Lest We Forget

Lest We Forget!

At the TDHS’s Meeting on 24th April, guest speaker Mr Fred Whitchurch will share his recollections of the Toowong RSL Sub-branch. The sub-branch was one of the oldest in Queensland. A brief history of the sub-branch’s formation is as follows:

The Returned Services League was originally called the Returned Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA), but later adopted a more simplified version of the name.

After the Queensland State Branch of RSSILA was formed, the decision to form the Toowong RSL Sub-branch was taken on 9th April 1919. Mr Sanderson became its Hon. Secretary.

The Toowong sub-branch was formed on 15th April 1919, and Captain Binnie, a well-known and respected Toowong resident, was elected as its first president, while well-known public identities Messrs Hicks and East were elected as vice-presidents.

By 7th May 1921, A J Servin had been elected as president, while Mr Fraser East was re-elected as vice-president. In 1924, on 21st February, Mr Fraser East was elected as the RSSILA’s State president.

Today, and several wars later, the Toowong RSL Sub-branch continues to serve the needs of its members. At 89, Mr Frederick (Fred) Whitchurch is the oldest member of the Toowong RSL sub-branch. A natural raconteur, Fred has a wealth of stories about the sub-branch, especially the renovation of the old hall after WWII, and later, the building of the new Toowong RSL Memorial Club building in Sherwood Road under the leadership of its then president, the late Mr Jack Cook.

The building had played host to many local community groups who used its rooms to meet in, and later, clubs for golf, darts, and billiards club were established under the auspices of the sub-branch. Next to the clubhouse was an old artillery gun, which children loved to run around and play on.

Alas, after a court case to determine whether the Toowong RSL sub-branch or the members of the Memorial Club actually owned the building, the property was sold to meet financial obligations and pay the costs of the court case. The court case’s decision had far-reaching ramifications for the operations of community organisations in Queensland, as it determined all assets were owned by the parent body. Afterwards, the Queensland State government passed the 1992 Act of Incorporation and thus, the court determination is now incorporated into Queensland law.

Thus, today, alas, the building is no more, and Toowong lost one more valuable community amenity. A set of townhouses has been erected on the site of the former RSL Sub-branch, and is named to honour early Toowong resident Richard Langler Drew (1823–1869). Next door, on the corner, Jack Cook’s garage has been replaced with the Jephson Hotel.

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