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The Victoria Cross. Army and Navy Versions.
Image by Jimmy Big Potatoes
The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories. It takes precedence over all other orders, decorations and medals. It may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service and to civilians under military command. The VC is usually presented to the recipient or to their next of kin by the British monarch at an investiture held at Buckingham Palace.
The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. Since then, the medal has been awarded 1,357 times to 1,354 individual recipients. Only 14 medals, ten to members of the British Army, and four to the Australian Army, have been awarded since the Second World War. The traditional explanation of the source of the gunmetal from which the medals are struck is that it derives from Russian cannon captured at the Siege of Sevastopol. Recent research has thrown doubt on this story, suggesting a variety of origins for the material actually making up the medals themselves. Research has established that the gunmetal for many of the medals came from Chinese cannons that may have been captured from the Russians in 1855.
Due to its rarity, the VC is highly prized and the medal has fetched over £400,000 at auction. A number of public and private collections are devoted to the Victoria Cross. The private collection of Lord Ashcroft, amassed since 1986, contains over one-tenth of all VCs awarded. Following a 2008 donation to the Imperial War Museum, the Ashcroft collection went on public display alongside the museum’s Victoria and George Cross collection in November 2010.
Beginning with the Centennial of Confederation in 1967, Canada followed in 1975 by Australia and New Zealand developed their own national honours systems, separate and independent of the British or Imperial honours system. As each country’s system evolved, operational gallantry awards were developed with the premier award of each system, the VC for Australia, the Canadian VC and the VC for New Zealand being created and named in honour of the Victoria Cross. These are unique awards of each honours system, recommended, assessed, gazetted and presented by each country.
3 Award process
3.1 Colonial awards
3.2 Separate Commonwealth awards
4 Authority and privileges
4.2 Forfeited awards
6 Public sales
In 1854, after 40 years of peace, Britain found itself fighting a major war against Russia. The Crimean War was one of the first wars with modern reporting, and the dispatches of William Howard Russell described many acts of bravery and valour by British servicemen that went unrewarded.
Before the Crimean War, there was no official standardised system for recognition of gallantry within the British armed forces. Officers were eligible for an award of one of the junior grades of the Order of the Bath and brevet promotions whilst a Mention in Despatches existed as an alternative award for acts of lesser gallantry. This structure was very limited; in practice awards of the Order of the Bath were confined to officers of field rank. Brevet promotions or Mentions in Despatches were largely confined to those who were under the immediate notice of the commanders in the field, generally members of the commander’s own staff.
Other European countries had awards that did not discriminate against class or rank; France awarded the Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour) and The Netherlands gave the Order of William. There was a growing feeling amongst the public and in the Royal Court that a new award was needed to recognise incidents of gallantry that were unconnected with a man’s lengthy or meritorious service. Queen Victoria issued a Warrant under the Royal sign-manual on 29 January 1856 (gazetted 5 February 1856) that officially constituted the VC. The order was backdated to 1854 to recognise acts of valour during the Crimean War.
Queen Victoria had instructed the War Office to strike a new medal that would not recognise birth or class. The medal was meant to be a simple decoration that would be highly prized and eagerly sought after by those in the military services. To maintain its simplicity, Queen Victoria, under the guidance of Prince Albert, vetoed the suggestion that the award be called The Military Order of Victoria and instead suggested the name Victoria Cross. The original warrant stated that the Victoria Cross would only be awarded to soldiers who have served in the presence of the enemy and had performed some signal act of valour or devotion. The first ceremony was held on 26 June 1857 where Queen Victoria invested 62 of the 111 Crimean recipients in a ceremony in Hyde Park.
It was originally intended that the VCs would be cast from the bronze cascabels of two cannon that were captured from the Russians at the siege of Sevastopol. The historian John Glanfield has since proven through the use of x-rays of older Victoria Crosses that the metal used for VCs is in fact from antique Chinese guns and not of Russian origin. One theory is that the guns were originally Chinese weapons but the Russians captured them and reused them at Sevastopol. It was also thought that some medals made during the First World War were composed of metal captured from different Chinese guns during the Boxer Rebellion but the original metal was used after the war. It is also believed that another source of metal was used between 1942 and 1945 to create five Second World War VCs when the Sevastopol metal went missing.
The barrels of the cannon in question are on display at Firepower – The Royal Artillery Museum at Woolwich. The remaining portion of the only remaining cascabel, weighing 358 oz (10 kg), is stored in a vault maintained by 15 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps at Donnington, Telford. It can only be removed under armed guard. It is estimated that approximately 80 to 85 more VCs could be cast from this source. A single company of jewellers, Hancocks of London, has been responsible for the production of every VC awarded since its inception.
Bars are awarded to the VC in recognition of the performance of further acts of gallantry meriting the award although there are only three instances of someone receiving a second award.
Appearance[edit source | editbeta]
The front and back of Edward Holland’s VC.The decoration is a bronze cross pattée, 41 mm high, 36 mm wide, bearing the crown of Saint Edward surmounted by a lion, and the inscription FOR VALOUR. This was originally to have been FOR THE BRAVE, until it was changed on the recommendation of Queen Victoria, as it implied that not all men in battle were brave. The decoration, suspension bar and link weigh about 0.87 troy ounces (27 g).
The cross is suspended by a ring from a seriffed "V" to a bar ornamented with laurel leaves, through which the ribbon passes. The reverse of the suspension bar is engraved with the recipient’s name, rank, number and unit. On the reverse of the medal is a circular panel on which the date of the act for which it was awarded is engraved in the centre.
The Original Warrant Clause 1 states that the Victoria Cross "shall consist of a Maltese cross of bronze". Nonetheless, it has always been a cross pattée; the discrepancy with the Warrant has never been corrected.
The ribbon is crimson, 38 mm (1.5 inches) wide. The original (1856) specification for the award stated that the ribbon should be red for army recipients and dark blue for naval recipients. However the dark blue ribbon was abolished soon after the formation of the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918. On 22 May 1920 King George V signed a warrant that stated all recipients would now receive a red ribbon and the living recipients of the naval version were required to exchange their ribbons for the new colour. Although the Army warrants state the colour as being red it is defined by most commentators as being crimson or "wine-red".
The obverse of William Johnstone’s VC showing the dark blue ribbon for pre-1918 awards to naval personnel.The Victoria Cross is awarded for
… most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.
A recommendation for the VC is normally issued by an officer at regimental level, or equivalent, and has to be supported by three witnesses, although this has been waived on occasion. The recommendation is then passed up the military hierarchy until it reaches the Secretary of State for Defence. The recommendation is then laid before the monarch who approves the award with his or her signature. Victoria Cross awards are always promulgated in the London Gazette with the single exception of the award to the American Unknown Soldier in 1921.The Victoria Cross warrant makes no specific provision as to who should actually present the medals to the recipients. Queen Victoria indicated that she would like to present the medals in person and she presented 185 medals out of the 472 gazetted during her reign. Including the first 62 medals presented at a parade in Hyde Park on 26 June 1857 by Queen Victoria, nearly 900 awards have been personally presented to the recipient by the reigning British monarch. Nearly 300 awards have been presented by a member of the royal family or by a civil or military dignitary. About 150 awards were either forwarded to the recipient or next of kin by registered post or no details of the presentations are known.
