Celebrations, council, Marrickville

Winged Victory – Missing in Action

Image Source: War Memorials NSW

For the second time since it was erected, the Winged Victory Soldier’s Memorial outside the Marrickville Town Hall has gone.

Locals know it has been MIA for several years now, but the most popular question asked of us at the Marrickville Festival is “When will it return?”.

The simple answer is, who can be sure? She went missing for over 26 years only to turn up in a council works depot in Petersham.

Picture taken by Gilbert Doble 1919
Image Source: Australian War Memorial

Since it was reinstated in 1988 as part of the Bicentennial Celebrations we can only guess the council have special plans for 2015 to coincide with the 100 years commemorating of the ANZAC campaign. Let’s hope they’re not waiting for 2019 to celebrate the Winged Victory’s 100th birthday!!

The reality is the Winged Victory as we know her is sadly gone. She’s half the woman we know and may never be the same again.

The Winged Victory is the angel on top of the granite column. Designed and erected by Gilbert Dobel in 1919, she stands over 4 metres tall and symbolises victory by holding a laurel wreath in her right hand and an upraised sword in her left.

Image  Source: War Memorials NSW
Image Source: War Memorials NSW

The memorial was dedicated on 24 May, 1919 to the 457 Marrickville soldiers who died during the First World War. They die that we might live – Hail and Farewell! All Honour give to those and nobly striving nobly fell that we might live.

The Sydney Morning Herald , Monday 26 May 1919, page 9

15, 000 people watched the unveiling of the Winged Victory and a parade of returned soldiers and boy scouts welcomed her to Marrickville.

Opening Ceremony 1922
Image Source: Marrickville Council

She stood grand and regal, her height on top of the 8 metre column seen from many places around the suburb until 1962 when she was removed for safety reasons. The main issue for the Winged Victory is that it is a brass sculpture set upon a granite plinth. The metal around the base was fatiguing and threatening to topple below.

For some reason the upgrades were not carried out and through lack of funds or lack of care, she became forgotten amongst scraps of wood and metal until just before1988 when, on the strong advice of the Marrickville Heritage Society (after it was formed in 1984) she was restored and re-erected as part of the Bicentennial project.

During the restoration the bottom half of the Winged Victory was replaced with a replica cast. An interesting series of photographs following the restoration and resurrection can be found here.

These photos show that the bottom half was missing when found in the Petersham work sheds.

Image Source: Marrickville Image Library
Image Source: Marrickville Image Library
Image Source: Marrickville Image Library

The Winged Victory lost her own battle though. The statue was taken down again in April 2009 due to public safety concerns. Large cracks appeared in the statue and concerns about its stability and the potential for injury to members of the public were the reasons cited.

Wax clay sculpture in progress in Kolozsy Sculptor
studio. Missing lower part recreated in wax clay.
Image Source: Kolozsy Sculptor

The council called for tenders to repair the statue but this has proved to be harder than imagined. Scans of the metal show that restoration will compromise what is left of the original sculpture and there will be need for more repairs in the future. Subsequently, it is cheaper for the council to commission a lighter replica of the Winged Victory to replace the original.

Marrickville Heritage Society has a vested interest in the return on the Winged Victory, after all, it is our logo and the council has acknowledged her importance to us. Our latest  members’ newsletter talks about the current fate of the Winged Victory.

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this post is aimed to give a historic recount of what has happened to the Winged Victory over time. We understand that Council has had a number of closed door meetings about the statue. It is not the post author’s intention to have an opinion on what may or may not be happening in council meetings. The following references show where the sources of information were collected for this post.


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