White crosses to remember Ballarat servicemen and women damaged during Anzac Day commemorations

BALLARAT RSL members are disappointed a number of their Anzac Day memorial white crosses have been damaged.

The eye-catching field of white crosses planted behind the Cenotaph on Sturt St has been a focal point for Anzac Day commemorations for more than 40 years.

DISAPPOINTED: Ballarat RSL president Alex Tascas and secretary Maurie Keating are upset that memorial crosses set out for Anzac Day were damaged. Picture: Kate Healy

DISAPPOINTED: Ballarat RSL president Alex Tascas and secretary Maurie Keating are upset that memorial crosses set out for Anzac Day were damaged. Picture: Kate Healy

Each white cross bears a name and a red poppy to represent Ballarat returned services personnel who were killed in action or have since died.

Volunteers placed about 1700 white crosses in the green grass of the median strip on April 23. When they removed them on April 26 they noticed six had the name, details and red poppy removed.

“We suspect family members have removed these but it’s not on,” said Ballarat RSL secretary Maurie Keating.

“We will replace them this time, but if it happens next year we won’t replace them,” he warned.

Tracking down the names that have been removed will be a mammoth and time-consuming task. Mr Keating said volunteers would now have to check through about 1700 names on their White Cross database to find the missing six.

A $20 one-off fee from those who have nominated the servicemen and women being commemorated covers research and permanently attaching the names, details and poppies to the crosses.

“It’s not a huge amount of money but it’s the inconvenience and it costs a lot of volunteer time,” Mr Keating said.

“It’s a bit disappointing and this will be the last year we replace them.”

Each wooden cross is hand-made from hardwood, painted, the names are professionally printed and a poppy wired on.

“It’s sad that a few people have decided to take them as souvenirs,” he said.

Mr Keating said it took a team of volunteers the best part of a day to lay the crosses out in alphabetical order along the median strip, and then to retrieve them when Anzac Day memorials were complete.

An extra two or three crosses are added each year by request of family, friends and following RSL research in to service men and women from the Ballarat district.