Home' Vetaffairs : Vetaffairs Summer 2016 Contents 9 — Vetaffairs Summer 2016
Townsville and the First World War
Townsville is home to one of the oldest
battalions in Australia, the 31st Battalion,
Royal Queensland Regiment, otherwise
known as the ‘Kennedy Regiment’ – a unit
with a 135-year history.
Following the declaration of war on
4 August 1914, the battalion left Towns-
ville four days later, farewelled by more
than a third of the town’s 17,000 people.
Townsville greeted the declaration of
war with heady exhilaration. The Towns-
ville Chamber of Commerce proclaimed:
‘Townsville will not lay down its sword
until Germany surrenders, its fleet intact,
extends the boundaries of France to the
Rhine, replaces every Allied ship, and
splits up the Federal German states’.
As local historian Mr M Douman dryly
noted, it was not known how much sleep
the Kaiser lost over the ultimatum!
One of the Kennedy Regiment’s most
distinguished sons was Major Hugh
Quinn. Known to his friends as ‘Hughie’,
Major Quinn was born in Charters Towers
but was conducting business in Towns-
ville when the war broke out.
The eponymous ‘Quinn’s Post’, a defen-
sive trench at Gallipoli just metres from
enemy lines, is where he ultimately met
his death at the age of only 27.
The post, a place where the fighting was
of a ferocity and intensity unequalled on
any part of the Gallipoli front line, had a
fearsome reputation among the soldiers,
according to historian Charles Bean.
‘Men passing the fork in Monash Valley,
and seeing and hearing the bombs burst-
ing up at Quinn’s, used to glance at the
place as a man looks at a haunted house,’
Today Townsville is a thriving garrison
city and considered by many to be the
unofficial capital of North Queensland.
Townsville’s rich military history means
there is a tight-knit defence and veteran
community there who understand what it
means to serve their country.
Exhibition begins its final march to Sydney
The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience, one
of Australia’s largest ever travelling exhi-
bitions, enters its final phase in 2017 as
it marches towards Sydney for the final
The exhibition will visit the last six ven-
ues of its 23-location tour, which in 2017
includes Bunbury in January, Kalgoorlie
and Geelong in February, Orange in March,
Newcastle in March/April, finishing in Syd-
ney in April.
More than 250,000 people have vis-
ited the free exhibition, which has been
described by visitors as a once in a life-
time opportunity that every Australian
The exhibition has already visited
Wodonga, Launceston, Hobart, Ballarat,
Bendigo, Wollongong, Melbourne, Ade-
laide, Tamworth, Toowoomba, Brisbane,
Mackay, Cairns, Townsville, Darwin, Port
Augusta and Perth.
The Anzac Centenary – spanning 2014
to 2018 – is the most significant period of
commemoration in our nation’s history.
The Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience
exhibition is one way the Australian Gov-
ernment is recognising a century of service
by our servicemen and women.
The Century of Service program of events
honours and commemorates the service
and sacrifice by generations of Austral-
ian servicemen and women who have
defended our values and freedoms in wars,
conflicts and peacekeeping operations
from the Boer War to today.
The Century of Service is a time for all
Australians to remember the more than
one million servicemen and women
who have defended our country since
Federation, and the more than 102,700
who have made the ultimate sacrifice for
The Australian Government is partner-
ing with the Australian War Memorial,
Commonwealth Bank of Australia and
Telstra to tour the Spirit of Anzac Cente-
nary Experience exhibition. Tickets are
free but we recommend you book at
Lee Towner, a descendant of Major Edgar Towner VC MC, being interviewed by Channel Seven
at the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience in Townsville.
exhibition in Townsville
Townsville tradie finds
unexpected VC link
More than 170 people attended the opening of the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Expe-
rience exhibition in Townsville on 2 September 2016, which was launched by
the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Dan Tehan.
The launch was strongly supported by the people of Townsville, which was
the 14th of 23 locations on the tour. The exhibition tells the story of Australia
in the First World War.
‘By seeing and touching the artefacts in the exhibition you begin to explore
our wartime history,’ Mr Tehan said. ‘One thing that really struck me was that
the exhibition contained individual stories, and those individuals were the
ones, 100 years ago, who went off and fought in foreign lands, and were up to the
challenge of defending our freedom.’
‘It’s a wonderful exhibition that pays tribute to the service and sacrifice Aus-
tralian men and women have made to make sure we enjoy the freedoms we
Around 250,000 Australians have visited the travelling exhibition, which con-
tains 200 artefacts from the Australian War Memorial that are rarely seen outside
the national capital.
In a moving coincidence, a young
Townsville tradesman who helped
install the Spirit of Anzac Centenary
Experience discovered the travelling
exhibition features the exploits of a
Lee Towner, 21, was employed to
work on the exhibition in Townsville
in September. There he came across
a section that details the courageous
actions of his great-great uncle, Major
Edgar Towner, at the Battle of Mont
St Quentin on the Western Front in
France. Major Towner was awarded the
Victoria Cross for his actions.
Lee was aware of the family connec-
tion to Major Towner, but didn’t know
the battle in which his famous relative
fought was featured in the exhibition
he was installing.
‘I saw the battle name and men-
tioned to another staff member that I
was related to Edgar Towner and all of
a sudden there was all this media inter-
est and Channel Seven interviewed me
for the television news,’ Lee said.
He gave the interview to Channel
Seven on 1 September 2016, exactly 98
years to the day since Major Towner
performed the actions that led to his
On 1 September 1918, Major Towner
took part in the assault on Mont St
Quentin, a significant First World War
battle where three Victoria Crosses
were awarded to Australians on the
Fighting for 30 hours after having
been wounded, his ‘conspicuous
bravery, initiative and devotion
to duty’ earned Major Towner the
highest award for gallantry, which
was presented by King George V in
Major Towner survived the war and
settled down in Longreach where
he died in 1972, at 82 years of age. He
remains Queensland’s highest deco-
In a further family connection, Lee’s
great-great aunt, Sister Greta Towner,
served with the Australian Army Nurs-
ing Service in Egypt and on the Greek
island of Lemnos during the Gallipoli
campaign, and later in France.
Lee’s building days may well soon
be behind him, as he’s recently been
accepted into the Navy.
Sister Greta Towner.
Major Edgar Towner.
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