The original Royal Warrant did not contain a specific clause regarding posthumous awards, although official policy was not to award the VC posthumously. Between the Indian Mutiny in 1857 and the beginning of the Second Boer War the names of six officers and men were published in the London Gazette with a memorandum stating they would have been awarded the Victoria Cross had they survived. A further three notices were published in the London Gazette in September 1900 and April 1901 for gallantry in the Second Boer War. In a partial reversal of policy, six posthumous Victoria Crosses, all for South Africa including the three officers and men mentioned in the notices in 1900 and 1901 were granted on 8 August 1902. Five years later in 1907, the posthumous policy was completely reversed and medals were sent to the next of kin of the six officers and men. The awards were mentioned in notices in the Gazette dating back to the Indian Mutiny. The Victoria Cross warrant was not amended to explicitly allow posthumous awards until 1920, but one quarter of all awards for World War I were posthumous. Although the 1920 Royal Warrant made provision for awards to women serving in the Armed Forces, no women have been awarded a VC.
In the case of a gallant and daring act being performed by a squadron, ship’s company or a detached body of men (such as marines) in which all men are deemed equally brave and deserving of the Victoria Cross then a ballot is drawn. The officers select one officer, the NCOs select one individual and the private soldiers or seamen select two individuals. In all 46 awards have been awarded by ballot with 29 of the awards during the Indian Mutiny. Four further awards were granted to Q Battery, Royal Horse Artillery at Korn Spruit on 31 March 1900 during the Second Boer War. The final ballot awards for the Army were the six awards to the Lancashire Fusiliers at W Beach during the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 although three of the awards were not gazetted until 1917. The final seven ballot awards were the only naval ballot awards with three awards to two Q-Ships in 1917 and four awards for the Zeebrugge Raid in 1918. The provision for awards by ballot is still included in the Victoria Cross warrant but there have been no further such awards since 1918.
Between 1858 and 1881 the Victoria Cross could be awarded for actions taken "under circumstances of extreme danger" not in the face of the enemy. Six such awards were made during this period—five of them for a single incident during an Expedition to the Andaman Islands in 1867. In 1881, the criteria were changed again and the VC was only awarded for acts of valour "in the face of the enemy". Due to this it has been suggested by many historians including Lord Ashcroft that the changing nature of warfare will result in fewer VCs being awarded. The prevalence of remote fighting techniques has meant that opportunities to carry out acts of bravery in the face of the enemy are diminishing. Since 1940, military personnel who have distinguished themselves for gallantry not in the face of the enemy have been awarded the George Cross, which is immediately after the VC in the Order of Wear.
]The Victoria Cross was extended to colonial troops in 1867. The extension was made following a recommendation for gallantry regarding colonial soldier Major Charles Heaphy for action in the New Zealand land wars in 1864.He was operating under British command and the VC was gazetted in 1867. Later that year, the Government of New Zealand assumed full responsibility for operations but no further recommendations for the Victoria Cross were raised for local troops who distinguished themselves in action. Following gallant actions by three New Zealand soldiers in November 1868 and January 1869 during the New Zealand land wars, an Order in Council on 10 March 1869 created a "Distinctive Decoration" for members of the local forces without seeking permission from the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Although the Governor was chided for exceeding his authority, the Order in Council was ratified by the Queen. The title "Distinctive Decoration" was later replaced by the title New Zealand Cross.
The question of whether recommendations could be made for colonial troops not serving with British troops was not asked in New Zealand, but in 1881, the question was asked in South Africa. Surgeon John McCrea, an officer of the South African forces was recommended for gallantry during hostilities which had not been approved by British Government. He was awarded the Victoria Cross and the principle was established that gallant conduct could be rewarded independently of any political consideration of military operations. More recently, four Australian soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross in Vietnam although Britain was not involved in the conflict.
Indian troops were not originally eligible for the Victoria Cross since they had been eligible for the Indian Order of Merit since 1837 which was the oldest British gallantry award for general issue. When the Victoria Cross was created, Indian troops were still controlled by the Honourable East India Company and did not come under Crown control until 1860. European officers and men serving with the Honourable East India Company were not eligible for the Indian Order of Merit and the Victoria Cross was extended to cover them in October 1857. It was only at the end of the 19th century that calls for Indian troops to be awarded the Victoria Cross intensified. Indian troops became eligible for the award in 1911. The first awards to Indian troops appeared in the London Gazette on 7 December 1914 to Darwan Sing Negi and Khudadad Khan. Negi was presented with the Victoria Cross by King George V during a visit to troops in France. The presentation occurred on 5 December 1914 and he is one of a very few soldiers presented with his award before it appeared in the London Gazette.
Separate Commonwealth awards.
See also: Victoria Cross for Australia, Victoria Cross (Canada), and Victoria Cross for New Zealand
Victoria Cross as it appears on Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones.In recent years, several Commonwealth countries have introduced their own honours systems, separate from the British Honours System. This began with the Partition of India in 1947, when the new countries of India and Pakistan introduced their own systems of awards. The VC was replaced by the Param Vir Chakra (PVC) and Nishan-e-Haider (NH) respectively, although the new countries continued to permit recipients of British honours to wear their awards. Several Pakistani soldiers and officers were authorised to wear both the British medals and the ones earned in the later Indo-Pakistani wars. Sri Lanka, whose defence personnel were eligible to receive the Victoria Cross until 1972, introduced its own equivalent, the Parama Weera Vibhushanaya medal. Three Commonwealth realms—Australia, Canada and New Zealand—have each introduced their own decorations for gallantry and bravery, replacing British decorations such as the Military Cross with their own. Most Commonwealth countries, however, still recognise some form of the VC as their highest decoration for valour.
Australia was the first Commonwealth realm to create its own VC, on 15 January 1991. Although it is a separate award, its appearance is identical to its British counterpart. Canada followed suit when in 1993 Queen Elizabeth signed Letters Patent creating the Canadian VC, which is also similar to the British version, except that the legend has been changed from FOR VALOUR to the Latin PRO VALORE This language was chosen so as to favour neither French nor English, the two official languages of Canada. New Zealand was the third country to adapt the VC into its own honours system. While the New Zealand and Australian VCs are technically separate awards, the decoration is identical to the British design, including being cast from the same Crimean War gunmetal as the British VC. The Canadian Victoria Cross also includes metal from the same cannon, along with copper and other metals from all regions of Canada.
Four of the separate VCs have so far been awarded. Willie Apiata received the Victoria Cross for New Zealand on 2 July 2007, for his actions in the War in Afghanistan in 2004. The Victoria Cross for Australia has been awarded three times. Mark Donaldson was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia on 16 January 2009 for actions during Operation Slipper, the Australian contribution to the War in Afghanistan. Ben Roberts-Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia on 23 January 2011 for actions in the Shah Wali Kot Offensive, part of the War in Afghanistan. Daniel Keighran was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia on 1 November 2012 for his actions during the Battle of Derapet in Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan on 24 August 2010. A Canadian version has been cast that was originally to be awarded to the Unknown Soldier at the rededication of the Vimy Memorial on 7 April 2007. This date was chosen as it was the 90th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge but pressure from veterans’ organisations caused the plan to be dropped.
