AFTER receiving its charter in 1973, the new RSL Cockburn Sub-branch was off and running, with Jack Bavich appointed its first president.
That meant that Mr Bavich had the unique distinction of leading the Spearwood, Hamilton Hill and Cockburn sub-branches over the course of 30 years.
Mr Bavich was then elected patron of the Cockburn sub-branch and a life member of the RSL of Australia. In 2018 he received the RSL’s highest award – the Meritorious Service Award.
Over the years the sub-branch would hold “old time” dances in the hall as there was a piano and plenty of talented wives who could hold a tune, particularly Sylvia Morrel and Thelma Bavich. It was always accompanied by a sing-along.
There were also two main memorial services each year; Anzac Day and Remembrance Day, with a smaller Kapyong Day service in April commemorating those who served in the Korean War.
The first Anzac Day parades were modest, as most members marched with their units in the big parade in Perth.
The 1979 parade was the first time the ADF Cadets marched – air force cadet Wayne Stanton and his cousin, navy cadet Brian Humphreys. As the years progressed the parade and service evolved and more people became interested.
For many years members used to attend Fremantle’s dawn service then head back to Hamilton Hill for a “gunfire” breakfast.
For many years head chef was RAN Korean War veteran Les Pratt and his wife Heather. Les would have the bacon and sausages in the oven and the
devilled kidneys on the stove; a favourite amongst old sailors.
Some years after the RSL hall was built, a new meeting room was built next door. The “old green shed” as it was known became a hub for meeting and socialising. By the mid 80s it was extended and a patio built to cover the area between the hall. There were two pool tables and a dartboard, and every Tuesday night was games night.
There was another blow-up amongst members in 1997 which led to a walkout by the president and most of the office bearers.
Treasurer Arthur Stanton was left to take control; he wrote to all members alerting them to the situation and calling a special meeting.
It turned out to be a blessing in surprise, as many members who hadn’t been to the sub-branch in years turned up to find out what was going on.
At the meeting Les Pratt assumed control and things were well and truly back on track.
On July 2, 2002 there was another name change, becoming the RSL City of Cockburn Sub-branch, while termite damage forced the committee’s hand and a decision was made to demolish the old hall and build a new one.
Despite having some cash on hand, more was needed and members stepped up with loans (they were all repaid within three years) and donations. Funding also came from Lotteries West and Cockburn City Council.
Again members put their own backs into the building – the names of the workers are forever remembered on a plaque, while those injured along the way got their own “purple heart”.
It was officially opened on March 26, 2003.
As the work went on, Mr Stanton also drew up plans for the Memorial Rose Garden and Wall of Remembrance which was opened exactly a year later.
Leading the way
The RSL City of Cockburn Sub-branch is now leading the way into the future, to assist and aid veterans.
This weekend the new Veterans Welfare and Compensation Hub at the RSL Sub-branch, will be officially opened by the Hon Peter Tinley AM MLA, minister for veterans issues.
At the Veterans Hub there will be trained welfare and compensation officers available to assist any ADF veterans.
These officers will be able to offer advice and assistance with any problems that the veteran may encounter, such as pensions, compensation, health issues and access to emergency financial assistance, through the RSL Welfare Fund.
The great divide
THE Hamilton Hill Sub-Branch was formed in the wake of World War II.
A new generation of returned service men and women from Cockburn swelled the Spearwood Sub-branch’s numbers, but not all were happy.
Some who lived across the border in Hamilton Hill believed differences of opinion with the local diggers were too much to overcome, while others said that it was too far to travel from Spearwood, given that cars were a luxury most couldn’t afford.
It took some time, but eventually on August 24, 1954 the Returned Sailors, Soldiers & Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia Hamilton Hill Sub-branch received its official charter.
Initial meeting were held at Ernie Dibb’s house, but it wasn’t long before members decided they wanted their own hall.
One of the driving forces was president Jack Baker, whose family donated a block of land in Frederick Road, Hamilton Hill, and plans for the new hall were put in place.
Mr Dibb was a builder by trade, so took over the project.
Old army huts were bought and demolished, with the materials transported to the building site. The foundation stumps were made from poles taken from the submarine nets that protected Fremantle harbour during the war.
All this recycled material soon became the RSL hall, proudly built by the members with help from their wives, and in some cases, children. Some of those old stumps and floorboards are still visible in the structure of the new RSL Bar.