As members return to the clubhouse after lockdown, they might notice that the place of honour above the BSBLSC War Memorials stands vacant in the Hall of Champions. Earlier this year a generous grant for $10,000 through the Veterans Affairs ‘Saluting Their Service Program’ was awarded to enable us to commission vital conservation work to stabilize the flag, and to create a simulacra for display.
The flag is a much loved and precious item in the Club’s archival collection. The fragile silk and wool march past flag covered in 88 military patches has stood sentinel in the hall since 1945. To many it might seem just a relic of times gone by, however it is an item of significance both in its relevance to the Club and as a unique military artifact.
The flag was carried by Lieutenant Colonel Les ‘Sambo’ Sampson of the ⅔ Anti-Tank Division on his tour of duty during World War II. The flag traveled to Palestine, Egypt, was part of the Western Desert Campaign; witnessing the Siege of Tobruk and El Alamein. After that the flag traveled to the Pacific theatres of war in New Guinea, The Philippines, The Solomon Islands and Borneo.
Sambo carried the standard for Bondi in March Past competitions, waved it wildly at Goldstein Cup clashes and took it with him overseas as a reminder of his beloved surf club. Americans in General Macarthur’s Headquarters in the Philippines thought the newly arrived Aussie officer had gone out of his mind when he went to great pains to prominently display the old standard. That was until Sambo told them the story of the flag, and then the Marines were glad to add their colour patch to the insignia of the many Australian units which already adorned it.
The flag is currently in the capable hands of a professional conservator, Kate Papirnaik, with work expected to take a year to complete. It might seem like a simple process, however this is a big project with multiple stages of development:
– Cleaning and stabilisation of the flag will be undertaken by the conservator – each pigment of colour in the flag will be tested individually prior to any cleaning work commences.
– PhD Conservation students from the University of Wollongong and Macquarie Universities will be undertaking internships writing the significance report and completing historical research.
– To create the simulacra, members of the Australian Quilters Guild will recreate the unit patches in their exact colour and materials- stains and all!
– A Museum grade storage box will also be built to hold the flag.
All these processes will ensure that the Grand Old Flag is preserved for generations of Clubbies to come.