A short history of the

Tamworth RSL Sub Branch

History of the Tamworth RSL Sub Branch

On Anzac day 1918, a group of approximately 50 ex-servicemen, returned from World War 1, held a luncheon in Tamworth. The guest speaker was an organiser from the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia (shortened to RSL in 1965) who explained the new Association's objects to the gathering.

Following the luncheon it was proposed that a branch of the League be formed in Tamworth and on the 5th May 1918, the Tamworth Sub-Branch was formed with Dr. L.M. Snow as President and Mr. T.J. Treloar as Secretary.

A cottage in White Street became the first Sub-Branch office but by 1921 the membership had grown to 250 and larger premises were needed. In July 1921 the Sub-Branch moved into an upstairs location over the business of P.V. Piper in Brisbane Street. For about two years during the depression of the early 1930's the office was unable to be maintained but in 1934, when the economy had improved, the Sub-Branch again took up residence and renewed its efforts to assist the veteran community.

In the difficult days before and during World War II the Tamworth Sub-Branch was active in helping with recruiting in the district. Over 1500 servicemen and women enlisted in Tamworth and many other locals joined in other centres. When hostilities ceased in 1945, the Sub-Branch set about assisting the returning men and women and a full-time Secretary was needed. The Tamworth City Council and the Peel, Cockburn and Nundle Shire Councils contributed funds to the Sub-Branch to help offset the increased costs and monthly reports were submitted to Tamworth City Council. All aspects of re-settlement, rehabilitation and pension work was covered by the Sub-Branch and many thousands of enquiries were handled in the immediate post-war years.

Sub-Branch membership swelled quickly and by the end of 1945, regular meetings had to be held in the small Town Hall. It was decided that a clubhouse was needed and in early 1946 the Sub-Branch was provided with a patch of land on the corner of Kable Avenue and Brisbane Streets, the site of the present day Hands of Fame Park. A building committee aquired some disused Air Force huts from the old Tamworth Aerodrome and using mainly volunteer labour the huts were moved to the new site and fitted out. The temporary League office, clubrooms and RSL Hall opened in 1948 and quickly became a social hub for returned service personnel and their families.

By the mid 1950's there were approximately 1000 members of the Sub-Branch and it had outgrown its temporary home so the building committee stepped up its efforts to establish a permanent building. On the 20th September 1958 the 1939-1945 War Memorial Rehabilitaion Offices and Returned Soldiers Recreation Centre was opened on Kable Avenue, just up from where the temporary buildings had been. President of the Sub-Branch at the time was Mr. Vicx Hugo and the first President of the new Club was Mr. Ernie Bowdler.

The Sub-Branch retained ownership of the Kable Avenue building (now Wests Diggers) until 2003. Falling revenue during the proceeding years had forced the lessees of the RSL Club to seek an amalgamation with the Wests League Club. The amalgamation could only proceed if Wests could purchase the building so the Sub-Branch made the decision to sell. New premises were purchased at 107 Bridge street from where the Sub-Branch now conducts its business. Our Sub-Branch office is named "Bowdler House" in honour of the late Bernie Bowdler who was an active member of the association for almost 60 years and a driving force behind the establishment of the two previous premises.

When the Sub-Branch took over its new premises at 107 Bridge Street, the building was a bare shell except for the kitchen and strong-room. This allowed us to purpose-build the offices for administration and pension/welfare work, keeping in mind the comfort of our members. Large bookcases from the old building were incorporated into the design, allowing us to move our library and making a reading and lounge area. The bright airy office is quite a change from the small dark area we vacated. The strong-room was also a perfect area in which to set up a small museum. Some cases were moved from Kable Avenue and a grant from DVA allowed us to build some more. When it is finished, we hope to make our museum available for public viewing.

Sub-Branch membership reached its peak in the 1970's at about 1200 an has, unfortunately, fallen steadily since then. There are now only about 480 members but with an ageing veteran community and no discrimination against non-members, our pension and welfare officers and hospital visitors work harder than ever before.

"The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance"

"Lest We Forget"