This Remembrance Day, the Joint Ipswich Region ANZAC Centenary Committee will honour a special group of local ladies who made a valuable contribution to WWI. The Ipswich Train Tea Society was a caring and committed crew of women who demonstrated their appreciation to soldiers when they returned from the Western Front.
At all hours of the day, the dedicated ladies met trains travelling through Ipswich to nourish Diggers with tea and refreshments. At the time, the rail route from Sydney to Brisbane passed through Wallangarra, Warwick, Toowoomba and Ipswich. When the train passed, many Ipswich residents also gathered to acknowledge the sacrifice of Australian servicemen.
On July 1919, as part of Ipswich’s peace celebrations, 187 returned soldiers were entertained at the Town Hall, where Returned Sailor’s & Soldier’s Imperial League (RSSILA) member Mr Wilson expressed gratitude for the “kindnesses shown by the Tea Ladies to the returnees”.
RSSILA member Mr Barbat also noted that “the returned soldiers could never do enough in recognition of the wonderful and noble work the Tea Ladies had done.
Aside from their valuable wartime contribution, the ladies were also the driving force behind establishing the Soldiers Memorial Hall as a place for returning soldiers to meet and remember.
Reaching the edge of the eastern most airstrip on August 28, the intensity of Japanese operations fell away as they made preparations for their attack, which included landing 800 reinforcements. In the early hours of August 31, they charged the defences manned by the 25th and 61st Australian Battalions and the United States’ 43rd Engineer Regiment and 709th Anti-Aircraft Battery.
Their patriotic work helped raise funds to build the hall, assisted by Ipswich City Council and the local community. In September 1919, there were 24 members of the society, however, numbers fluctuated and at one stage decreased to six as the ladies married (often to returned soldiers). The inspiring group organised functions to raise funds to furnish the hall and install a magnificent stained glass window. The memorial window was unveiled on November 30, 1922 by Governor Sir Walter Nathan and at the time was claimed to be the “finest example of stained glass produced in Australasia”.
The commemorative service and re-enactment in honour of the Ipswich Train Tea Society begins at 11:45am at the Ipswich Workshops Rail Museum and includes choir performances, speakers, tea and refreshments.
The inspiring group of ladies who made up the Ipswich Train Tea Society installed a stained glass window in the Soldiers Memorial Hall on November 30, 1922 “in grateful memory of the men who gave their lives to keep our Empire, liberty and homes inviolate”. The window depicts St Michael as the Angel of Victory, with outspread wings embracing four soldier figures representing the 9th, 15th, and 26th Battalions and the 5th Light Horse.