Authority and privileges[edit source | editbeta]As the highest award for valour of the United Kingdom, the Victoria Cross is always the first award to be presented at an investiture, even before knighthoods, as was shown at the investiture of Private Johnson Beharry who received his medal before General Sir Mike Jackson received his knighthood. Due to its status, the VC is always the first decoration worn in a row of medals and it is the first set of post-nominal letters used to indicate any decoration or order. Similar acts of extreme valour that do not take place in the face of the enemy are honoured with the George Cross, which has equal precedence but is awarded second because the GC is newer.
There is a widespread though erroneous belief that it is statutory for "all ranks to salute a bearer of the Victoria Cross". There is no official requirement that appears in the official Warrant of the VC, nor in Queen’s Regulations and Orders, but tradition dictates that this occurs and as such the Chiefs of Staff will salute a Private awarded a VC or GC.
The Victoria Cross was at first worn as the recipient fancied. It was popular to pin it on the left side of the chest over the heart, with other decorations grouped around the VC. The Queen’s Regulations for the Army of 1881 gave clear instructions on how to wear it; the VC had to follow the badge of the Order of the Indian Empire. In 1900 it was ordained in Dress Regulations for the Army that it should be worn after the cross of a Member of the Royal Victorian Order. It was only in 1902 that King Edward VII gave the cross its present position on a bar brooch. The cross is also worn as a miniature decoration on a brooch or a chain with mess jacket, white tie or black tie. As a bearer of the VC is not a Companion in an Order of Chivalry, the VC has no place in a coat of arms.
The original warrant stated that NCOs and private soldiers or seamen on the Victoria Cross Register were entitled to a £10 per annum annuity. In 1898, Queen Victoria raised the pension to £50 for those that could not earn a livelihood, be it from old age or infirmity.Today holders of the Victoria Cross or George Cross are entitled to an annuity, the amount of which is determined by the awarding government. Since 2002, the annuity paid by the British Government is £1,495 per year. This is exempted from tax for British taxpayers by Section 638 Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003, along with pensions or annuities from other awards for bravery.In Canada under the Gallantry Awards Order, members of the Canadian Forces or people who joined the British forces before 31 March 1949 while domiciled in Canada or Newfoundland receive Can,000 per year. Under Subsection 103.4 of the Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986, the Australian Government provides a Victoria Cross Allowance. Until November 2005 the amount was A,230 per year. Since then this amount has been increased annually in line with the Australian Consumer Price Index.
Forfeited awards[edit source | editbeta]See also Category:Victoria Cross forfeitures
The original Royal Warrant involved an expulsion clause that allowed for a recipient’s name to be erased from the official register in certain wholly discreditable circumstances and his pension cancelled. King George V felt very strongly that the decoration should never be forfeited and in a letter from his Private Secretary, Lord Stamfordham, on 26 July 1920, his views are forcibly expressed:
The King feels so strongly that, no matter the crime committed by anyone on whom the VC has been conferred, the decoration should not be forfeited. Even were a VC to be sentenced to be hanged for murder, he should be allowed to wear his VC on the scaffold.
The power to cancel and restore awards is still included in the Victoria Cross warrant but none has been forfeited since 1908.
List of Victoria Cross recipients
The 93rd Highlanders storming Sikandar Bagh. National Army Museum, London (NAM 1987-06-12)A total of 1,357 Victoria Crosses have been awarded since 1856 to 1,354 men. There are several statistics related to the greatest number of VCs awarded in individual battles or wars. The greatest number of Victoria Crosses won on a single day is 18, for deeds performed on 16 November 1857, during Second Relief of Lucknow (primarily the assault on and capture of Sikandar Bagh), during the Indian Mutiny. The greatest number won in a single action is 28, for the whole of the Second Relief of Lucknow, 14–22 November 1857. The greatest number won by a single unit during a single action is seven, to the 2nd/24th Foot, for the defence of Rorke’s Drift, 22–23 January 1879, during the Zulu War. The greatest number won in a single conflict is 628, being for the First World War. There are only five living holders of the VC—three British, one Australian, one Gurkha—one award for the Second World War and four awards since; in addition one New Zealander holds the Victoria Cross for New Zealand and three Australians hold the Victoria Cross for Australia. Eight of the then-twelve surviving holders of the Victoria Cross attended the 150th Anniversary service of remembrance at Westminster Abbey on 26 June 2006.
In 1921 the Victoria Cross was given to the American Unknown Soldier of the First World War (the British Unknown Warrior was reciprocally awarded the US Medal of Honor). One VC is in existence that is not counted in any official records. In 1856, Queen Victoria laid the first Victoria Cross beneath the foundation stone of Netley Military hospital. When the hospital was demolished in 1966 the VC, known as "The Netley VC", was retrieved and is now on display in the Army Medical Services Museum, Mytchett, near Aldershot.
Three people have been awarded the VC and Bar, the bar representing a second award of the VC. They are: Noel Chavasse and Arthur Martin-Leake, both doctors in the Royal Army Medical Corps, for rescuing wounded under fire; and New Zealander Charles Upham, an infantryman, for combat actions. Upham remains the only combatant soldier to have received a VC and Bar. An Irishman, Surgeon General William Manley, remains the sole recipient of both the Victoria Cross and the Iron Cross. The VC was awarded for his actions during the Waikato-Hauhau Maori War, New Zealand on 29 April 1864 while the Iron Cross was awarded for tending the wounded during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. New Zealand Flying Officer Lloyd Trigg has the distinction of being the only serviceman ever awarded a VC on evidence solely provided by the enemy, for an action in which there were no surviving Allied witnesses. The recommendation was made by the captain of the German U-boat U-468 sunk by Trigg’s aircraft. Lieutenant Commander Gerard Roope was also awarded a VC on recommendation of the enemy, the captain of the Admiral Hipper, but there were also numerous surviving Allied witnesses to corroborate his actions.
Since the end of the Second World War the original VC has been awarded 13 times: four in the Korean War, one in the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation in 1965, four to Australians in the Vietnam War, two during the Falklands War in 1982, one in the Iraq War in 2004, and two in the War in Afghanistan in 2006. The three awards given in the 21st century to British personnel have been for actions in the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War. On 18 March 2005, Lance Corporal (then Private) Johnson Beharry of the 1st Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment became the first recipient of the VC since Sergeant Ian McKay in 1982. One of the most recent award of the Victoria Cross to a British service person was the posthumous award on 14 December 2006 to Corporal Bryan Budd of 3 Para. It was awarded for two separate acts of "inspirational leadership and the greatest valour" which led to his death, during actions against the Taliban in Afghanistan in July and August 2006. Another Victoria Cross has been awarded in March 2013 to British Lance Corporal James Ashworth, who showed a courage "beyond words" during a fierce battle with the Taliban in Helmand’s Nahr-e Saraj district, Afghanistan, and was fatally wounded as a result.
