Beenleigh & District RSL sub-branch celebrated 100 years yesterday, 28 July. President David Draper welcomed distinguished guests which included some of the sub-branch’s oldest veterans – Bert Cox, Peter Burrage, Gifford Farrell, Brian De Vaus, James Skelton and Charles Wellings and other dignitaries.
The centenary celebrations showcased and highlighted the important work RSL does in providing welfare support to veterans and especially veterans within Beenleigh & District.
The Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL) was founded in 1916 to ensure a unified approach to address the lack of organised repatriation facilities and medical services available to those returning from service in the Great War.
This included looking out for the families of those comrades who did not return and arose out of discussions at a meeting in June 1916 of the Returned Soldiers Associations from Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria.
Beenleigh RSL grew from humble beginnings in July 1921 when local veterans decided to form a sub-branch in the district for the benefit of all returned soldiers from the Great War.
The first President of the Beenleigh RSL was Dr Henry Dolman M.B., Ch.M. Captain, A.A.M.C. He was born in London on 3 July 1893 and enlisted 29 January 1917, with the profession of medical practitioner.
He served with the Australian Camel Field Ambulance from 23 October 1917 to 1 July 1918, and then with 5th Light Horse Field Ambulance. He carried out post graduate medical work in England during 1919 and returned to Australia 12 March 1920.
He then registered to practice medicine in Beenleigh on 10 June 1920, was president of Beenleigh RSSILA for a year from 28 July 1921. Dr Dolman remained in the Medical Corps and was appointed an honorary Captain in 1942.
Last known records show he was a medical practitioner in Wickham Terrace, Brisbane in 1954.
The first secretary for the Beenleigh RSL was Claude Townsend who was born in Beenleigh on 21 December 1898 and held the occupation of school teacher upon enlistment on 26 August 1916
He was allocated to the AASC and reached England in late 1917 as part of the 30th reinforcements AASC. Driver Townsend returned to Australia and discharged on 8 April 1920.
Mr Townsend signed up again in 1941 for the Second World War under a different service number. This time he was living in Bundaberg and working as a school teacher. He was promoted to Captain in March 1944.
He ceased full time Military duty on 28 October 1946.
The RSL’s ethos of compassion and service remains today as the motivating influence of the League. The core mission has never changed and has continued to evolve to meet the needs of each generation of servicemen and women.
Beenleigh RSL plays a pivotal role in providing welfare support to the local region through the club’s welfare and pension advocacy program. It identifies veterans that require support and aims to give them advice and, in many cases, advocate on their behalf to ensure they are cared for in a manner that the community expects for their veterans.
The Beenleigh and District region is steeped in history of the community volunteering to defend the country and as such there are many veterans in the area. Beenleigh RSL currently has 446 sub-branch members which have served in all conflicts from WWII through to Iraq and Afghanistan.
There are also many sub-branch members who have served in times of peace. Beenleigh RSL prides itself in assisting local veterans irrespective of whether they are formal sub-branch members or not.
The Beenleigh RSL sub-branch welcomes all veterans and serving and ex-serving defence force members.
First year RSL sub-branch membership is free. Head along and join the camaraderie at Beenleigh RSL – 13 Bardyn Halliday Drive, Mt Warren Park or phone 3287 4000.