'Old Army' Anglican Section of Rookwood General Cemetery 1888 to 1968
The Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) maintains 112 graves of Australians and New Zealanders in this section in perpetuity. The military burial ground was established in 1888. It tells the story of Sydney's military community, from colonial times to the Vietnam War.
Rookwood General Cemetery
The 'Old Army' Anglican section is at Rookwood General Cemetery in Sydney, New South Wales. The traditional custodians of this land are the Dharug people. We pay our respects to them and their elders – past and present.
Rookwood is the oldest and largest multicultural working cemetery in Australia.
The cemetery was opened in 1867 due to overcrowding at Sydney's Old Burial Ground and Devonshire Street Cemetery. To build a new cemetery, the colonial government bought 80ha of land at Haslem's Creek, between Sydney and Parramatta.
In Victorian times, Rookwood was officially a necropolis, 'a city of the dead'. It had a railway station, kiosk and florist, and ornate gardens. People would visit Rookwood for picnics and other social outings because cemeteries were regarded as places of rest, reflection and even recreation.
Due to Rookwood's open spaces and easy access via public transport, it was used for annual military encampments from 1898. Some 6000 soldiers and 1500 horses converged on the reserve for 9 days of training in emergency response.
History of the 'Old Army' Anglican Section
The 'Old Army' Anglican Section was established in 1888. At that time, both the military presence and the Anglican congregation were growing in the Colony of New South Wales. (You can find similar sections of other faiths on the Rookwood Cemetery map.)
Graves and memorials in this section commemorate 112 army personnel from Australia and New Zealand. They provide a rich insight into the military and social history of Australia.
The coffin, mounted on a gun carriage and draped with the Union Jack, was conveyed to the railway station for entrainment to Rookwood. It was conveyed ... to the grave by eight soldiers, the Garrison Band playing 'The Dead March in Saul'. It was followed by 100 members of the battalion .... and a large number of family and friends. The battalion chaplain read the burial service and three volleys were discharged over the grave by a firing party. The impressive military funeral ceremony concluded with the sounding of 'The Last Post' by the buglers.
Daily Advertiser [Wagga Wagga, NSW], 10 January 1918, p.2
Who is buried here
Spanning an 80-year period to 1968, the 112 graves and memorials in the 'Old Army' Anglican Section:
- illustrate the military community of Sydney, from colonial times to the Vietnam War
- reflect people's religious beliefs, ethnicities, affluence and creative accomplishments
- show patterns of immigration, maritime history, overseas military actions, health issues, important events and tragedies such as drownings and accidents
Each commemoration tells the story of a person who served in the Australian Army – or its predecessors and affiliates including:
- the British Army garrisons
- the citizens' militias
- post-Federation Commonwealth Military Forces
- the Australian Imperial Force
Those buried here include men, women and one child. These people were volunteers, career soldiers, national service men, officers and other ranks.
The graves range from 1888 to 1968, although personnel were not interred in the ‘Old Army’ Anglican section during World War II. Instead, they were buried in the Sydney War Cemetery when it was established in 1941.
Other war dead include 12 Australian Army personnel who served in the Vietnam War and 27 Commonwealth War Graves Commission war dead who died as a result of their operational service.
The Mortuary Railway
Many of the early burials in this section may have been conveyed to Rookwood by train from Mortuary Station in Chippendale. Watch a Rookwood Cemetery video about the mortuary train.
Care of the graves and memorials
The Office of Australian War Graves (OAWG) maintains these graves with respect and in perpetuity.
The OAWG is part of the Australian Government Department of Veterans' Affairs and a member of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The 'Old Army' Anglican Section was refurbished in 2020 to include new grave plaques, sandstone walls, landscaping and seating.
Many of the gravesites originally had classical monuments. Due to weathering and damage, they were replaced with uniform military plaques during a refurbishment in 1943.
This uniformity reflects Commonwealth practice. War dead are commemorated uniformly and equally, irrespective of military or civil rank, race or creed.
Visiting the cemetery
If you have the opportunity to visit the 'Old Army' Anglican Section, you'll find details about how to get there at General Rookwood Cemetery.
The 'Old Army' Anglican Section is located in the centre of Rookwood and can be accessed via William Drive. Follow the signs along Necropolis Drive and William Drive.
You can scan the QR code on our signs with your smartphone or tablet to open this web page in an internet browser app.
Be aware of potential hazards, such as uneven ground and pavement, slippery surfaces and fallen branches.
Daily temperatures at Rookwood General Cemetery can exceed 30℃ from November to February.
We advise you to:
- wear comfortable, sturdy shoes and a hat
- take your own water
Get in touch
We can help with any matters affecting the commemoration of a veteran.
- Email WarGraves@dva.gov.au
- Write to Office of Australian War Graves, PO Box 9998, Brisbane QLD 4001
- Phone 1800 VETERAN (1800 838 3726)
Crisis support for current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel and their families is available 24 hours a day at Open Arms – Veterans and Families Counselling, phone 1800 011 046.