Public sales[edit source | editbeta]Since 1879, more than 300 Victoria Crosses have been publicly auctioned or advertised. Others have been privately sold. The value of the VC can be seen by the increasing sums that the medals reach at auction. In 1955 the set of medals awarded to Edmund Barron Hartley was bought at Sotheby’s for the then record price of £300 (approximately £6700 in present day terms). In October 1966 the Middlesex Regiment paid a new record figure of £900 (approximately £14200 in present day terms) for a VC awarded after the Battle of the Somme. In January 1969, the record reached £1700 (£23700) for the medal set of William Rennie. In April 2004 the VC awarded in 1944 to Sergeant Norman Jackson, RAF, was sold at auction for £235,250. On 24 July 2006, an auction at Bonhams in Sydney of the VC awarded to Captain Alfred Shout fetched a world record hammer price of A million (approximately £410,000 at then current exchange rates). Captain Alfred Shout was awarded the VC posthumously in 1915 for hand-to-hand combat at the Lone Pine trenches in Gallipoli, Turkey.
Several VCs have been stolen and, being valuable, have been placed on the Interpol watch-list for stolen items. The VC awarded to Milton Gregg, which was donated to the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum in London, Ontario Canada in 1979, was stolen on Canada Day, (1 July 1980), when the museum was overcrowded and has been missing since. A VC awarded in 1917 to Canadian soldier Corporal Filip Konowal was stolen from the same museum in 1973 and was not recovered until 2004.
On 2 December 2007, 9 VCs were among 100 medals stolen from locked, reinforced glass cabinets at the QEII Army Memorial Museum in Waiouru, New Zealand with a value of around NZD million. Charles Upham’s VC and Bar was among these. A reward of NZ0,000 was posted for information leading to the recovery of the decorations and conviction of the thieves, although at the time there was much public debate about the need to offer reward money to retrieve the medals. On 16 February 2008 New Zealand Police announced all the medals had been recovered.
Collections[edit source | editbeta]The VC collection of businessman and politician Lord Ashcroft, amassed since 1986, contains 162 medals, over one-tenth of all VCs awarded. It is the largest collection of such decorations. In July 2008 it was announced that Ashcroft was to donate £5 million for a permanent gallery at the Imperial War Museum where the 50 VCs held by the museum will be put on display alongside his collection. The Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum opened on 12 November 2010 containing a total of 210 VCs and 31 GCs. It is now the largest collection of VCs on public display. This distinction was previously held by the Australian War Memorial, whose collection (currently of 65 medals) includes all nine VCs awarded to Australians at Gallipoli.
Museums with holdings of ten or more VCs include:
In the UK
Museum Location Number
Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum Kennington, London 210
The National Army Museum Chelsea, London 39
The Royal Green Jackets Museum Winchester, Hampshire 34
The Royal Engineers Museum Gillingham, Kent 26
The Army Medical Services Museum Mytchett, Surrey 22
Firepower – The Royal Artillery Museum Woolwich, London 20
The Queen’s Own Highlanders Museum Ardersier, Inverness-shire 16
The South Wales Borderers Museum Brecon, Wales 16
The Green Howards Regimental Museum Richmond, Yorkshire 15
The Royal Fusiliers Museum Tower of London 12
The Gordon Highlanders Museum Aberdeen 12
The National Maritime Museum Greenwich, London 11
The National War Museum Edinburgh Castle 11
The RAF Museum Hendon, London 11
The Sherwood Foresters Museum Nottingham 11
The Gurkha Museum Winchester, Hampshire 10
The Royal Marines Museum Portsmouth, Hampshire 10
The Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum Caernarfon Castle, Wales 10
Outside the UK
Australian War Memorial Canberra, Australia 65
Canadian War Museum Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 33
QEII Army Memorial Museum Waiouru, New Zealand 11
(note 1 = Many VCs are on loan to the museums and are owned by individuals and not owned by the museums themselves.)
Other[edit source | editbeta]Memorials[edit source | editbeta]In 2004 a national Victoria Cross and George Cross memorial was installed in Westminster Abbey close to the tomb of The Unknown Warrior. Westminster Abbey is a living monument to British history in that it contains monuments and memorials to central figures in British History including Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and James VI & I. As such it was a significant honour for the VC to be commemorated in Westminster Abbey.
Canon William Lummis, MC, was a military historian who built up an archive on the service records and final resting places of Victoria Cross holders. This was then summarised into a pamphlet which was taken to be an authoritative source on these matters. However, Lummis was aware of short-comings in his work and encouraged David Harvey to continue it. The result was Harvey’s seminal book Monuments to Courage. In 2007 the Royal Mail used material from Lummis’ archives to produce a collection of stamps commemorating Victoria Cross recipients.
Australia has a unique means of remembering recipients of the Victoria Cross. Remembrance Drive is a path through city streets and highways linking Sydney and Canberra. Trees were planted in February 1954 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in a park near Sydney Harbour and at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, marking either end of the route, with various plantations along the roadsides in memory of the fallen. Beginning in 1995, 23 rest stop memorials named for Australian recipients of the VC from World War II onwards have been sited along the route, providing picnic facilities and public amenities to encourage drivers to take a break on long drives. Thus Australia’s VC heroes continue to serve their country, saving lives through managing driver fatigue. 23 of the 26 memorial sites have been dedicated, with a further three reserved for the surviving VC recipients, including two of the newer Victoria Cross for Australia awards. Edward Kenna, VC was honoured with the most recent rest stop on 16 August 2012, having passed away in 2009. It is generally accepted that further awards of the VC to Australians will warrant a similar honour.
The subject of soldiers winning the VC has been popular with artists since the medal’s inception. In particular are the fifty paintings by Louis William Desanges that were painted in the late 1850s and early 1860s. Many of these were exhibited at the Egyptian Gallery in Piccadilly, but in 1900, they were brought together by Lord Wantage as the Victoria Cross Gallery and exhibited in the town of Wantage, Berkshire. Later the collection was broken up and many of the paintings were sent to the various regiments depicted. Some were damaged or destroyed. A number of the acts were also portrayed in a Second World War propaganda pamphlet, and the images commissioned by the Ministry of Information are presented in an online gallery available on the website of The National Archives.
Soldiers’ club naming traditions
It is a tradition within the Australian Army for soldiers’ recreational clubs on military bases to be named after a particular recipient of the Victoria Cross, usually one with whom the unit is historically associated. Permission for such naming rights is usually obtained not only from the relevant command hierarchy within the military itself, but also from the family of the recipient. Once dedicated, the club and its participants typically take great pride in the deeds of the person with whom they are associated, and often family members will be invited to attend certain functions held by the club as a mark of thanks and respect.
Blue Lake. Mt Gambier. Vivid blue of summer in this old volcano crater.
Image by denisbin
Brief History of Mt Gambier – the second city of SA after Adelaide (region population nearly 35,000, urban 28,000).
