Leave cenotaph where it is

WHEN I saw The Guardian's page one headline "Time to move the Cenotaph?" on the April 1 issue my immediate reaction was it could be an April Fool's Day joke. 

But turning to page two and reading the comments from a Returned and Services League spokesman I soon realised this was indeed no joke.

I was further puzzled to read that the cenotaph "has remained in the same location for 57 years".

I came to Swan Hill in 1949 and the cenotaph was in its present location then. I also have an aerial photograph of Swan Hill taken in its centenary year, 1936, and the cenotaph was on the same site then. 

By no means the size of today's memorial; just a simple obelisk which is the centrepiece of the present presentation, sufficient to record the names of the Swan Hill and district men who gave their lives in the 1914-18 war. 

It served as a monument to "a person whose body is elsewhere", as the Oxford Dictionary defines "cenotaph".

There is another significant link regarding the site of the cenotaph: it is at the eastern end of Pozieres Reserve, the McCallum Street median between Campbell and Beveridge Streets. It was sacred ground.

The French town of Pozieres was the scene of one of the countless battles during the Great War (later known as World War I ), in which thousands of Australian soldiers died. 

According to a plaque at the western end of this reserve, some of those who fell at Pozieres were from Swan Hill and district.

The naming of Pozieres Reserve and the location of the cenotaph possibly dates back to around 1920.

Of course, the memorial has from time to time been updated, first after World War II, when the names of the fallen in that conflict were added. 

The forecourt and surrounds were reshaped when the Campbell Street shopping park was developed in the 70's, and more recently pillars have been added to cover the Korean and Vietnam wars backtracking to the Boer War, prior to World War I.

If future traffic is seen as a problem, assemblies to commemorate the fallen occur only three or so times a year and so far police have capably controlled traffic flow at those times. 

With lights planned for this intersection in the immediate future, they can be adjusted to do the same.

The cenotaph is an important part of our heritage. It should be a focal point of our community.

Leave it where it is.

​For more thought provoking letters to the editor, pick up a copy of Friday's Guardian (April 17).