Mitchell Park Memorial Gates
Of interest to the Merewether Hamilton Adamstown RSL Sub-Branch is the fact that the Mitchell Park Memorial Gates, Mitchell Street Merewether, where Anzac Remembrance Services are still held, were unveiled by Brigadier-General John Paton CB CMG VD who, as a Colonel, was in charge of the last party to leave the beach at Gallipoli at the time of the evacuation. Records show that at 3.30am on December 20, Colonel Paton sent the following message to General Godley ‘evacuation completed’. Colonel Paton waited until 4.10am for any stragglers but there were none, so he embarked on a steamboat – the last man to leave! (This statement has since been challenged – Refer to Note below)
The original plaques and Mitchell Park Memorial Gates were unveiled on 12 March 1921.
Note: The fact that Colonel John Paton was ‘the last man to leave’ is a contentious statement which was later challenged. The challenge resulted in Australia’s World War I Historian, Charles W Bean altering his opinion of the last man to leave Gallipoli from Colonel John Paton to Captain Charles Littler.
Original gates – circa 1921
Mitchell Park Memorial Gates were officially unveiled on 12 March 1921 by Brigadier General J Paton CBV, CMG, VD. It is believed that the gates rusted due to the corrosive salt air and were removed by persons unknown, possibly by the late 1950’s/early 1960’s.
The marble columns are faced with lead-lettered honour rolls. However, the lead from some sections has regrettably been removed. The larger inner left column is surmounted by the marble bust of a soldier, with a sailor’s bust adorning the larger inner right column. ‘1914’ appears prominently on the base of the outer left column and ‘1919’ on the outer right column.
The Honour Rolls are sequenced by enlistment years.
In about the late 1950’s/early 1960’s, the Memorial Gates were modified from the original design of 1921 and were replaced with brick wall inserts – a cross was attached to the central brick wall, with the words ‘Lest we Forget’ immediately above.
Mitchell Park Memorial Gates as they stand today.
In collaboration with Newcastle City Council, Parks and Gardens and its Heritage Officer, the Sub-Branch came up with a design and concept to replicate the original gates. The Merewether RSL Sub-Branch funded the production and installation of the new gates, with sponsorship from the Newcastle City Council as well as receiving a grant from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs,
The official opening of the reinstated Mitchell Park Memorial Gates took place on ANZAC Day 25 April 2012 by President Phil Winney, Secretary Geoff Rich and Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Councillor John Tate.
The Honour Rolls on the tablets are sequenced by enlistment years.
A plaque on one of the columns notes: The Memorial Gates were erected by the Citizens of Merewether, in commemoration of the services and sacrifices of the men who fought and fell in the world’s greatest war. War declared 4th August 1914; Armistice signed 11th November 1918; Peace declared 28th June 1919.
Merewether historian Dennis Hinchliffe stated that the Mitchell Park Memorial Gates were always designed to be an everlasting tribute to the servicemen who fought for their country.
The Merewether community will never forget the awful human sacrifice the Memorial Gates represent.