The restoration works on the Bairnsdale Cenotaph are well underway. The project includes replacement of much of the sandstone masonry and other preservation works to the almost 100-year-old monument.
Historic records indicated that a copper casket containing a time capsule had been inserted into the base of the monument at the time of construction.
In consultation with the RSL, it was determined to attempt to extract the casket during the current restoration works, however following an unsuccessful attempt on 2 November, a decision has been made to leave the time capsule in place.
East Gippsland Shire Council’s General Manager Assets and Environment Fiona Weigall said what was initially known about the location of the casket proved to be incorrect.
“Going into the removal of the casket, we understood that based on research it had been placed in a cavity when the foundation stone was laid. It was an expectation that the foundation stone would only be relatively slim, covering a cavity which held the casket. What we understood turned out to not be what we found,” Ms Weigall said.
An exercise to determine the location of the time capsule was undertaken. Two base stones were removed to assess the depth of the foundation stone understood to be capping the void for the time capsule. Further investigation revealed a foundation stone greater than 200mm thick and the copper casket located the base of the structure fully encased in concrete.
“It was at this point that we discovered that the casket was below the foundation stone and fully encased in concrete, not in a cavity like we previously thought,” Ms Weigall said.
Discussions were had between Council, the RSL and heritage experts and determined not to carry on further as the casket was fully encased in concrete. It was deemed the task of extracting the casket would create a risk of damage to the foundation stone and casket.
“Being encased in concrete rather than a cavity would also suggest that there was never any intent for the casket to be retrieved. To respect that intent, it is our responsibility to leave the casket in its place,” Ms Weigall said.
Based on historic records, it is understood that the casket contains a parchment listing the names of the fallen, a service badge, copies of the local and metropolitan newspapers and one of each of the coins of the realm.
Conservation works continue on the cenotaph with the project on track for completion by December.