Lieutenant James Grant aboard the Lady Nelson sighted and named Mt Gambier in 1800 after a Lord of the Admiralty. The first white man to traverse the area was Stephen Henty of Portland in 1839 when he sighted the Blue Lake. He returned with cattle and stockmen in 1841. He later claimed that had he known the lake and volcano he had discovered in 1839 was in SA he would have immediately applied for an 1839 Special Survey. But Henty thought he was squatting on land in NSW and he was not an official SA settler so the government ordered him off the land in 1844. Thus the first official white settler of the South East and the Mt Gambier district became Evelyn Sturt, brother to Captain Charles Sturt, who took up an occupational license in March 1844 and a property he named Compton just north of the present city. In April 1844 Governor Grey and a party of assistants including the Assistant Surveyor General Thomas Burr and artist George French Angas explored the South East naming Robe and doing the first surveys. Evelyn Sturt became the first to have an occupational license to squat and the first purchase freehold land near Mt Gambier which he did in 1847- a section of 77 acres when 80 acres was the norm. He left the district in 1854 selling his freehold land to Hastings Cunningham who in 1855 subdivided some of this land thus creating the town of Gambierton. The town lands were adjacent to the site of the first police station selected near what is now Cave Gardens by the government in 1845. A small bush inn also operated at this spot. The first streets were named after early locals such as Evelyn Sturt, Compton, Ferrers and Crouch (built the first general store before the town was created) etc. The town grew quickly because of the mild climate, fertile soils, plentiful water and the influx of settlers from across the border in what was to become the colony of Victoria. Cunningham himself was a great benefactor and donated land for the first school in 1856. In 1861 the town name was changed by act of parliament to Mt Gambier. The Hundred of Mt Gambier (along with three other hundreds) was declared in 1858 and began the closer settlement of the South East.
Unlike other areas of SA the South East was seen as paradise for pastoralists and the optimistic pastoralists flocked to the area with their flocks in 1845. The large runs locked up the land and prevented farmers from settling in the region except for the fertile lands around Mount Gambier. Here small scale farmers had small properties and grew potatoes, hops, and later had dairy cows as well as growing wheat and oats. Land acts in the early 1870s designed to break up the big runs only partially succeeded in the South East where most station owners bought up their lands freehold. It was after 1905 before the big pastoral estates were really broken up for farmers and closer settlement, except for near Mt Gambier. Apart from Evelyn Sturt the other early white settlers of the South East in 1845 were Alexander Cameron at Penola, John Robertson at Struan, William Macintosh and George Ormerod at Naracoorte, the Austin brothers at Yallum Park (later John Riddoch), the Arthur brothers (nephews of Governor Arthur of Van Diemen’s Land) at Mt Schanck( now Mt Schank) and the Leake brothers at Glencoe. In fact in 1845 nineteen leasehold runs were taken up in the South East with a further thirty runs in 1846 and most had several 80 acres sections of freehold land near the main homestead. Most had got to the South East from Casterton and Portland in Victoria as the swamps near the coast were too difficult to traverse except for the country near Robe. Many of the estates were huge. Evelyn Sturt on the Compton/Mt Gambier run had 85 square miles as well as his freehold land; Robertson had 135 square miles at Struan; George Glen (and William Vansittart) of Mayurra had 110 square miles; the SA Company had 159 square miles on the Benara run; the Leake brothers had 194 square miles on Glencoe; Hunter had 56 square miles on Kalangadoo; Neil Black of Noorat Victoria had 45 square miles on Kongorong run and 101 square miles at Port MacDonnell and the Arthur brothers had a huge run at Mt Schanck. By 1851 almost 5,000 square miles of the South East was occupied by Occupational License and most licenses were converted to 14 year leases in that year. A third of all leasehold land in SA was taken up in the South East because of its higher rainfall and suitability for pastoralism and a third of all sheep in the colony were in the South East. When Hundreds were declared in the South East in the late 1850s and early 1860s pastoralists bought up the land. In one case John Riddoch of Yallum Park owned the entire Hundred of Monbulla. Another pastoralist W. Clarke who had purchased Mt Schancke station from the Arthur brothers in 1861 owned SA land valued at £1.25 million when he died in 1874 and he had 120,000 acres freehold in Victoria, 75,000 acres freehold in SA( Mt Schank) and 50,000 acres freehold in each of NSW and Tasmania! Mt Schanck was changed in Schank in 1917 when German place names in SA were changed as Schank without the second “c” is an old English name!
In the 1850s Mt Gambier was a shanty village as the South East was a region of large pastoral estates and little agricultural farming and very low population numbers. It was far from Adelaide and remote and it was only after the Princeland episode in 1862 with the threat of possible secession to a new state that the Adelaide government began to invest in the South East and really encourage settlement there. The Border Watch newspaper was established in 1861, the Mt Gambier Hotel opened in 1862 and the Mt Gambier Council was formed in 1863.By the early 1860s Mt Gambier had almost 1,000 residents making it one of the largest towns in SA after the copper mining centres of Burra, Kadina and Moonta. By the 1881 SA census Mt Gambier had 2,500 residents making it the biggest town outside of Adelaide. In 1865 four iconic historic buildings were erected-the Courthouse, the Gaol, Christ Church Anglican and the Post Office and Telegraph Station. The flourmill which later became the Oat Mill opened in 1867 as wheat farmers had now taken up lands around the Mount. Mt Gambier was growing into a fine prosperous looking town with churches, stores, banks, hotels and fine residences. In the 1870s the rural population increased dramatically with tenant potato farmers on Browne’s Moorak estate and intensive hop growing in several localities such as Yahl and OB Flat and Glenburnie etc. Also in 1876 the first commercial forestry was started at the behest of George Goyder. A tree nursery was established on the edge of Leg of Mutton Lake in 1876 on a site selected by George Goyder himself. A stone cottage for the first nurseryman Charles Beale was constructed and it survived until demolished in 1969 but the nursery closed in 1929. The nursery propagated eucalypts, Oak, Elm, Ash, Sycamore, and North American pines. Pinus radiata was first grown at Leg of Mutton Lake and was being dispersed to other areas by 1878. Pinus canariensis was also grown in the 1880s. Pinus radiata is now the most commonly grown commercial forest tree in SA and Australia. Also in the 1870s the first hospital was erected and Dr Wehl, the town’s doctor for many years was in residence.
In the mid 1880s the first rail line was laid as the railway lines pushed out from Mt Gambier to Naracoorte. The service to Naracoorte began in 1887 and connected on with the line to Bordertown and Adelaide. By 1897 a railway connected Mt Gambier to Millicent and the port at Beachport. The railway line across the border to Heywood and Melbourne was not completed until 1917 as the SA government resisted a line that would take goods and passengers from Mt Gambier to Port Melbourne rather than to Port Adelaide. Mt Gambier railway station used to be a hive of activity with daily trains to Adelaide and an overnight sleeper services several times a week. Passenger trains to Mt Gambier from Adelaide stopped in 1990 after Australian National took over the SA railway network. Freight services stopped in 1995 and the railway line and station was formally closed. The railyards and other buildings were cleared in 2013.
The Buandik Aboriginal People.
