From The Road to Yesterday (1964)

In his story Fathers and Sons, the novelist Frank Dalby Davison visits the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park early in World War II:

I had stood among the crowd gathered to watch the first of the Second World War troops march through the streets of Sydney on their way to embarkation. The watching people had been strangely silent – very different from the romantic hordes who had roared their farewells to the men of an earlier generation.

A couple of days later, moved by the trend of my thoughts, I strolled across Hyde Park to the Shrine of Remembrance, largely, I think, to refresh my memory of Raynor [sic] Hoff’s sculpture. Entering by the small door on the ground level I stood near the bottom of the Well of Contemplation, looking at the bronze figures of the three grieving women, standing back to back, with bowed heads, bearing on their shoulders a shield on which lay a figure; while above them, from the high dome of the shrine, there looked down, through a grey and amber twilight, a myriad small golden stars – sixty thousand dead.*

I went up the short flight of steps to the low gallery surrounding the well to get another view – as the artist had clearly intended – of the figure supported by the women, and found myself looking down on Young Manhood sacrificed on the Sword. While I was looking, my thoughts ranging back to other years and to lads just like me with whom I had touched shoulders, I noticed that a woman had come up beside me, to the balustrade, a middle-aged woman. She didn’t stay long. A glance, a gasp, an explanation, “Shocking!” and she fairly scurried away.

For a moment I was at a loss, then I recalled that the figure was quite undraped, sans fig-leaf; just a naked young man, stretched upon a shield, face up. He was very young, rather ribby as lads often are, his flesh, drained of life, falling slack from his frame, his lean arms outstretched along the sword, his hands drooping. He could excite only pity; a thought that he should be not lying there but riding some sunny track with his girl; the father of infant children, perhaps; taking a running header into the surf. Even the scrawniness of death had not effaced his beauty, and the artist, scorning to profane nature, had moulded him as she had made him.


"Sacrifice" by Rayner Hoff. (City of Sydney Archives)

“Sacrifice” by Rayner Hoff. (City of Sydney Archives)

Wondering whether prudery would have scurried off so hurriedly had I not been there, I went out by the way she had gone, down the steps of the main entrance, facing the Pool of Reflection, and wandered around the outside of the building, looking first at the bronze bas-reliefs of the strenuous pageant of war; and then, standing on the grass at a little distance, at the seated stone figure crowning the buttresses. Something about those seated figures, the attitude and facial expression – something beyond the intention of the sculptor, it seemed reasonable to imagine – troubled me. Nature repeats her patterns in unexpected ways, and I could feel a second pattern behind the primary and obvious one.

It was a while before I could identify it. Then I knew. For a moment recognition was general; then it began to particularize. An association of ideas, stirred by the figure of the young man on the sword, as well as by the heroic effigies in stone, carried me back to a winter morning late in 1915, when I had retired along a wet and narrow sap, running from a front-line trench in Flanders, to that seat of reflective and soldierly calm, the latrine. Safe for a little while from fatigue corporals, an unconscious model of martial endurance, I had seated myself in exactly the attitude of the figures on the buttresses.

Rayner Hoff's statue of a soldier sitting on the unfinished ANZAC War Memorial in Hyde Park, Sydney, 9 February 1933. (National Library of Australia, Fairfax archive of glass plate negatives)

Rayner Hoff’s statue of a soldier sitting on the unfinished ANZAC War Memorial in Hyde Park, Sydney, 9 February 1933. (National Library of Australia, Fairfax archive of glass plate negatives)

–Frank Dalby Davison, Australian, 1893-1970

* In fact there are 120,000 stars, representing all who enlisted from NSW.

From The Dinkum Pommie (1963)

British-born painter Bernard Hesling arrived in Australia in the 1920s. In his memoir he describes his first sight of Bea (or Bee) Miles:

Nearing Macquarie Street a young faun-like creature, female (it could have been a boy except for the skirt), raced in front of us and, crossing the pavement, ran onto the road into the path of a slowly moving Bentley.

‘She’s a bit of all right,’ said Tom.

She was indeed, for instead of vanishing with a scream beneath the car, she ran with it and, getting a toehold in the Bentley’s complicated exhaust system, vaulted nimbly into the open tonneau.

‘D’you see that! … Does she know him? … Whoever is she?’ I asked, as the great car, pausing a moment from shock, roared into the twilight with the full-throated Bom! Bom! Bom! peculiar to blown Bentleys.

‘That’s Bea Miles,’ said Tom. ‘Everyone knows Bea.’

Today everyone in Sydney knows Bea, just as everyone did thirty years ago, but she looks a bit different, as we all do. Now she’s on the big side, gets around in a leather jacket, and is not so good at leaping on fast cars (although she still tries it). But then! Ah! then she was a faun.

‘Where does she live? How do I get onto her?’ I paused: was probably even blushing. She was a piece of all right, certainly, but to me she was a symbol. There couldn’t be only one Bea Miles – that was nonsense. Somewhere in this dreamy town there must be hundreds of such ‘look alive’ types, the sort I’d occasionally known in London.

Tom didn’t know where Bea lived.

‘Her father, old J.B. Miles, is president of the Rationalist Association, but he’d be the last person to know. Anyway, I couldn’t ask him. She’s…well, different, you know: lives any old place. You’ll run into her again, don’t worry!’

I did run into her and it was through Tom (by the luck that occurs constantly in Sydney); she boarded his Chev in George Street some weeks later and he, once over the shock, had the sense to scribble her address for me, as I made a point of seeing him on Sundays.

–Bernard Hesling, English, 1905-1987

Bea Miles 1

Bea Miles c. 1930s. (Randwick City Library)


Bea Miles 2

Bea Miles in her later years. (Randwick City Library)