For 102-year-old World War 2 veteran Dennis Davis, being able to witness the official unveiling of the War Memorial upgraded at the Balcombe Heights Estate in Baulkham Hills was a special moment.
The Castle Hill local said: “It’s good that we have somewhere to remember friends who never returned.” He was one of several veterans who were on hand to witness the unveiling of the $202,000 monument funded by the Federal Government.
Federal Member for Mitchell and Hills Shire Mayor Peter Gangemi spoke about the historical significance of the former Masonic School site (now the Balcombe Heights Estate) which was opened in November 1922 to cater for the children of Freemasons who died in World War 1 and was the site of a Field Hospital in World War 2.
Federal MP for Mitchell Alex Hawke said: “ I am very proud that the Federal Government invests very heavily in War Memorials around the world.”
He said he was delighted to get extra Federal funding for the project which cost $205,000.
“I thank our local historical society and all the groups who worked so hard to get all the names right. We can be proud of the role our service men and women play in so many theatres today around the world. This acknowledgement of service and sacrifice is so important.”
Hills Shire Mayor, Dr Peter Gangemi thanked the Federal Government for their contribution to the project, “It has been a goal of ours to make this site a special place where we can commemorate our servicemen and women, both past and present.
“I believe we have successfully achieved this thanks to the funding we have received from the Australian Government to beautify this site and keep it as a significant location that can be used by future generations for services and events that pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom, beliefs and values,” he said. “The War Memorial looks spectacular, and I am so happy with the outcome.”
The project involved a complete refurbishment of the Memorial, while retaining the original central monument and the flagpole opposite the former Masonic School building.
The former concrete retaining walls and paving were demolished and replaced by new granite stone steps and paving, as well as new concrete pathways and ramps. A commemorative concrete seat and a garden of white roses, rosemary and westringias is also part of the project. The Balcombe Heights Estate features an avenue of 354 Brush Box trees commemorating the NSW masons who died in service or were killed in action in World War 1.
The William Thompson Masonic School operated for just over 50 years and closed in December 1974. The land was sold to council for community use.
Mr Hawke said: “It’s so great to see this site (Balcombe Heights Estate) evolving in so many different ways we have the history, the present and the future in what council is doing. We are going to have community activities here for a long time to come.”