Smith sculptors were approached by P & M Tooby, Landscape Architects and Urban Planners in 2006. The Toobys were engaged in an urban renewal study in Onslow, for the Shire of Ashburton, Western Australia. As part of this study, the concept of a significant Anzac Memorial on Beadon Point was put forward and subsequently accepted by the Shire. The Toobys immediately saw the potential to incorporate a unique feature within this memorial concept: that of somehow exploiting the fact that the sun rises, over water, in Onslow: an accident of geography on the west coast of W.A.
We responded enthusiastically to the invitation to create a design for an Onslow Anzac Memorial, in which this strange feature became the dramatic centrepiece of the whole concept. Quite simply, we were inspired by the Rising Sun insignia of the Australian armed forces and developed a three dimensional ‘portal’ sculpture, based on this, in natural steel which captured the dawn light of Anzac Day as it rose, dramatically, over Onslow Bay.
Our design is a simple ‘Gateway of the Rising Sun’, carefully proportioned in form and scale, appropriate to the site on Beadon Point. The entire function of the memorial was dependent on the sun rising exactly central, within the six metre high arch at the centre of the memorial. Anything other than 100 per cent accuracy would have completely spoiled the whole concept. Our difficulty was the fact that we would be installing the memorial many months before Anzac Day and so, needed to know exactly where the sun would rise on April 25th.
Achieving such accuracy, many months before Anzac Day, was a surprisingly difficult technical feat of Astrophysics. All praise for achieving this, must go to the then Shire Engineer, Jeffery Breen. The nail- biting tension in the dark hours preceding the dawn light on the dedication day of April 25, 2008, was felt by all who attended. As was the sense of wonder when the flaming orb of our star silently appeared exactly centre stage within the memorial arch: a fitting and lasting testimony to Jeff’s surveying skills.
It was a sad day for us, the artists, as we could not attend the dedication due to a severe accident suffered by Joan.
As a measure of the success of the memorial design we can point to the fact that an average attendance at the dawn service on Beadon Point in Onslow, prior to the memorial being built, was in the region of 50 to 60 people. Over 600 people attended last year’s ceremony and the fame of the Onslow Anzac Memorial has spread far and wide in Australia.
As a consequence, the Shire of Ashburton was approached by *Swansea RSL in New South Wales, who wanted permission to recreate our memorial on the east coast. The Shire of Ashburton, passed the request to us as the owners of the intellectual property of the memorial. Our first reaction was a negative one, as we like to preserve the individual uniqueness of our sculptures.
Upon reflection however, we began to see the germ of an idea which had the potential to create the largest Anzac Memorial in Australia! This was to build an exact replica of the Onslow Memorial in the Swansea RSL in New South Wales but only if the communities mutually agreed to a ‘twinning’ commitment of both memorials, as being two parts of a single ‘whole’ spanning the full width of the Australian continent!
Our concept was to create this unique Anzac Memorial by connecting the two Dawn Services. Although two hours apart on Anzac morning, this would be achieved by broadcasting a televised Swansea RSL ceremony onto a huge public screen erected on Beadon Point in Onslow where the Dawn Service attendees could watch the Anzac Dawn rise on the Eastern seaboard: a full two hours before Onslow. Two hours later, the people of Swansea could watch the Anzac Dawn rising in the Onslow Memorial, on their own large screen. This has now become a truly unique concept with the potential to claim to be not only the largest of its kind in Australia but, indeed possibly the world’s largest military memorial.
Charles Smith & Joan Walsh-Smith
* The Swansea RSL Anzac Memorial in Swansea NSW has since been completed in 2015 called: