Cottesloe sub-branch of the Returned Services League received its Charter in 1931 with Lieut General Sir Joseph Talbot Hobbs of Peppermint Grove as a foundation member and patron until his death in 1938. The first president was Cecil Harvey, wounded at Gallipoli, and later Mayor of Cottesloe. For the first twenty years, RSL Cottesloe committees met at the former Town of Cottesloe Council buildings on the corner of Jarrad and Broome Streets and held the public meetings in an adjacent hall, very likely the Mechanics Institute.
In 1949, Overton Lodge in Broome Street, the former mansion of mining entrepreneur, Claude De Bernales, came onto the market for £45,000 and the Mayor of Cottesloe, Sir Lawrence Gadsdon, saw it as the perfect Civic Centre. A sizeable loan was necessary to buy the property and Gadsdon, a Gallipoli veteran and former president of the Cottesloe RSL, put the case to the Western Australian Premier, Sir Ross McLarty, Military Medal, a veteran of both wars, who guaranteed the loan and thus the property was purchased. The former ballroom was described by The Cottesloe Civic Centre News ‘as a fitting memorial to the men and women who gave their lives in two world wars’ and, on 17 August 1950, the Governor, Sir James Mitchell, declared open the Cottesloe War Memorial Town Hall and Civic Centre.
The Cottesloe RSL sold two small blocks of land in Cottesloe and most of the proceeds went towards furnishing de Bernales’ jarrah lined billiard room for a committee room and obtaining chairs and other necessities for the War Memorial Town Hall. The RSL’s unrestricted access to the building was a ‘mates’ agreement until 1963 when it was confirmed with a twenty one year renewable licence signed by Mayor Cecil Harvey giving the local RSL un-restricted access to the committee room and a standing hall booking for well attended monthly meetings.
The sub-branch was blessed with reliable committees and support teams. An energetic and dedicated Women’s Auxiliary took over the fund-raising with fetes, costume balls, beauty contests, children’s entertainment, musical programmes, street stalls, card evenings, popular child competitions, jumble sales and social events such as dancing and games. After 1950, such events were held at the Cottesloe Civic Centre. Most of the money collected was used to buy small gifts, cigarettes and biscuits for old soldiers in Hollywood Repatriation (Repat) Hospital for veterans of two wars and at Sunset Home for aging veterans, a few of whom served in Africa during the Boer War. One letter of appreciation was from Sgt Jon Trend, a 100 year old Boer War veteran. Another major event was the Christmas party bringing together disabled veterans, their war-time mates and friends. The Cottesloe community news described one Sunset Christmas concert: ‘The tables were beautifully decorated and laden with good things. Mrs Thomas and her concert party entertained all with a lively and enjoyable program of solo singing, violin and popular tunes on an ordinary saw with a hammer.’
With the generous support of the Town of Cottesloe we organise the annual Anzac Day commemoration at the rear of the War Memorial Town Hall and the Gun-fire breakfast that follows. In November, we take to the streets selling Remembrance Day poppies to a very generous community, the proceeds of which, in Western Australia, is placed in a welfare fund to assist needy veterans and their families. Also in November we hold the Annual Frederick Bell VC Memorial Lecture and the high quality of guest speakers always ensures a good attendance.
WE NEED NEW ACTIVE MEMBERS
If you would like to become a member, please contact the branch Secretary or RSL Headquarters in St Georges Terrace Perth. In the words of Canada’s Major John McCrea, written after the 2nd Battle of Ypres, Belgium 1915:
To you from failing hands we throw the torch;
be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep,
though poppies grow in Flanders fields.