History of the Toowoomba RSL Sub Branch
The 1st September 2019 marked one hundred years since the granting of the Charter to the 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 Mc Martin 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 was in use until 2020. 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 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. Ben Quirke
Ben joined our Sub Branch following a career in the RAAF. He served as Vice President from 2021-2023 and was elected President in August 2023. His primary focus is the welfare and support of all our members, but he is also dedicated to ensuring that the organisation meets its compliance and reporting obligations. Ben acts as our alternate delegate to the District and RSL Qld.
Mr. Sheldon Rogers
Sheldon assists with delivering new services and activities. He is also our Commemorations Co-ordinator who oversees the planning and implementation of ANZAC Day, Vietnam Veterans Day and Remembrance Day Services and associated activities.
Mr. Dan O'Mara
Mrs. Wendy Holt C.Dec
Wendy undertakes a wide range of secretarial duties and manages the daily operation of the Sub Branch office. She is also the Membership Officer responsible for ensuring enquiries and membership matters are handled in a timely manner as well as the Merchandise Co-ordinator.
Mr Gary Graham
Gary has responsibility for the financial management of the Sub Branch. In addition, he is kept busy as President of the local RAAF Association.
Mr. Huey James OAM JP(Q)
Huey has been involved in the Sub Branch for many years, serving in numerous Executive positions. He is responsible for Cadet Liaison.
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 RSL Sub Branch and the former Womens' Auxiliary. Rhonda is very dedicated to the Sub Branch with a particular interest in fundraising and the volunteers.
Mr. Tavis Smith
Tav advises the committee on our engagement with the local bases particularly the current serving members. He is also our Transport Co-ordinator.
Mr. Brian Cotter
General Meetings of all members are held on the third Sunday in:
- February (AGM),
- May (GM),
- August (GM), and
- November (GM)
commencing at 10am.
See our Calendar to find details of upcoming General Meetings.