Gordonvale RSL and the US Army: A Historical Link to World War 2

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Gordonvale Returned and Services League 

Gordonvale RSL is one of the 20 sub-branches of the Far Northern District of the Returned and Services League Queensland. Since 1916, the district, together with its sub-branches, focuses mainly on providing assistance and support to the veteran community

The branch offers services including pensions and advocacy, emergency financial assistance, and welfare assistance for our veterans. The district meets every third Sunday of the month to discuss matters on how they can enhance their services for our heroes.

The branch, almost every morning and especially on Saturday, come together and volunteer for community service. They have also saved important dates like 24 April, the Kapyong day. This day is reserved to remember the brave Australian forces who fought with other countries from the United Nations to defend Kapyong from the invading forces of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army.

The ANZAC day on 25 April is celebrated to remember the lives that were sacrificed in the Gallipoli Campaign and the camaraderie that was shared between the Australian and New Zealand forces against the Ottoman Empire. The ceremony starts at dawn, the time of the original landing of the soldiers at Gallipoli and later in the day, marches will be done throughout major cities by ex-servicemen and women. 

On 30 May, the branch will celebrate the bravery of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have served in every war since the Boer War. Vietnam Veterans Day is also remembered every 18 August on the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in 1966. The day is reserved to remember the almost 60,000 Australian lives that were lost during the Vietnam War. To honour those who have died in the war, a State Government reception is held annually.

Remembrance Day is also one of the important dates for the branch. It marks the halt of the First World War and is celebrated to remember the armed forces who died in the line of duty. For a minute at 11 am on 11 November, the country sits quietly to honour the memory and sacrifices of Australia’s fallen heroes. At the same time, a wreath-laying ceremony is being done at the Cenotaph Martin Palace.

The struggle for the repairs of the RSL building started in 1990 and it is still on today, the building that they call home is in need of extensive repairs and maintenance. They are currently making efforts to ask for assistance from each member’s families and friends and call for their benevolent hearts to lend a helping hand for their efforts to save their home.

503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment    

Through the demands of the Second World War, the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, which is an airborne infantry regiment of the US Army, was engendered at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA on 24 February 1942. Soon they have found their way to Townsville, in North Queensland in Australia on 1 December 1942. Then in Cairns, north of Townsville 2 December 1942. Finally, they transferred to their Camp at Gordonvale. 

They are the pioneering Airborne Regiment from the United States to land in Southwest Pacific during WWII. They have undergone jump-master training on White Field, at Gordonvale. After that, they departed to Port Moresby in New Guinea. Their mission then was to capture the airfield at Markham River at Nadzab. Approximately 1,700 paratroopers of the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment were sent for the mission. 

Soon after the airborne infantry regiment of the US Army were transferred back to Australia, this time in Brisbane, on 25 January 1944, they found a new practice spot for jumping in the golf courses of Brisbane. Their missions then included, a combat jump on the island of Noemfoor in Geelvink Bay in 1944, they served as a tactical reserve during the occupation of Leyte in October 1944 and then took part in an amphibious invasion for the Mindoro Island.

In February 1945 the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment participated in an air assault on Corregidor and it was in the brazen strike that they earned the name “The Rock Regiment”. The unit impacted the tides of battle that led to the surrender of the Japanese on Negros Island.

The War Department estimated that around 10,000 Japanese forces were killed during the operations of the 503rd PIR. On 5 November 1945, the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment came to an end. Today, it is known as the 503rd Infantry Regiment which is now joined by the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment.

The Lyric Theatre

Before it was known as the RSL Memorial Hall, it was then the Lyric Theatre that was owned and operated by the well-known English family of Malanda. It was one of the three picture Theatres in Gordonvale during the 1930s.

 

Today it stands as the home of the Returned and Services League of Gordonvale, a sub-branch of RSL Queensland. 

The historical significance of the hall began with the occupation of the American forces. It was used as a training ground as well as a storage facility by the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment. 

After the end of the war, the RSL Gordonvale purchased the building and up to this date occupies the space for their meetings and events. Now they continue to undergo efforts in restoring the historic establishment that now they call home.

Their goal is to save the place from demolition so they continue to ask help from the friends and families of their members. The RSL Gordonvale Memorial Hall is not only important for the club, it is a historical place that needs to be preserved. Its importance echoes through the local community. It is a place of historical significance and Gordonvale, even Australia must take part in rebuilding this old piece of remembrance of the war.

In an effort to help Gordonvale RSL rebuild the place they call their home, Defence Sporting Apparel is actively partnering with the sub-branch as they raise funds for this project. Through our exclusively designed patriotic and military clothing that show a deep sense of pride for all the members of the Defence Force, Defence Sporting Apparel is hoping to raise funds for the Gordonvale RSL.

Defence Sporting Apparel is looking forward to giving back to more Defence Force communities as we instil a deep sense of pride to our global customers.

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