On 2 May 1919 a memorial to the seven soldiers from local families who lost their lives in the Great War was unveiled by the residents of Pimpama and Ormeau. The monument was created by Andrew Petrie and transported from the Ormeau railway station on a horse drawn wagon.
At the unveiling of the monument Mr J. G. Appel told the gathering to “…see that the boys returning received the assistance that was their due. This was not a matter of politics, but a sacred duty.”
The digger remained in place watching over the increasingly busy Pacific Highway between Brisbane and the South Coast.
In 1947, it was reported that the head of the digger statue was missing and a dramatic photograph appeared in The Courier Mail. One report claimed it was an act of vandalism while another report indicated that the head fell off as a result of heavy rain. Thankfully it was found lying nearby and was eventually re-positioned.
For many years the digger remained in place beside the highway and was a landmark that children would salute as they passed. Seventy years after his arrival at Pimpama, the original sculptor’s great-grandson John Petrie, was responsible for gently moving the monumental a short distance to its new home, between the Pimpama Uniting Church and the cemetery, to make way for an overpass on the Pacific Highway.
By the 1990s the digger statue had deteriorated. Part of his nose was missing, his hat was incomplete and his arms were cracked. In February 1995 the memorial was carefully lifted by crane and driven to Toowoomba where Stephen Traynor of R.C. Ziegler Monumentals created a replica taking three weeks to complete the work. The replica was in place at Pimpama and dedicated on Anzac Day 1995.
The fragile original digger was transported from Toowoomba to the Miles Historical Village and Museum where he is protected by a glass cabinet and standing under a little roof. The original digger remains respected by visitors, many of whom remember him standing for decades by the highway on the Gold Coast.
Sources of information and further reading
- “Solider’s Memorial.” The Brisbane Courier, 6 May 1919, p. 4.
- “Rain plays the Vandal.” The Courier-Mail, 3 Feb 1947, p. 3.
- “Repairs to Memorial.” The Courier-Mail, 4 Feb 1947, p. 3.
- “Old soldiers never die.” The Chronicle, 18 Mar 1995.