The “Free of Debt” Appeal’, Brisbane Courier Exhibition Special, 7 August 1922, p. 17: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/20563631eferences
Records from Anglican Archives, Brisbane: http://www.anglicanarchives.org.au/collections/SMARS083.htm
General History with reference to architect: http://queenslandforeveryone.com.au/city/brisbane/historic-buildings/st-martins-hospital-brisbane/