Thursday, 17 May 2018

Coburg Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA) (later Returned Services’ League or RSL)

On 19 December 1918 a group of returned soldiers met at the Drill Hall in Reynard Street to establish a returned soldiers association in Coburg. The meeting was presided over by Herbert Rouvray, a returned serviceman who had served with the 6th Battalion. 

Taken c. 13 December 1915. Studio portrait of 4295 Private (Acting Corporal) Herbert Gray Rouvray, 6th Battalion, of Coburg, Vic. Image courtesy AWM. Image DA13067.

Rouvray was a well known personality around Coburg who began the Coburg Courier newspaper and worked as a government auditor. He was the first President of the local RSSILA branch, serving in 1918 and 1919. 
By 1920 Rouvray was the Secretary of the Malvern branch of the RSSILA and Alfred Bernard Scott, who had served with the 7th Battalion, took over the role of Coburg President. 

Coburg Town Hall after the 1920s remodelling. Courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

In 1924, when extensive renovations took place at the Town Hall, a special Soldiers' Room was created.
It was not until after the end of World War Two that the idea of having a separate memorial hall was proposed. Council had bought land already on the site where today's RSL stands. 
The building was to be in Sydney Road (opposite the Grand Theatre - today the Vizzini Social Club) and extend to Hunt Street).

Coburg Courier, 16 October 1946

In 1946 the Mayor of Coburg Cr A.R. Bateman launched a fund-raising 'Queen' Carnival  in the hope that they could raise £25,000 by the following Anzac Day.
The site remained the same but the RSL did not move into their new building until 1956, a decade later. And when they did, the building bore no resemblance to the artist's impression given above.
Today's RSL building is set well back off Sydney Road, without the two shop fronts that the architects had designed, as you can see here.

The Coburg RSL is Melbourne's oldest sub-branch and is celebrating its centenary this year. 

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