The Coburg RSL Sub Branch celebrated its centenary on 1 December 2018. Over that 100 years our RSL has had an interesting history.
The Coburg Sub Branch of the Returned and Services League was first formed on 1st December 1918 when it was granted its charter from the Returned Sailors and Solider Imperial League of Australia (which is now known as the RSL). In December 1918 a group of returned service personnel met at the Drill Hall in Reynard Street to establish a returned soldiers association in Coburg. The meeting was presided over by Herbert Rouvray, a returned serviceman who had served with the 6th Battalion, AIF. Rouvray was a well-known personality around Coburg who began the Coburg Courier newspaper and worked as a government auditor. He was the first of 44 Presidents of the branch, serving in 1918 and 1919.
In 1919 the Sub Branch had over 700 veterans as members and met in premises on the north west corner of Munro Street and Sydney Road Coburg - which is now the Trivelli cake shop. In 1920, negotiations with the Coburg council resulted in an agreement that the proposed new town hall contain a memorial hall and an ex-servicemen’s clubrooms. To facilitate this the council took out a loan of £20,000 pounds and the works commenced.
In about 1924 the Sub Branch moved to that new home at the Town hall with its special Soldiers' Room which became known as “the hole in the wall”– where we just marched from earlier today. It was not until after the end of World War Two that the idea of having a separate memorial hall for the sub branch was proposed.
In 1946 the Mayor of Coburg Cr A.R. Bateman launched a fund-raising 'Queen' Carnival in the hope that they could raise £25,000 by the following Anzac Day. By the early 1950’s the Sub Branch had enough funds to buy and build their own clubrooms at 4 Hunt Street with labour provided by the members.
The RSL moved into their new building officially in late 1956. And when they did, the building bore no resemblance to the initial designs proposed in 1946 as the clubrooms were renovated in a series of works and now included the area on which we stand acquired in early 1957 to form one big block. After that time over 8 years or so to 1964 the premise was extended, giving the appearance we see today with the grassed frontage set back from Sydney Road.
Little has changed since then save for the addition of a cenotaph and flag poles in 2004. The cenotaph was from the Brunswick Sub Branch on Brunswick Road and moved here when that sub-branch closed in 2002.
In October 2017 the Sub Branch became an incorporated entity to be officially known as the “Coburg RSL Sub Branch Incorporated”. From an operating perspective the Coburg RSL has Sub Branch has endured many things and many changes to reach its centenary.
To still be operating after more than 100 years is a great achievement.
The Coburg RSL is Melbourne's oldest continually operating sub-branch.