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Statement from the St Marys Vietnam Veterans

According to the NSW Government Register of War Memorials, there are three Registered War Memorials in the St Marys district.

One is the great bandstand rotunda in Victoria Park on the Great Western Highway. St Marys RSL sub-Branch secured a $70K Commonwealth Government grant for Council to restore that in 2015.

A second is the RSL War Memorial at the guns at the end of the train at St Marys RSL. For this St Marys RSL sub-Branch secured a $22K State Government grant to upgrade this one (completed in August this year); and

The third is a ‘bare-bones’ park adjacent to Target at the St Marys Village Shopping Centre (cnr Charles Hackett Drive and Carinya Ave), called Kokoda Park. In it, there is no military memorial, however St Marys RSL sub-Branch advise that they will be conducting their annual Remembrance Day Service for 2017 (on Saturday 11th November) in this Park to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Kokoda Track Campaign in 1942.

But there is another War Memorial in St Marys … small and unassuming …. not 100 metres from Kokoda Park … now not listed in any official Register. It’s one that’s been left to decay for 20+ years. It’s a memorial to those munitions workers who filled the casings and shells at the St Marys Munitions Factory during and beyond World War 2, many of whom lived in some of the ‘Duration Cottages’ that were situated in that area (including the area of Kokoda Park).

In 1995, during the ‘Australia Remembers 1945-1995’ commemorations, Penrith City Council (PCC) very appropriately saw fit to construct a memorial to honour those men and women who at great risk to themselves, expertly prepared the munitions that our fighting troops needed to protect Australia and win the War against Japan. A trolley with four 500lb shell casings together with a cash donation by, the then-called, Australian Defence Industries (ADI) provided a significant centrepiece to the Memorial. A plaque that once explained the significance of the edifice has long been missing … leaving the sorry state of the metal plinth on which it once rested. Mayor of the day, Ald Pat Sheehy, officially opened the Memorial.

It is situated in the North-East corner of the block of land now known as Lang Park, owned by Penrith Council. In a recent meeting of the St Marys RSL sub-Branch, members voted to approach PCC, requesting that the Memorial be restored as soon as possible and that it be re-registered as a War Memorial. Also, if it were deemed not appropriate to restore in-situ, then the trolley and shells together with a new explanatory plaque and reflection seating be sited within the Kokoda Park War Memorial, thus providing a military-related rationale to that Park remaining on the Registry of War Memorials.

A visit to the St Marys RSL Club reveals in the sub-Branch’s ‘Corridor of Valour’, some photos depicting women in the St Marys Munitions Factory on the production line, filling the shell casings.

In a reply to St Marys RSL sub-Branch from Penrith Council, Mayor John Thain expressed his support for Council and asked Councillor Greg Davies to work with Council staff to rectify the matter as soon as possible.

Council’s Manager City Presentation, John Gordon and Executive Manager City Assets, Brian Steffen then visited the Munitions Memorial & have expressed surprise at its sorry state, apologising on behalf of Council and pledging to act as a matter of urgency. They thanked the St Marys RSL sub-Branch for bringing it to their attention and will work with the RSL sub-Branch to achieve a worthwhile solution including re-registration of the Munitions Memorial with the NSW State Government.

St Marys RSL sub-Branch President Ron Blakely said he was very thankful that Council has responded so enthusiastically to his RSL email, in bringing this to their attention. ”The memory of those women and men who undertook such dangerous work which enabled our troops on the front line to win the day when our Country - our way of life - was under serious threat from Japan, must not go forgotten; such memory must not be lost in the upheaval of the area simply in the name of progress”.

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