PRE­CIOUS GIFTS GONE FOR­EVER

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - JOHN AN­DER­SEN john. an­der­sen@ news. com. au

MIL­I­TARY items lost in the fire that de­stroyed Win­ton’s Waltz­ing Matilda Cen­tre on June 18 were ir­re­place­able and “prob­a­bly not cov­ered by in­sur­ance”.

Townsville- based North Queens­land RSL Dis­trict branch pres­i­dent Steve Sergeant said his heart went out to peo­ple who had do­nated trea­sured mil­i­tary medals and other mem­o­ra­bilia for a World War I ex­hibit on dis­play when the fire broke out.

He said it was un­likely they would be cov­ered by in­sur­ance, but added the RSL would help and ad­vise peo­ple who had lost items in any way it could.

“Medals and rib­bons can be repli­cated, but you can’t pro­tect things like war di­aries and letters from fire,’’ he said. “Fam­i­lies had do­nated items handed down from other fam­ily mem­bers who served in World War I. Some things were saved, but un­for­tu­nately oth­ers were lost.’’

Mr Sergeant said one of the big­gest losses in the fire was the Win­ton RSL Hon­our Board.

“We’re hop­ing there are pho­to­graphs of it that show all of the names. We will need that to re­pro­duce another one,” he said.

He­len Collins, from the Win­ton His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, said five mu­seum de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing Sue Valis and Ewen McPhee from Townsville, were trav­el­ling to the town this month to help and ad­vise on restora­tion tech­niques.

“We’ve got 100- year- old woollen Word War I uni­forms which have been singed and cov­ered in soot. We can’t just put them in a wash­ing ma­chine,” she said.

Among the items that mirac­u­lously sur­vived the fire was a gidgee tree from which Abo­rig­ines had carved a boomerang with flint axes. Another was a Light Horse­man and his fi­bre­glass horse. The soldier’s woollen uni­form was singed and his ban­dolier and ri­fle cov­ered in soot, but Ms Collins is con­fi­dent they can be re­stored.

Rich­mond Mayor Butch Len­ton said in­sur­ance as­ses­sors had vis­ited the site and he ex­pected to hear their re­sponse in about a week’s time.

“We have al­ready started the Waltz­ing Matilda Re­cov­ery Fund,’’ he said. “We are find­ing there are peo­ple from around Aus­tralia who want to help fi­nan­cially and with ex­hibits.

“We are still work­ing out where we go with fed­eral and state fund­ing.”

Cr Len­ton said that as soon as the coun­cil’s in­sur­ers gave the all- clear, the build­ing would be de­mol­ished. He said the coun­cil would then con­sult ar­chi­tects about a new cen­tre.

“This is an op­por­tu­nity to build some­thing which will be ap­pre­ci­ated and ad­mired by all Aus­tralians,’’ he said.

Pic­ture: SCOTT RAD­FORD- CHISHOLM

DEV­AS­TATED: North Queens­land RSL Dis­trict branch pres­i­dent Steve Sergeant in front of the de­stroyed Win­ton RSL Hon­our Board.

BURNT OF­FER­INGS: These pic­tures show the fe­roc­ity and ex­tent of dam­age caused by the fire that ripped through the Waltz­ing Matilda Cen­tre.

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