The War Memorial Hall

The opening of the War Memorial Hall, 29 November 1953.
The opening of the War Memorial Hall, 29 November 1953.

495 of Cranbrook's former students served in the armed and merchant forces in WWII, with 378 entering the Australian military forces.1 Sadly, 64 of these former Cranbrookians, or 17 percent of those who served in the Australian military forces, lost their lives.2 This is considerably higher than the national percentage of 4.3%.3 It is in honour of these men’s service and sacrifice that our school community’s central gathering place, War Memorial Hall, was built.

The idea of a war memorial was first raised by the Old Cranbrookians' Association in April 1946.4 By August, a Joint Committee of the OCA and School Council had met in the gymnasium to approve “the erection of a new Hall for services, ceremonies and general cultural activities of the School incorporating within it memorials to the fallen”.5

The necessity of the new hall was clearly visible in the Joint Committee’s choice of meeting place, but post-war economic conditions were dire. Cranbrook’s overdraft to the Commercial Banking Company was at £50,000, leaving the school entirely reliant on outside donations.6

Yet, unperturbed, the school community rallied together to encourage parents and former students to make annual installments over five years, publishing the names of the donors in The Cranbrookian magazine.7 From 1949 to 1953 the school also held various successful fundraising functions, including plays, fetes, jumble sales, puppet shows, a BBQ and a house mascot competition.8

In late 1952, Cranbrook was able to initiate construction and by 1953 the economic climate had improved so much that the school was left with more than enough money to cover the projected costs.9

The memorial to our former students developed rapidly, and was officially opened by renowned soldier, Lieutenant General Sir Leslie Morshead KCB CMG DSO, in the presence of Archbishop of Sydney Most Rev HWK Mowll on the afternoon of 30 November 1953.10 The “heart of the School” seats five hundred students, who can gaze at the harbour on one side and our original buildings on the other.11 Above their heads, the terracotta and grey painted ceiling is subdivided by beams of Queensland maple, beneath which sit the twelve coats of arms of the nations of the British Commonwealth and Allied countries that fought in WWII.12

If our students look towards the cornices they will be able to read, inscribed in gold, the names of the principal campaigns and battles of WWII compiled by historian Gavin Long.13 At night, the room is lit by six hexagonal lights based on those in the War Memorial Room at Wellington College.14 These put into relief the school badges of Cranbrook School Kent, Cranbrook School Michigan as well as our own, sitting above the stage.15

It is through these features that the War Memorial Hall continues to foster the values of global responsibility and service to others in new generations of students as they sit and contemplate the courage of their precursors and the sacrifices that they made for their country and community.

  • 1. Janet Howse, "Cranbrook School War Memorial Hall, Commemorating Fifty Years, 1953-2003", Cranbrook History (2003): 12.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. "Cranbrook School War Memorial", The Cranbrookian T3 (1946); "Editorial: Our War Memorial", The Cranbrookian T3 (1946); David Thomas and Mark McAndrew, Born in the Hour of Victory: Cranbrook School, 1918-1993 (Caringbah, NSW: Playright Publishing, 1998), 91-2.
  • 5. Ibid, 91.
  • 6. Ibid., 105.
  • 7. "The War Memorial", The Cranbrookian T1 (1947): 4-5; "The War Memorial Appeal", The Cranbrookian T2 (1947): 5-6; "War Memorial Fund", The Cranbrookian T1 (1948): 4-8; "Cranbrook School War Memorial Fund", The Cranbrookian T3 (1949): 11-12; "Cranbrook War Memorial Fund", The Cranbrookian T1 (1953): 8-11; "Cranbrook School War Memorial Fund", The Cranbrookian T2 (1953): 6-16; ibid., T3.
  • 8. Howse, 12-13.
  • 9. Alec C. Child, Cranbrook: The First 50 Years, 1918-1968 (Sydney, NSW: Cranbrook School, 1969), 128-38.
  • 10. "Memorial Hall at Cranbrook School", The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 November 1953, 11; "Cranbrook School War Memorial Fund",  10-12.
  • 11. "Cranbrook School War Memorial Fund", 12.
  • 12. Ibid., 15.
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Ibid.