Beneath an overcast sky on November 11, 1923, 3000 people gathered to watch the grieving and heartbroken mothers of fallen soldiers from World War I (WWI) unveil the Grafton Cenotaph, which proudly bore the names of 35 men who would never return to their beloved homeland to see it.
Erected to commemorate those who have fought and tragically lost their lives in wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations, the Grafton Cenotaph has stood solemnly for 100 years, serving as a permanent reminder of the sacrifices made by so many.
On November 11, 2023, the sun shone brightly as a large crowd came together in Grafton’s Memorial Park to celebrate the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Grafton Cenotaph, reflect on its monumental message of love and remembrance, and to witness its historical rededication.
“It’s a very proud occasion,” said Steve Tranter, event organiser and President of the Clarence River Historical Society (CRHS).
“The Grafton Cenotaph is a widely recognised historical landmark which took a lot of community involvement and action to erect in 1923, and it is very special to be here 100 years later to acknowledge its centenary.”
His words were echoed by guest speaker David Page, grandson of notable local figure Sir Earle Christmas Grafton Page, who during the presentation of his commemorative address, reflected on his grandfather’s proud association and commitment to the community, and the unmistakable pride he would have felt had he been able to attend.
Describing the Grafton Cenotaph as a most sacred part of Grafton’s landscape, Member for Clarence Richie Williamson acknowledged the tireless work undertaken by Mr Tranter in enabling the commemoration ceremony to go ahead, and said the monument represents “all things brave and good in our community, and our nation.”
Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan agreed, and as he addressed attendees, he said he imagined what it would be like to stand there 100 years ago when the Grafton Cenotaph was first unveiled.
“This is here for one reason, so we don’t forget,” he said poignantly.
While the crowd bowed their heads respectfully, the Reverand Canon Camellia Flanagan was joined by the Bishop of Grafton, the Right Reverand Dr Murray Harvey, and Chaplain Kevin Booth 41 RNSWR as they performed the rededication of the Grafton Cenotaph, before Mr Benfield read the Ode of Remembrance and Lieutenant Corporal Chris Canning performed The Last Post and Rouse.
As many people quietly walked around the Grafton Cenotaph following the conclusion of the service, and read the names inscribed on its side, they agreed they would always remember, and never forget.