History of the Toowoomba (United) RSL Sub Branch
The 1st September 2019 marked one hundred years since the granting of the Charter to the then Toowoomba Sub Branch of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia. However, further historical evidence has come to light which appears to confirm that the Sub Branch may indeed be older than at first thought.
Research has identified that returned soldiers were meeting at the Soldiers’ Rest Rooms in Margaret St to share camaraderie as early as 1916. There was no formal structure at that time and the social gatherings facilitated by the Church of England had no connection with the RSL. The first recorded mention of formalizing the group was in the ‘Darling Downs Gazette’ dated Thursday 19 April 1917 at which time it was reported that a number of soldiers met to consider the formation of a local branch of the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA). The organizer of the meeting stated that the League was established nationally to provide welfare for the returned veteran and that it was both non-partisan and non-sectarian. It stood for the Empire and flag for which the members had fought. After this impassioned address it was decided to form a branch of the League in Toowoomba.
On 8 May 1917 the first general meeting of the newly formed Toowoomba Sub Branch was held at which time Lieutenant Hugh McMartin was elected as the President. During his thank you speech, the newly elected President undertook to do his best for the League but warned the general public against “plausible humbugs who posed as returned soldiers and under the guise imposed upon the patriotically minded”. (Darling Downs Gazette 9 May 1917).
In June 1918, Lewis Joseph Kimber was elected President and oversaw the granting of the Charter to officially form the Toowoomba Sub-Branch.
In January 1919, former Mayor and local medical identity, Dr Thomas Price formed a Citizen’s Committee to begin raising funds to purchase land and erect a memorial to honour fallen and returned service personnel of the First World War. It was decided to construct a Soldiers’ Memorial Hall which would also be the home of the Toowoomba Sub-Branch. In June 1922 designs for the two storey building by leading Toowoomba architect William Hodgen were approved by the Toowoomba City Council. Interestingly, one set of plans submitted for the Hall but not chosen was by the nationally renowned architect Walter Burley Griffin. The Foundation Stone was laid by General Sir William Glasgow on ANZAC Day 1923 whilst the building was officially opened on 5 September 1924 by the then Governor of Qld, Sir Matthew Nathan.
In 1929, a rear wing was added to the building which was eventually demolished in 1957 to make way for a replacement which is still in use today. The extension contained a dance hall which boasted the best sprung floor in the district, and was the scene of Saturday night dances for many years.
As we embark on our second century, we continue the strong tradition of service to local veterans and their families by providing welfare, support, and fellowship.
We are indebted to local historian and Citizens Auxiliary member Jeff Hewitt and to Sub Branch Research Officer Lindsay Morrison for their research on this topic.
Lewis Joseph KIMBER
President: June 1918 - January 1920
Search our WW1 Roll of Honour database to learn more about Lewis Joseph KIMBER, and other soldiers' and nurses named on the Toowoomba Soldiers' Memorial Hall WW1 Roll of Honour.
Mr Roland Thompson
As President, Roland leads a team tasked with finding new and innovative ways to ensure we respond to the changing needs of our members and public expectations.
Acting Deputy President
Mr Scott May
Currently acting as Deputy President, Scott served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is keen to encourage other young veterans and current serving personnel to engage with the RSL and to initiate a range of programs/activities for younger veterans, supported by our Sub Branch.
Mrs Wendy Holt
Wendy undertakes a wide range of administrative duties. She is also the Membership Officer.
Mr Dieter Hitchins
Dieter was elected Treasurer in early 2019 and has been introducing new financial & reporting practices.
Mr Lindsay Morrison
Lindsay is the Resource Officer who manages the L.J.Kimber Resource Centre and Library. He has a special interest in the preservation and restoration of the items of memorabilia which have been donated to us over many years. Lindsay is pleased to assist with enquiries from the public related to the service of our military personnel.
Mr Huey James OAM
Huey has been involved in the Sub Branch for many years, serving as President and as Treasurer. His extensive knowledge makes him the ideal person to be our Operations Officer.
Mrs Rhonda James
Rhonda serves on the Committee and is also the Vice President of our Citizen's Auxiliary.
Mr Joe Treers
Our administration assistant who served in World War 2, Joe is invaluable to the daily operation of our Sub Branch. He is also the Treasurer of the Citizen's Auxiliary.
General Meetings which all Members are invited to attend are held every:
- February (AGM),
- May (GM),
- August (GM), and
- November (GM).
See our Calendar to find details of upcoming General Meetings.