It took fifteen years of discussion, fundraising and a referendum before Boorowa finally constructed a community war memorial. Active anti-conscription campaigning during the war may have been a factor in the delay.
The Boorowa Branch of the Anti-Conscription League influenced the local result of the referendum on compulsory military training in 1916, with 325 votes in favour and 1187 against. A second Referendum in 1917 resulted in 311 locals in favour of, and 1290 against, the conscription of men for overseas service. The outcome was possibly influenced by the local Catholics, who made up half of the district population.
Boorowa did not shirk its duty – it financially supported returned servicemen and erected cottages for the widows of two men who died on active service – but the form a permanent memorial should take was not so clear cut, with much debate reported in the Burrowa News.
A soldiers’ memorial club was proposed, but interest waned with claims that it would be a burden to maintain and in 1925 the local Country Women’s Association suggested an obstetrics branch be opened at the local hospital to serve as a war memorial. Two years later the Boorowa Town and District Band lobbied for the construction of a band rotunda in the park.
In May 1928 a third referendum was called for the residents of Boorowa and the Shire of Murrungal, this time to decide their preference for a permanent memorial – a band rotunda at the Recreation Reserve or a bridge over Ryan’s Creek. The bridge was the preferred option, with 606 votes as against 219 votes for the band rotunda, but in reality attracted little support from the community.
Still unresolved in 1932, the local servicemen took the matter in hand and undertook the construction of a memorial with a meeting room. Subscriptions began to flow in, each acknowledged in the local paper. With the honour roll unveiled on Anzac Day 1933, it became the centrepiece of the commemorative service. The memorial building was completed and the keys handed over in June 1933.
Additional honour rolls for other conflicts have been added, and the memorial has been refurbished to the architect’s original specifications by local volunteers.
The names on the Honour Roll can be found here: Boorowa Honour Roll.pdf
Conscription referendums, 1916 and 1917 – Fact sheet 161: http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/fact-sheets/fs161.aspx
Soldiers’ Memorial – Burrowa News – numerous articles:
Peter Dewar, Hon Curator
Phone 02 6385 3313
Boorowa RSL Sub-Branch
PO Box 7
Boorowa NSW 2586
Phone 02 6385 1358
Film & sound
Heritage Structures: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvKwlGV19-k