Leichhardt War Memorial

Leichhardt War Memorial

In 2022, Inner West Council successfully applied for a Community War Memorials Fund (CWMF) grant to support conservation work to the significant Leichhardt War Memorial.

The Leichhardt War Memorial is located on the traditional lands of the Wangal people. Unveilled on 9 April 1922 by his Excellency Sir Walter Davidson, the monument was originally erected in front of Leichhardt Town Hall at the intersection of Norton and Marion Streets following the end of the First World War (1914–1918). It was relocated to its current location in Pioneers Memorial Park in Leichhardt in 1949.

An illustrated account of the unveiling ceremony, that was attended by an estimated 10,000 people, was published in the Sydney Mail on 12 April 1922. The article stated that, “during the war over 3,000 residents of Leichhardt enlisted and saw active service,” which is a staggeringly large number. According to the article, 350 of those who served were killed. Sir Davidson praised the enlistees as “brave men who went through great tribulations and laid down their lives in the highest cause of humanity.” He also spoke highly of the memorial, saying “This is the glory of Leichhardt, and I charge those who are in authority now, and I charge those whom you may place in authority hereafter, to treat this memorial with reverence and care.”


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Glass plate negative showing the proposed site of Leichhardt War Memorial (Source: NSW State Archives Collection, NRS-4481-3-[7/15915]-M7209)


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 Unveiling of the Leichhardt War Memorial photographed by Arthur Ernest Foster, 1922 (Source:  Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, FL379727, accessed via The Dictionary of Sydney)

 The body of the memorial is a grey marble pillar, which is tapered towards the top and crowned with three steps. Standing on the topmost step is a bronze sculpture depicting peace as a female figure. This beautiful artwork was made by Gilbert Doble (1880–1974), a noted Australian sculptor who worked from nearby Marrickville. Doble’s sculptures also formed part of other NSW war memorials at Marrickville, Pyrmont, and Wellington. Inscribed at the base of her feet are the words ‘Honor to the dead’. A close inspection of the sculpture shown in the image on the below left shows Peace originally held a laurel wreath in her upraised right hand. The wreath is now missing, so too is a war trophy 77mm field gun that was allocated to the suburb in 1921. 


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Left image: 
Leichhardt War Memorial c1920–1929 (Source: Australian War Memorial, accession number: H17860).
Right image: Sculpture after conservation. Photo taken by International Conservation Services, 2023.


Originally dedicated to locals who served in the First World War, the memorial now also pays tribute to local service people from earlier and later conflicts. A gilded honour roll appears on the sides of the pillar, listing service people from the First and Second World Wars. Included in the list is Private Alfred Henry Clunne who was killed in action on 1 December 1916 at Delville Wood and has no known grave. Clunne received the Military Medal for his role in raids by the 56th Battalion where he collected intelligence from enemy trenches.

Separate plaques have been added towards the base of the memorial, recognising three servicemen who received the Victoria Cross: Corporal John Mackey who died during the Second World War was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry and James Inkerman Carson who also received the Victoria Cross in the Crimean War. Private William Matthew Currey, a 21-year-old wire worker residing in Leichhardt, received the Victoria Cross in the First World War, his citation reading:

“For most conspicuous bravery and daring in the attack on Peronne on the morning of 1st September, 1918. When the battalion was suffering heavy casualties from a 77mm field gun at very close range, Private Currey, without hesitation, rushed forward under intense machine gun fire and succeeded in capturing the gun single handed after killing the entire crew. Later, when the advance of the left flank was checked by an enemy strong point, Private Currey crept around the flank and engaged the post with a Lewis gun. Finally, he rushed the post single handed, causing many casualties. It was entirely owing to his gallant conduct that the situation was relieved and the advance enabled to continue. Subsequently he volunteered to carry orders for the withdrawal of an isolated company, and this he succeeded in doing despite shell and rifle fire, returning later with valuable information. Throughout the operations his striking example of coolness, determination, and utter disregard of danger had a most inspiring effect on his comrades, and his gallant work contributed largely to the success of the operations.”

— Source: Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 61, 23 May 1919

Currey returned to Australia after the war, aged 23, and received an enthusiastic reception in Leichhardt in March 1919, where he received a silver tea and coffee service in honour of his meritorious service and upcoming marriage (The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 March 1919).


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Left image: 
Private William Matthew Currey VC (Source: Australian War Memorial, accession number: P02939.045).
Right image: Corporal John Bernard Mackey VC (Source: Australian War Memorial, accession number: 134468)


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Image: Plaques for Currey and Mackey. Photo taken by Inner West Council, 2021.

 In 2021–2022, Inner West Council recognised the memorial’s need for specialist conservation treatment and applied to the CWMF for a grant to support this work. The honour roll and engraved plaques on the lower section of the memorial were in poor condition and required cleaning, protective treatment and letter regilding.

Council engaged heritage conservation experts International Conservation Services to undertake restorative works to the memorial in November and December 2023. The scope of work included hand-cleaning of the stone, reduction of limescale, repointing joints, cleaning of copper elements, treatment of bronze plaque and insignia, application of protective hot wax coating, and regilding of lettering with 24k gold leaf.

“The Leichhardt War Memorial in Pioneers Memorial Park has been of great significance to the local community for over 100 years and commemorates those from Leichhardt who died in service or were killed in action in World Wars One and Two. The restorative works were supported by the Community War Memorials Fund from the NSW Office for Veterans Affairs and enabled Council to clean and protect the stonework surfaces, remove corrosion, clean and protect the bronze plaque and insignia, and re-gild the incised lettering on the stonework with 24k gold leaf. The memorial which consists of a grey marble pillar, statue of a woman, honour roll, plaques, and insignia [has] been thoroughly revitalised by the sensitive restorative works and careful refurbishment enabling the memorial to be commemorated by current and future generations.”

— Mr Phillip So, Inner West Council, 2024

The Community War Memorials Fund provides grants of up to $10,000 to support the repair, protection, and conservation of community war memorials across the state, including specialist heritage advice and physical work.

For more information and to apply, click here.


Project photos

Photos taken by International Conservation Services, 2023.


CWMF Leichardt Image 11Photos: Leichhardt War Memorial after conservation. 


CWMF Leichardt Image 4 600 x 850 pxPhotos: Insignia before (top) and after (bottom) conservation.


CWMF Leichardt Image 5 600 x 850 px2Photos: Plaque before (top) and after (bottom) conservation.


CWMF Leichardt Image 6Photos: Cleaning stone before (left), during (middle) and after (right) conservation.


CWMF Leichardt Image 8Photos: Regilding plaques before (top) and after (bottom) conservation


CWMF Leichardt Image 8 600 x 900 pxPhotos: Regilding Second World War honour roll before (top) and during (bottom) conservation.


CWMF Leichardt Image 9Photos: Repointing stonework before (left) and after (right) conservation.


CWMF Leichardt Image 10Photos: Sculpture before (left) and after (right) conservation.