A Public Art Sculpture at Jezzine Barracks, Townsville.
The initial brief for Sentinel Soldiers was to celebrate four nominated servicemen from the 31st & 2/31st Battalions, their actions and their stories. From the brief I developed this Sculpture.
The four pillars stand, dually representing the four chosen servicemen, and barrels of the coastal defence guns. These four Sentinels are arranged in circular formation uniting them. The shaped platform references the DSO medal awarded to one of the soldiers, and the “distinguished service” performed by all.
Central to the group is a key feature from the 31st battalion badge, the Crossed Boomerangs. These rise from a circular plaque divided in order to dedicate each quadrant to a Soldier. The viewer experiences the work by approaching the work to engage with each story. As the days lengthen and the seasons change, so too will the experience for the viewer as the varying light casts a myriad of shadows across the work.
Following is the text which appears on the central plaque.
Major Hugh Quinn (1888 – 1915):
Major Hugh Quinn was a talented light-heavyweight boxer from Charters Towers who’s name became synonymous with one of the most dangerous and famous locations in Gallipoli. Quinn’s Post was at the centre of the ANZAC line, in some places less than 5m from the enemy. This location was highly exposed to enemy fire with the fighting being intense and continuous. Major Quinn was one of the first to command this position, and did so for over a month before he “fell with his face to the foe across the very trenches that bear his name, with the men of the 15th behind him”.
Lt. Colonel Frederick William Toll DSO and Bar, MBE, VD (1872 – 1955):
Raised in Charters Towers, Lt Colonel Toll served in South Africa during the Boer War, was highly decorated and later commanded the 31st Battalion during WWI, between 1915 and 1918. Toll was a skilled athlete and a crack shot, described as “a splendid officer, never loses his head…the men would do anything for him.” Awarded the DSO twice in 1916, he was wounded three times and eventually gas injuries forced his evacuation from the Great War. After returning to Queensland he was a foundation member of the Returned Soldiers League and was active in many public and private community service organisations throughout the rest of his life.
Private James Hannah (Heather) Gordon, VC (1907 – 1986):
Private Jim Gordon was awarded his VC for conspicuous gallantry whilst saving his unit by capturing a Pill Box near Jezzine, Northern Syria. Typically modest, Gordon is quoted as saying, “Thousands of others should have won the VC.” “Everyman was as good as the next, I was just one of the mob, a bit luckier than the average. I happened to be in the right spot at the right minute and most of the other chaps would have done the same as I did.” He was offered a second VC for his actions on the Kokoda Track, but turned it down unless the rest of his section were also similarly recognized.
Private Patrick Joseph Bugden, VC (1897-1917):
This former NSW hotelier enlisted in May 1916 and joined the 31st Battalion in March 1917. A gallant soldier, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for numerous acts of valour at Polygon Wood during the 3rd Battle of Ypres. The 31st advanced across No-Man’s Land through dust so thick they had to navigate by compass. Bugden was responsible for rescuing 5 injured soldiers under intense machine gun and artillery fire; for attacking and capturing “at the point of a bayonet”, a German machine gun post and garrison; and single handedly rescuing a captured fellow Digger from behind enemy lines.
Images and information sourced and quoted from; Australian War Museum- E00777, E05260, 023631, 021197, A02009, H16894;Burla, Robert, Crossed Boomerangs : A History of All The 31 Battalions; NCB at ANU; Australian Dictionary of Biography (online); Jumbana Group; Jezzine Barracks/ Kissing Point/ Garabarra – Public Art and Interpretive Elements.
Photography by Giuseppe Vizzone and Amanda Feher.