The Buandik people are commemorated in a city street but by little else. Yet they were resilient and determined fighters opposed to the white settlement of the South East. Their occupation of the Mt Gambier district stretches back to around 20,000+ years but their dated occupation from archaeological sites goes back to about 11,000 years with their myths and legends including stories about volcanic activity at Mt Gambier. The last volcanic explosions were about 4,000 years ago. Both Mt Schank and Mt Gambier were important places to the Buandik for ceremonies, hunting, access to water and stone implement making. A government report in 1867 noted that the Buandik people in government care were few in number mainly sickly and elderly. The younger people had presumably moved out into the white community. But back in the 1840s the Buandik were a force to be reckoned with. There are no common stories of Aboriginal massacres but white pastoralists certainly retaliated when sheep were stolen. On Mt Schank station the Buandik were so troublesome that shepherds would not venture out to care for sheep alone and the Arthur brothers gave this trouble as their reason for them selling the run in 1845. In 1845 the government established a police station at Mt Gambier, which the Protector of Aboriginals visited, to ensure that pastoralists did not massacre the Buandik.
William Vansittart and Vansittart Park.
Vansittart Park has been a focal point of Mt Gambier since 1884 for activities such as family picnics, political rallies and speeches, bike racing, band rotunda concerts, bowling greens, sport oval, grandstand (1927) and Anzac memorial services. But who was William Vansittart? He was an Anglican reverend from England (Vansittart is a noble and political Anglo-Irish family in the UK) who arrived in SA in 1847 as a young bachelor. He was never licensed as a minister in SA but he developed his passions for making money and horse racing here. He mixed with the elite of Adelaide like Sir Samuel Davenport, the Governor and was a friend of Hurtle Fisher and he was Master of the Hounds. In 1850 he purchased 35 acres at Beaumont where he built Tower House and 80 acres at Mt Gambier. He imported a thoroughbred horse from Hobart called Lucifer. Ironic that a minister of religion would have a horse called Lucifer! His horses raced in Adelaide, Salisbury, Gawler, Brighton and Clare as well as in Mt Gambier and Penola. In 1851 he also took over the 110 square mile 14 year lease of Mayurra run with George Glen of Millicent. In 1852 he returned to England for a short time and on his return he purchased more freehold land bringing his estate to around 800 acres. Not long after in 1854 his horse shied, he was thrown against a tree and died of head injuries but he died intestate with an estate worth over £10,000. Glen bought out his share of Mayurra; the Beaumont house and property was sold in 1867 as were his race horses and his brother Captain Spencer Vansittart eventually inherited the Mt Gambier property. In accordance with William’s wishes 115 acres were set aside to provide income for a scholarship for boarders at St Peters Boys College which happened from 1859. Later in 1883 Spencer Vansittart offered 20 acres to the Mt Gambier Council for a memorial park at the “nominal” sum of £400 which hardly seems “nominal”. The Council raised a loan and purchased the land and the park is still enjoyed by the city’s residents and visitors. Captain Spencer’s widow sold the last package of 300 acres of land in 1912 thus ending the Vansittart links with Mt Gambier. The Vansittart scholarship is still available for boarders from the South East and is operated by a group of College trustees.
Some Historic Buildings in Mt Gambier and a town walk.
Your town walk is basically straight ahead along Penola Road towards the Mount itself which becomes Bay Road( the bay is at Port MacDonnell) once you cross Commercial Street which is the Main Street. There are just a few diversions to the left as you face the Mount. The coach will collect you at the Mount end of the walk near the Old Courthouse.
If you a good walker check out the fine houses in Jardine Street at numbers 1, 7, 9, 11, 12, 17 and 22. They range from cottages to Gothic and turreted mansions including the home of Jens the hotelier. This detour will add another 10 minutes to the walk if you elect to do it.
1.Catholic Covent. Sisters of Mercy setup a convent school in 1880. This wonderful convent was not built until 1908 in local dolomite stone & limestone quoins. Note the fine stone gables with small niches for statuary, the well proportioned arched colonnades and upstairs oriel windows – the projecting bay windows with stone supports. This is one of the finest buildings in Mt Gambier. The convent closed in 1986. Now Auspine.
2.Wesleyan Methodist Church Hall/Sunday School. Across the street is pink dolomite neo-classical style Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School Hall. Hundreds of children attended Sunday School in those days. It opened in 1904. It is now commercial offices. (If you want to walk up Wyatt Street beside the Sunday School and turn right at second street which is at Gray you will see the old two storey Methodist Manse at 101 Gray St. It was built in 1868 and sold 1941. As you turn into Gray Street the Salvation Army Hall is on your left. Allow 10 minutes for this detour before returning to Penola Road).
3.Methodist Church now Liberty Church. A Gothic large church built in 1862 by the Wesleyans. Opened by minister from Portland. Additions made 1877 with new entrance. The old lecture hall and Sunday School was beneath the church. Note the buttress on corners and sides. Became Uniting Church 1977 and closed 1994 when services moved to St Andrews Presbyterian Church. Behind the church (walk through the car park) in Colhurst Place is LLandovery two storey mansion now a B&B. Built 1878 for a flour and oat miller who had his mill in Percy Street.
4.St Paul’s Catholic Church. This impressive Gothic church with huge tower with crenulations was opened in 1884 and will be open today. There are 1966 extensions to the rear of it. The Presbytery is behind the church facing Alexander St. it was built in 1901 when the church was free of building debt. The first thatched bush church was built in another location in 1855. From 1857 the priest was Father Julian Tenison Woods, explorer, academic, horseman etc. A second church opened in 1861 in Sturt St and is now demolished. It closed in 1885 as this church opened. The bells came from Dublin. The church fence and gates built 1936.
5.The Mount Gambier Club. Across the street is the Club. It was built in 1904 for a local distiller as chambers for lease. The wealthy pastoralists of the South East formed an exclusive men only club in 1913 and it has used the upper floor of Engelbrecht’s chambers ever since. They purchased the whole building in 1920. The Club is a beautifully proportioned classical style building with pediments, balustrades, window entablature, and perfect symmetry. Look down the sides and you can see it is made of Mt Gambier limestone blocks.
6.Mt Gambier Caledonian Hall. Next door is the Scots Club. Its prominence signifies the Scottish links of many Gambier residents. The hall was opened in 1914 and opened by the former Prime Minister Sir George Reid, another Scot. It has classical features but is rather ugly and neglected these days. It is now a night club.
7.The Trustees Building. Next to the Caledonian is the Trustee Building erected in 1958. Its blue and bone tiled façade is typical of 1950s architecture yet the rectangular appearance has a slight classical look about it. It is on the SA Heritage Register. Accountants now occupy it.
8.Turn left into Percy Street and go along here beyond KFC for one town block to the next corner for the Oatmills (now a coffee shop and cinemas). Milling and brewing were two of Mt Gambier’s prime 19th century industries. The 4 storey complex here was started in 1867 for Welsh Thomas Williams who eventually had five flour mills. His mill was called Commercial Flourmills. A new owner converted the mill from wheat milling to oat milling. A new oatmill was built in 1901 and operated until 1975 producing Scottish porridge oats. The mill has now been restored with café, shops and cinemas. Return to Penola Rd.
9. Mt Gambier Hotel. No hotel could have a more remarkable origin than the Mt Gambier. An African American John Byng built a weatherboard hotel near here in 1847. The third licensee Alexander Mitchell, another Scot, took it over and moved the hotel to this corner site in 1862 as an impressive two storey hotel which was unusual at that time. The western wing was added in 1883 and balconies affixed in 1902.
