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.
When you walk through the door of our Sub Branch, it is of no consequence where you served or for how long. We will not judge you by the arm of the service you joined nor by the rank you attained. The mere fact that you chose to serve our country in any capacity deserves the respect and admiration of us all.
Every visitor will be welcomed and treated with mutual courtesy. We will extend the hand of friendship to you and anticipate that you will do likewise to your fellow veterans. We will join in supporting those who reach out to us, and not judge those who need our help.
At all times, we will conduct the activities of this Sub Branch in a spirit of camaraderie and a willingness to serve those who in turn served our nation.
Mr Scott May
Recently appointed to the position of 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 is initiating an expanded range of programs/activities for all our members.
Mr Sheldon Rogers
Sheldon has assumed the position of interim Deputy President until our AGM in February 2021. He served in the RAN for six years before moving to Toowoomba. Sheldon will support Scott in encouraging interaction between the generations.
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 serve as our Vice President and go-to person for all matters pertaining to the successful operation of our venue.
Mrs Wendy Holt
Wendy undertakes a wide range of secretarial duties and manages the day-to-day operation of the Sub Branch office. She is also the Membership Officer; responsible for welcoming new members to our Sub Branch family, liaising with members regarding concerns and ensuring the membership records are kept up-to-date.
Mrs Ashley Hurst
Ashley contributes to the Sub Branch by offering her financial skills and will implement further changes to improve accountability and financial responsibility. Ashley is from a military family and is married to fellow committee member, Jason.
Mr Lindsay Morrison
Lindsay is the Resource Officer with a special interest in the preservation and restoration of the items of memorabilia in our care. He has a passion for military history and enjoys responding to enquiries from the public related to the service of our military personnel.
Mrs Rhonda James
Rhonda is a Life Member of both the Toowoomba United Sub Branch and the former Ladies' Auxiliary. She acts as liaison between our committee and the Citizens' Auxiliary.
Mr Joe Treers
Our 'elder statesman' who served in the RAN for twenty years including World War Two. Joe extends a friendly welcome to members and visitors to The Hub.
Mr Jason Hurst
Jason served in East Timor and Afghanistan. He brings a young veteran's perspective to the Committee and will assist with the implementation of a wide range of activities.
Mr Chris Way
Chris has taken on the role of Grants Officer for the Sub Branch seeking out potential funding opportunities as they arise. He served 42 years in the Australian Army prior to his discharge and currently works for the Toowoomba Regional Council.
Mr Terry Mathews
Terry is the Vietnam Veteran Community Coordinator. He was a member of the recently disbanded Vietnam Veteran's Association. Our Sub Branch welcomed the members of the VVAA into our organisation.
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.