ANZAC House and Cairns War Memorial

Cairns RSL Club


115 The Esplanade, Cairns 4870

The brass nameplate of the World War II corvette, HMAS Cairns, now takes pride of place in the bar of the Cairns RSL Club. The club has had a long association with care and welfare of north Queensland’s ex-service men and women. Today the club building occupies a prime site on the city’s busy Esplanade overlooking Trinity Bay and the Cairns War Memorial. The memorial is linked to the front entrance of the RSL Club by a paved court.


Tower Villa, a private house on the Esplanade, was purchased in 1916 by the Cairns Welcome Home Committee as a rest home for troops returning from 'The Great War'. The Cairns sub-branch of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia (RSL) was formed locally two years later. The original house was moved to the rear of the block in 1937, and the current building erected. As Anzac House the RSL Club was popular with Australian servicemen as a source of beer rations during World War II. After the war it continued to operate as a licensed club until 1963 when fire destroyed all but the front façade of the building. The premises was completely rebuilt behind the original façade and reopened two years later. Since then the Cairns RSL Club has been rebuilt and refurbished on several occasions but the 1937 façade has remained largely intact.

In keeping with an Australia-wide movement, the Cairns War Memorial which now stands on the Esplanade facing the RSL Club, was erected as an expression of nationalism to commemorate those who served in World War I. Typically it depicts a digger, but the memorial is unusual in that the statue surmounts a clock tower. Its design, while ensuring that the memorial was of substantial proportions and a focus of public attention, also met a long-felt need for a public clock in Cairns. The memorial was unveiled on the corner of Abbot and Shield Street on Anzac Day in 1926. The marble honour rolls record 142 names of local men and women who served in World War I. In 1972 the memorial was relocated to the Esplanade in front of the RSL Hall. The clock faces are now painted replicas, permanently showing 4.28 a.m.-the time at which the Anzac landing at Gallipoli began on 25 April 1915.


Pearce, Howard (contributing author).
Vera Bradley. I Didn’t Know That: Cairns and districts Tully to Cape York, 1939–1946, Service personnel and civilians, Boolarong Press, Brisbane, 1995.

Howard Pearce (Ed.). Heritage Trails of the Tropical North: A heritage tour guide to far north Queensland, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2001.

Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.

Personal communication: Cairns RSL Club.