The iconic Dorrigo Cenotaph once again stands watch over our Shire’s Northern Tablelands community after being destroyed eight months ago in an extraordinary traffic accident. Crowds gathered from 7am last Wednesday to see “their soldier” lifted to the top of the monument where he had stood, untouched since 1921. The six metre high monument was wrecked after being struck, at night, by an east bound SUV.
Secretary of Dorrigo Sub Branch of the RSL of A, Mr Bob Denner said destruction of the monument was “an awful experience”, especially for those who saw the damage shortly after the accident. “The most amazing thing was that the soldier was intact and had only suffered some minor damage to his hat,” Mr Denner said.
“He landed on the roof of the vehicle and was still holding his rifle like a good soldier should!”
This year marks 100 years since the monument was erected to commemorate the 450 Dorrigo men and women who served in WW1; 49 of these lost their lives. Since then other names of locals have been added who lost their lives fighting in conflicts around the world.
Dorrigo’s Septimus Way was one of these brave men who fought in WW1. Septimus (Sep) farmed in Dorrigo and enlisted in 1916. He was wounded at Messines and again at Passchendaele and returned home unfit for service in April 1918. Like many other men he suffered from the effects of the war, being particularly sensitive to thunderstorms. He was a member of the Dorrigo Returned Soldiers and would have been at the erection of the monument in 1921.
Sep’s grandson Geoff moved back to Dorrigo in 1980 to raise his family and now has grandchildren of his own living in Dorrigo. Geoff proudly watch the unveiling of the restored cenotaph last week.
Thanks to the combined efforts of a local artisan stonemason and Bellingen Shire Council’s Operations Unit staff, the monument and soldier have undergone delicate reconstruction and now stand in the centre of the town’s impressive new roundabout. “Repairs to the life size marble soldier and the damaged sections of the memorial’s foundations and plaques have been overseen by heritage advisors and the Dorrigo RSL Sub-Branch to ensure the cenotaph is returned to its former glory but retains its period features,” said Bellingen Shire Mayor Cr Dom King.
The crowd waited patiently last Wednesday as the ‘raising of the soldier’ was a slow and careful procedure. One simple comment could be heard repeated many times by Plateau residents: “He’s back!”
Photos credit: Vivian Hoskins