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Our Traditions And History

World War II ended in 1945. By 1955 there were a number of  veterans living on the Island and at least one Boer War veteran. The Island veterans saw a need to have a voice in repatriation and welfare matters, hold commemorative services, provide welfare services for veterans, contribute to community activities and satisfy the social needs for themselves and their families. Establishing an RSL Sub-Branch was seen as the way to achieve this.

The Magnetic Island RSL Sub-Branch was born on the evening of 21 May 1956 when 22 veterans attended the inaugural meeting held at the Alma Den Guesthouse at Alma Bay. The Foundation Committee was: President: P.H. Clapin, Vice-Presidents: V.L. Biddington and R.F Vaughan, Hon Secretary: R.S. Pedler, Treasurer: S. Fields, Committee: R.E. Hennequin, R.R Thompson, C.W. Hurst, G.H. Marwell, C.W Hazeldine and A.C. Armour.

The establishment of Magnetic Island Sub-Branch of the RSSAILA was officially recognised on Sunday night, 22 July 1956, when the President of the North Queensland District of the RSSAILA, Mr J. Alan Sherriff, presented the Sub-Branch with its RSL Charter. The Sub-Branch had 35 members.
Presenting the Charter, Mr Sherriff observed that the Sub-Branch was the first new Sub-Branch to be formed in Queensland for almost 10 years. He hoped that it would not be long before the new Sub-Branch had a building in which to conduct its business and house its Charter.

There had been an RSL presence on the Island before the establishment of the Magnetic Island RSL Sub-Branch. The Townsville RSL Sub-Branch acquired a property at Horseshoe Bay in 1948. TPI pensioner Stan Pedler, who would later become the inaugural Secretary of Magnetic Island Sub-Branch, gifted one of his properties, located near current Marlin Bar/Hotel, to the Townsville Sub-Branch. The property was eventually sold by Townsville Sub-Branch in the 1960s, financing the purchase of the property on which the Townsville RSL Sub-Branch is now located in Charters Towers Road.

The establishment of a Memorial Hall to be the home and social centre of the Sub-Branch would consume much of the members’ attention. From 1956 to November 1957 meetings were held monthly and rotated between the four bays, Horseshoe, Arcadia, Nelly and Picnic, though differences as to where to build the Memorial Hall soon surfaced and somewhat fractured the committee, until March 1958 when a Building Fund was opened. Fundraising activities during the early years included cabarets, picture shows, Melbourne Cup sweeps, social evenings and raffles. Building Fund collection boxes were placed around the Island.

The project to erect an RSL Hall in Arcadia gathered momentum and in 1958 approaches were made to Hayles Magnetic and the Lands Department, seeking suitable land on which to build. In 1959 the Lands Department leased the land to the Sub-Branch for the purpose of erecting the Hall. In 1961 Sub-Branch member Roy Spottiswood commenced construction.

The Governor of Queensland, Sir Henry Abel Smith, officially opened the Magnetic Island RSL Hall on 28 August 1962. A gathering of over 80 Island residents and visitors, including Boer War, World War I and World War II veterans, RSL and Women’s Auxiliary members and invited guests, witnessed  the occasion. The Governor was welcomed to the gathering by the Sub-Branch President, Mr Steve Coleman. The occasion brought to fruition a six-year-old dream to erect an RSL Memorial Hall on Magnetic Island.

When opened in 1962, the Memorial Hall was very basic. The construction was a simple hall without a ceiling, toilets or fans. Two thunderbox toilets were erected at the back where the garden shed now stands. The concrete paths that led to these toilets can still be seen. Water to the hall was supplied from a well located at the rear of the block where the property boundaries meet. The well is still in existence and used.

During the following years, work was carried out from time to time to improve the building, until it is as you find it today – 60 years old in 2022, well-worn, very well-used and much loved.