Rabaul Cenotaph: Gerry McGrade
For many years, a few Rabaul residents had been gathering at the Cenotaph in Central Avenue, once the civic heart of the town to participate in the Dawn Service ensuring the memory of those who fell at Gallipoli and other wars since was not forgotten. Despite ongoing volcanic eruptions and civil difficulties, ANZAC Day Dawn Service had been held at this location.
The energy and sincerity of the organizers and participants at the Rabaul ANZAC events, in these difficult times, attracted the attention of the Australian War Graves Commission representatives. Consequently, Susan McGrade, Secretary of the Rabaul Historical Society, was invited to submit to them an application for funding to restore the degraded monument to its former condition.
There were many difficulties facing the Rabaul Historical Society and its President, Steve Saunders. Who could restore this granite edifice? How much would it cost? The small pool of available advisors were unfamiliar with what would be required to complete such a project.
Susan, like most daughters I know, turned to her dad. DAAAAAAAAAAAD!!!!!!!!! Can you help?
Of course I would! I spent many years as a contractor building projects, large and small, in and around Rabaul. John Holland and I, both members of the PNGVR and employed by Commonwealth Department of Works,had worked on the monument around 1961. We both stood Honour Guard at the first Dawn Service held there. We both planned to return to Rabaul for the 2012 Service and would stand again at this monument. I was keen to participate and volunteered. It would be my honour to supervise the completion of the project.
My contacts in Brisbane, experts in their field, supplied me with advice, specialized materials and equipment. RMI supplied and erected the splendid flag poles and Agmark Shipping assisted with shipping of material and equipment. A local Rabaul building company, “McGrade Bros Construction”, supplied skilled artisans, local transport and gear.
he Rabaul District Local Level Government supplied earth moving equipment. With a great deal of pride the local artisans worked hard, and displayed great skill in erecting and finishing the project. I take my hat off to them.
The original cenotaph