THE Returned & Services League of Australia has a long and proud history in Cockburn, with the establishment of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia Spearwood Sub-branch receiving its charter on October 19, 1919.
Initially the members used to meet in a local church hall, believed to have been the All Angel’s Anglican Parish Hall in Mell Road, Spearwood, which was built in 1913. The Spearwood locals called it the Spearwood Hall.
The first president was P Hawkes and the secretary was W Dodd.
Story has it that members weren’t allowed to drink alcohol in the church hall, so they decided to build their own, using mostly donated limestone blocks.
They set to work on a generous block of land in Sussex Street, Spearwood, opposite where the local roads board had built the Spearwood War Memorial in 1922.
This area of parkland is now known as Beale Park and hosts the RSL Memorial Park and Field of Poppies. Meanwhile the memorial was later relocated to its current home on the corner of Carrington Street and Rockingham Road and renamed the City of Cockburn War Memorial.
But in 1970 there was internal bickering between members, not only with Spearwood but also in the Hamilton Hill sub-branch, which led to a decline in membership.
Spearwood’s secretary Len Taylor and president Jack Bavich held out an olive branch to their Hamilton Hill comrades, offering an amalgamation.
After much discussion it was decided to go ahead under the name Cockburn RSL Sub-branch, and the first meeting was held in August 1970.
In early 1971 it was decided to sell the block of land in Spearwood, taking advantage of property developer Tony Fini’s interest in completing a sub-division.
The council sold the land for $11,500, and after the sale Mr Fini donated a further $500 to the RSL Cockburn Sub-branch.
The money was used to refurbish the hall and purchase new gas stoves and refrigerators.