An un­usual war me­mo­rial

Australian Traveller - - Contents -

AUS­TRALIA’S WAR ME­MO­RIAL move­ment saw ev­ery­thing from ceno­taphs, obelisks and stat­ues to pil­lars, parks and gates erected by com­mit­tees across the coun­try to hon­our those who served. Or, in the case of the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial, a two-storey build­ing laid out like a Byzan­tine cross. But one of the most un­usual war memo­ri­als is lo­cated in the Ku-ring-gai Chase Na­tional Park, north of Syd­ney. Found among the scrub and gum trees is a scale model of Egypt’s Great Sphinx of Giza and two pyra­mids. This in­con­gru­ous land­mark was cre­ated in the 1920s by a re­turned First World War sol­dier, Wil­liam Shirley. A pa­tient at the nearby con­va­les­cent hos­pi­tal Lady David­son, he was a stone­ma­son by trade and be­gan his project at the en­cour­age­ment of doc­tors: set­ting to work carv­ing an out­crop of sphinx-shaped sand­stone in the bush. Child­hood mem­o­ries of see­ing the solemn Sphinx Me­mo­rial dur­ing fam­ily pic­nics in the 1950s in­spired folk singer and au­thor Jim Low to in­ves­ti­gate its ori­gins. “In his book Sa­cred Places, K.S.-Inglis states: ‘The mak­ing of Great War memo­ri­als in Aus­tralia was a quest for the right way, ma­te­ri­ally and spir­i­tu­ally, to hon­our the sol­diers.’ I be­lieve that Shirley suc­cess­fully ac­com­plished this ‘quest’ with­out the aid of com­mit­tees, fundrais­ing or di­vi­sive de­bate,” says Low, of Shirley’s mo­ti­va­tions and legacy. “Com­menced as a project to help repa­tri­ate a bro­ken sol­dier, it took a new di­rec­tion as Shirley re­alised the po­ten­tial for his sphinx and pyra­mids to be­come a me­mo­rial. [It] shines a mod­est light on the hor­rific, vi­o­lent and im­per­sonal na­ture of war­fare and gives us cause for se­ri­ous re­flec­tion. In do­ing so he cre­ated a spe­cial space for gen­er­a­tions to come.” Bush­walk­ers can visit the Sphinx Me­mo­rial on the Sphinx Me­mo­rial to Bob­bin Head loop track.

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: An old pho­to­graph of the Sphinx Me­mo­rial; The land­mark is hid­den in the bush; Res­o­lute Beach in Ku-ring-gai Chase Na­tional Park .

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