WWI capsule discovered in war memorial

Australian troops charging an Ottoman trench, just before the evacuation
Australian troops make an assault at an Ottoman trench before the evacuation during the First World War. Photo: The Art of Looking at Life

Workers dismantling the WWI heritage-listed Miranda War Memorial were certainly in for a surprise after discovering a time capsule buried under the structure.

The Miranda War Memorial was built to honor the men of Miranda who enlisted during the First World War. It is made of five sandstone steps mounted on a circular base. The memorial is also featured with a bronze Australian Military Forces badge above the name plate. The war memorial is being dismantled for transfer to Seymour Shaw Park. The project is part of the preparation of one of Australia’s most important national occasion, the Anzac Day dawn service which will be held in New South Wales outside the Sydney city business district.

The pieces of the memorial are taken from the end of Central Avenue, Miranda, into a better accommodation in a landscaped area in the park 50 meters from the original site for crowds who will be expected to attend the services. The time capsule discovered was reportedly crafted from an old artillery shell. It was discovered only Friday last week by heritage consultant James Gardner. It was found embedded in sand at the base of the memorial.

The gun shell is made of copper. It measures around 50 centimeters and welded shut. Along the gun shell are two tobacco pouches which can be traced from Holland and Zig Zag cigarette papers.

File:Miranda War Memorial.JPG

“We were dismantling the memorial when we got to the bottom and discovered the shell buried in sand,” Mr Gardner said. “In 25 years in the industry I’ve never encountered a time capsule. “I’ve found bottles, plates, even a body floating in the harbour off Fort Denison, but this is the first time I’ve found a time capsule.”

The Miranda RSL Sub-branch are spearheading the project. The club’s president Bruce Grimley is the front-runner of the moving of the memorial. When he undertook the project, he already had”suspicions from the start that we might find something under the memorial”. “But to actually witness it being pulled from the base of the memorial was heart-stirring. We would love to see what’s inside but it may be buried under the setting of the relocated memorial along with another time capsule we are putting together,” he said.

The Leader reports that the mayor of Sutherland Shire, Steve Simpson, is overwhelmed to discover a “marvellous find and an important piece of history.”

“We will liaise with Miranda RSL Sub-branch on what we should do with the items. We’re looking for historical records detailing the capsule and tobacco pouches but we’ve not yet managed to find any information,” the mayor said. The dismantling of the war memorial also produced another mystery. A concrete statue of a Digger, which was designed by George Evans, once adorned the top of the memorial.

However, it suddenly vanished without a trace. There were several rumors surrounding the statue. It was believed that it was buried inside the war memorial during the first move in 1968. Spectator and expecting individuals were disappointed after finding no trace of the statue inside when the memorial was dismantled.


Siegphyl is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE