A group of young offenders have brought the RSL’s treasured war relic back to its former glory.
The 25-pounder Howitzer, which has been a familiar sight in front of the North Ipswich RSL club for many years, was handed over to the Ipswich RSL Sub Branch at a ceremony at the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre.
The 10-week restoration project, dubbed Operation Shelldrake, involved plenty of grinding, rust removal, polishing and painting under the supervision of soldiers from 7th Combat Brigade of the Royal Australian Artillery’s 1st Regiment.
The regiment brought in the Howitzer’s modern day equivalent, the M777, for the ceremony, which towered over the 25-pounder.
But the Howitzer stood out as an important piece of history, with brass polished, a shining muzzle and new paint after thorough preservation work by a group of young offenders at the Wacol centre.
The project also gave the presentation an impressive backdrop with a mural showing the pride the youths took in the work, painting the words Respect Anzac, courage, teamwork and initiative.
Project creator East Coast Apprenticeships CEO Alan Sparks said the project was a great opportunity for young offenders to give something back to their community.
“It’s been a real joy watching the young people return the 25-pounder to its former glory and learn some valuable skills in the process,” Mr Sparks said.
“They also discovered some long-forgotten brass features on the gun, which they have restored.
“It’s hoped that the young people involved may consider a trade or military career upon their release.”
Ipswich and Railway RSL sub branch presidents Phil Gilbert and Ray Watherston said the project was vital in protecting the war relic and they would push ahead with plans to locate the gun at Memorial Gardens, outside Soldiers’ Memorial Hall at Nicholas St.
Ipswich RSL Sub Branch president Phil Gilbert said the 25-pounder would be a landmark outside the hall and its war museum, but Ipswich City Council was yet to agree to the location.
During the Second World War the 25-pounder gained legendary status because of its exploits in the deserts of the North African Campaign and in the jungles of New Guinea. It remained the artillery’s primary field weapon until the mid-1960s.
Partners in the restoration project included the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, RSL Queensland, East Coast Apprenticeships (ECA), 1st Regiment Royal Australian Artillery, TAFE Queensland SkillsTech and Ipswich City Council.
RSL Queensland State President Stewart Cameron CSC said the project connected young people to Australia’s service men and women and the country’s proud military history.
“This is a wonderful hands-on experience which I’m sure will live long in the memories of these young people,’’ Mr Cameron said.
“It’s particularly significant that its completion comes in the lead up to ANZAC Day and in the year that marks the centenary of the RSL.”