10.Cross towards the Mount with the traffic lights then turn left into Commercial Street East.
11.Mt Gambier Town Hall. Marked as the Riddoch Gallery this fine Venetian Gothic style building is impressive with its coloured stone work contrasting well with cement rendered horizontal lines and vertical panels around windows and doors. The upper windows are mullioned with stone divisions between the glass. It was built in 1882 with the clock tower added in 1883 after a donation. The first Council meeting was in 1863 with Dr Wehl as chairman held in a hotel. Later the Council hired a room at the Foresters Hall and then they purchased this site in 1868 with a weatherboard room. This was used until 1882.
12.Mt Gambier old Institute. The Literary Institute was formed in 1862 and a foundation stone laid for a reading room/hall in 1868 by John Riddoch. The single storey institute opened in 1869. The upper floor was added in 1887, so that it would match the new Town Hall. It is built in a similar style- Venetian Romanesque as the windows and rounded and not arched as with a gothic structure.
13.Captain Gardiner Memorial Fountain 1884. The fountain was presented by Captain Robert Gardiner the grandfather of Sir Robert Helpman (his name was originally Helpmann). The fountain was made in Melbourne .Gardiner was also a benefactor of St Andrew’s Presbyterian -he donated the pipe organ in 1885.
14.Jens Hotel. After demolishing an earlier hotel (the 1847 hotel of John Byng) Johannes Jens had the first section of his Jens Hotel built on this corner in 1884. An almost identical eastern wing was erected in 1904 and the Spanish Art Deco section in 1927. Turn right here and go behind the Town hall to the Cave Gardens.
15.Cave Gardens. This spot was an early water supply. A garden was created in 1893 and then improved and reconstructed in 1925. This sink hole has recently been upgraded again and it is lit at night.
16.Post Office. This important communications centre was erected in 1865 as a telegraph office/post office. This is till one of the finest buildings in Mt Gambier and a rare example of the Georgian style for the city. . The single storey side wings were added in 1906 in a sympathetic style. It is still the main city Post Office.
17.Norris Agency Building. This superb Italianate building was completed in 1900 as chambers for businessmen. Owner was Alexander Norris who died in 1917. The façade is pink dolomite with cement quoins and unusual lined decoration work above the windows and door each contained within a triangular classical pediment.
18.Farmers Union Building. Another classical style building built when this style was out of fashion in 1914.Erected for Farmers Union as a large two storey building. It has none of the grace of the Norris building next door. FU was formed in 1888 in Jamestown by Thomas Mitchell, a Scot and others to provide cheap rates for grains, seeds and superphosphate but in the early 1900s they branched into products for dairy farmers and the marketing of milk products. The Mt Gambier district had plenty of dairy farmers. It is now owned by a Japanese company Kirin but it still markets its chocolate milk drinks as Farmers Union. Upper floor has double pilasters (flattened pillars) with top volutes but little other decoration.
19.Savings Bank Building on the corner. The former Savings Bank in Gothic style is unusual for commercial premises in Mt Gambier. It is constructed of weathered local limestone and was built in 1906. Note the different cut stone for the foundations, simulated turrets on the corners and by the door to break the façade appearance and the stone line above the lower window which then divides the façade into equal thirds.
20.Macs Hotel. This hotel was built in 1864 and is largely unchanged except that the upper floor was added in 1881. The first licensee was a Scot named John MacDonald. The double veranda supports are very elegant.
21.Roller flourmill now a painted hardware store. Built 1885 as a steam flourmill in pink dolomite. Note the small 12 paned windows set in much larger indented niches in the walls on the northern wall. (Sturt St.)
22.Christ Church Anglican Church and hall. Dr Browne of Moorak donated half the money for the construction of Christ Church in pink dolomite and with an unusual gabled tower. Church and tower completed in 1866. Adjacent is the Jubilee Hall built in 1915, destroyed by fire in 1951, and rebuilt exactly the same in weathered local limestone blocks with the original foundation stone still in place. It has the single Gothic window in the street facing gable and a crenulated square tower. Adjoining it is the 1869 Sunday School with the narrow double pointed Gothic windows. It was extended in 1892. The lychgate is more recent as a memorial to a regular church goer, Margaret French who died in 1927.
23.The old railway station just visible along the rail lines to your right. The first rail line was to Beachport in 1879 and the second to Naracoorte (and so to Adelaide) in 1887. Portland and Melbourne line opened 1917. A spur line to Glencoe was completed in 1904. First station was erected in 1879. It was demolished for the erection of the current station in 1918 which is similar in design to those in Tailem Bend, Bordertown, Moonta etc. Bluebird rail cars started on the Mt Gambier run in 1953 when the old 3’6” gauge line to Wolseley was converted to 5’3”. The last passenger service to Adelaide finished in 1990 and the station closed for freight in 1995. The railyards were cleared in 2013 and the future of the station is bleak. The rail lines to Beachport and Glencoe closed in 1956/57.
24.The Old Courthouse, 42 Bay Rd. It has a great low wall suitable for sitting on. This well designed Georgian style Courthouse opened in 1865 and the similarly styled side wings were added in 1877. The front veranda, which is not Georgian in style, was added in 1880. In 1975 the Courthouse was granted to the National Trust for a museum. The adjoining new Courthouse opened in 1975 at the same time. Note the “blind” windows to the façade but the same rounded Georgian shaped, 16 paned windows on the sides.
The Blue Lake, Mt Schank and Volcanoes.
The jewel in the crown of Mt Gambier is undoubtedly the volcanic cone, the crater lakes especially the Blue Lake and the surrounding Botanic Gardens and parklands. The Botanic Garden on the north side was approved in 1872 but nothing happened about plantings and care until 1882. The first pleasure road through the saddle between the Blue Lake and the Valley Lake was created in the 1861 as a more direct road to the then newly created international port named Port MacDonnell. That is why the road is called the Bay road. Surveyor General George Goyder explored the lake surrounds himself in 1876 when he selected the site for the government tree nursery. Later the government established the first sawmill on the edge of the crater reserve near Moorak homestead in the early 1920s. The Centenary Tower was initiated in 1900 to celebrate the centenary of Captain Grant sighting Mt Gambier. It took several years to complete and was opened by the Chief Justice of SA Sir Samuel Way in 1907 but it was completed in 1904. The whole complex is a maar geomorphological formation which originated during a volcanic era about 28,000 years ago but in a second phase of volcanic activity 4,000 to 6,000 years ago the cones and lakes of Mt Gambier were created along with the cones of Mt Schank and Mt Burr near Millicent. Mt Gambier was the most recent volcanic explosion in Australia. The crater lakes are: Blue Lake, Valley Lake, Leg of Mutton Lake and Browne’s Lake (dry). The Blue Lake is linked to the aquifers beneath the deep layers of limestone which underlay the entire South East. Blue Lake is about 72 metres deep and some of the water in it is estimated to be about 500 years old but it is mixed with rain runoff each year as well. The Lake provides the water supply for Mt Gambier. Deep in the lake are examples of the oldest living organisms on earth- stromatalites. The lake changes colour from grey to vivid blue each November and reverts in the following April. The change in colour is related to the position of the sun and reflected light from suspended particles in the lake which reflect blue green light rather than brown grey light. Secondly the suspended matter only occurs because the water near the surface rises in temperature in the spring and it is this which causes the particles to precipitate out of the water. The precipitated matter settles on the bottom of the lake ready for a new cycle the following spring. Like the Blue Lake various sink holes in the district have linkages to the underlying aquifer through the layers of limestone too and they include Cave Gardens, Umpherstone, Piccaninni Ponds, etc.
Moorak Station and Tenison Woods College.
Moorak station as originally known as Mount Gambier Station established by George Glen in the 1840s. The leasehold was later taken over by David Power who in turn sold it to Fisher and Rochford who in turn sold the estate as freehold to the Scottish Dr William Browne who had established Booborowie run with his brother in 1843 north of Burra. The Browne brothers dissolved their partnership around 1865 and John went to live at Buckland Park and William took up residence at Moorak. William had purchased Moorak Station in 1862 and built the grand Moorak homestead in impressive Georgian style onto a smaller house there. William died in 1894 and the Moorak Estate passed to his son Colonel Percival Browne who was to disappear on the ill-fated voyage of the new steamer the Waratah in 1909 which disappeared during a storm off Durban, South Africa. Also on that voyage was Mrs. Agnes Hay (nee Gosse) of Mt Breckan Victor Harbor and Linden Park Estate Adelaide and some 200 other poor souls. Around 1909 the Moorak Station was subdivided for closer settlement and in the 1920s the Marist Brothers purchased the homestead with a little land for their and monastery and opened the Marist Brothers Agricultural College for boys in 1931. That college in turn merged with the Mater Christi College in 1972 to become Tenison College. (Mater Christi College had been formed in 1952 by the merger of the St Josephs Convent School (1880) and St Peters Parish School but the primary section of St Peters broke away in 1969 from Mater Christi College and formed a separate St Peters Primary School. This primary school in turn merged with Tenison College in 2001 to form Tenison Woods College!) The College name commemorates the work of Father Julian Tenison Woods who arrived in Mt Gambier in 1857 to work in Penola and Mt Gambier. It was he who encouraged Mary MacKillop to take her vows and establish her Sisters of St Joseph.
Dr Browne’s manager of Moorak Estate in 1868 introduced hops as a viable crop in the South East and large quantities were grown for about 20 years. Other early experimental crops grown included tobacco, cotton and flax. Dr Browne and Moorak were also important in the potato industry. Dr Browne leased around 830 acres to 20 tenants for the express purpose of growing potatoes. He was keen to emulate the British aristocracy although he was a good Scot with being a manorial style landlord with tenant farmers. Potatoes were also grown from the early years at Yahl, OB Flat and Compton near Mt Gambier. The potatoes were carted down to Port MacDonnell and shipped to Adelaide for consumers. As one of the major wool producers of Australia William Browne contributed roughly half of the funds for the erection of Christ Church Anglican in Mt Gambier. The Moorak estate consisted of around 11,000 acres of the most fertile volcanic soil in SA with another 2,000 acres in a nearby property, German Creek near Carpenter’s Rocks. Dr Browne ran Silky Lincolns on Moorak for their wool as Merinos did not fare well on the damp South East pastures. About 2,000 acres was in wheat, about 2,500 acres was tenanted to other farmers and around 4,000 acres were in lucerne, clover, rye and other pasture grasses. William Browne returned to live in England in 1866 so his sons could attend Eton and military training colleges there. He made regular trips to SA about every second year to oversee his many pastoral properties here. When he died in 1894 he left 100,000 acres of freehold land in SA to his children who all resided here as well as leasehold land. He was an extremely wealthy man. Son Percival took control of Moorak. Before Percival’s death Moorak Estate was partly purchased by the SA government in 1904 for closer settlement when they acquired around 1,000 acres. After Percival’s death a further 6,300 acres was acquired for closer settlement and the remainder of the estate was sold to other farmers. The government paid between £10 and £31 per acre for the land. Percival Browne was highly respected in Mt Gambier and a reserve around the Blue Lake is named after him. The fourth of the crater lakes of Mt Gambier is also named Browne’s Lake after the family but it has been dry for decades. In 1900 Colonel Browne planted the ring of English Oaks around what was to become the oval of the Marist Brothers College.
There is a memorial by the station to William Browne as founder of the Coriadale Sheep Stud. The great Moorak woolshed was demolished in 1939. The Union church which opened in 1920 was used by the Methodists and the Anglicans. It is now a private residence. Moorak hall was opened in 1926. New classrooms were added to the Moorak School in 1928 and the first rooms opened in 1913. The cheese factory in Moorak opened in 1913 as a cooperative and was sold to Farmers Union in 1949. They closed the factory in 1979. Most of the cheese produced at Moorak went to the Melbourne market. The first cheese maker at Moorak was trained at Lauterbach’s cheese factory at Woodside. Moorak was one of a circle of settlements around Mt Gambier that had butter/cheese factories. These towns were: Kongorong; Glencoe East; Glencoe West; Suttontown; Glenburnie; Mil Lel; Yahl; OB Flat; Moorak; Mt Schank; and Eight Mile Creek.
In the 1860s this tiny settlement was a tobacco, hop and potato growing district and it persisted with potatoes up until recent times. Today Yahl is little more than a suburban village of Mt Gambier with a Primary school with approx 120 students. The old government school was erected in 1879. It had a Methodist church built in 1880 which operated as a church until 1977 and it had a large butter factory which had opened in 1888. The butter and cheese factory was taken over by the OB Flat cheese factory in 1939 and the two operated in conjunction with each other. The OB Flat cheese factory closed in 1950 and all production moved to Yahl. The factory finally closed in 1971. The township of Yahl also had a General Store and a Salvation Army Hall which was built in 1919.
Sink Holes: Umpherston Gardens and Cave Gardens.
James Umpherston purchased land near Mt Gambier in 1864 which included a large sink hole or collapsed cavern with a lake in the bottom. He was born in Scotland in 1812 and came to SA in the 1850s with his brother William. William purchased his first land at Yahl in 1859. James Umpherston was a civic minded chap being a local councilor, a parliamentarian in Adelaide for two years and President of the Mt Gambier Agricultural and Horticultural Society for 13 years. When he retired from civic life and farming in 1884 he decided to create a garden in his sinkhole. He beautified it and encouraged visitors and even provided a boat in the lake for boat rides. Access was gained by steps and a path carved into the sinkhole walls. However after he died in 1900 the garden was ignored, became overgrown and was largely forgotten in 1949 when the Woods and Forests Department obtained the land for a new sawmill at Mt Gambier. By then the lake had dried up as the water table had fallen over the decades. In 1976 staff, rather than the government, decided to restore the Umpherstone gardens. The cleared out the rubbish that had been dumped in the sinkhole, restored the path access, trimmed the ivy and replanted the hydrangeas and tree ferns. In 1994 the Woos and Forests Department handed over the land around the sinkhole to the City of Mt Gambier. It was added to the SA Heritage Register in 1995.