Tanunda Soldiers’ Memorial Hall

A League to Honour & Support

When soldiers returned from the Great War of 1914 – 1918 the camaraderie and mateship that developed during their time on the battlefields translated into an ethos of compassion and a desire to establish an organisation which would support the welfare of the “Diggers”.

In 1916 at a conference of the Returned Soldiers’ Association a recommendation to form The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA) was passed, with delegates from Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia meeting at the first national congress later that year. By March 1918 both New South Wales and Western Australia had joined and the ACT established a branch in 1927.

The organisation would change its name several times in the oncoming decades before settling on the Returned & Services League of Australia Limited in 1990.

The ideals and objectives which had characterised the initiation of the first state associations in 1916 still shape the organisation today, with aims and objectives that include friendship and dignity, preservation of history, support for the sick and wounded and support of national defence forces. The organisation’s motto is “The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance”.

Today the RSL provides hands on support and advocacy for veterans and service men and women involved in active duty.

On a community level it is the RSL who ensure events such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day are actively supported and acknowledged, and many of the local branches manage and maintain a vast collection of war memorabilia and libraries of war history. They also present the national ANZAC awards each year and provide scholarships for the children of veterans. Nationally, the organisation works with the Defence Forces and the Federal Government to ensure the rights and welfare of our service men and women are carefully observed.

A Community Hall’s New Role

The Tanunda Soldiers’ Memorial Hall was originally developed by the Tanunda Club. It was a community based organisation, which established its clubhouse in 1891 to provide locals, many of whom were German immigrants, with a place to meet and socialise.

“Moreover, as the group considered the perilous state of the times, they were aware of Tanunda’s strong community heritage. There had been, for many years, a deep interest in culture, music and social activity – but often, apart from the Institute building at the end of Murray Street, there was nowhere to go for civilised society and fellowship. How to remedy this situation was foremost in the minds of these men. Twenty of them, motivated to action, signed a petition requesting the formation of a club ‘to promote the convivial enjoyment of its members and to further the interests of the town generally’”. – The Tanunda Club: A Centenary History by Rob Linn.

In 1910 the Tanunda Club Committee decided that a new “Club Hall”, as it was then known would be established on land adjacent to the clubhouse to cater to the growing needs of the community and by 2 June 1911, the group had commissioned a large hall at a cost of £3200. On Friday 16 May 1913 the new club hall was declared officially open, with approximately 800 people enjoying the talents of the Tanunda orchestra.

Unfortunately with the onset of the Great War in 1914, the Tanunda Club suffered at the hands of rumour and innuendo as many of its members were from German immigrant families. By May 1915 the military authorities were concerned by rumours of sedition among people of German origin, with claims that secret meetings were occurring at the Tanunda clubhouse and the adjacent Club Hall.

Everyone and everything German was viewed with doubt. Despite many protests by local community members – both German and English, the Tanunda Club was closed both during and after the war, and its finances suffered considerably. In 1919 the committee felt it had no choice but to sell the hall to the highest bidder. Fortunately, another community group – the Tanunda Institute decided to sell its old hall on Murray Street and purchase the Tanunda Club’s Hall, ensuring the venue was maintained as a place for the community. Shortly thereafter politicians and communities were eager to honour the Australian Soldiers who fought and died in the Great War and thus the building was renamed the Tanunda Soldiers’ Memorial Hall.

Many who feature on the Honour Roll which hangs at the site were from local German families, and many were also members of the Tanunda Club.

Since this time the Hall has remained in the hands of the community; it was the home of the Tanunda Council for some years, housed two libraries and the hall hosted many festive occasions, with music, theatre and film all on offer at different times. In 1998 the Hall Committee agreed that the Hall become the new home of the Hill and Son Grand Organ, which had long resided at the Adelaide Town Hall and was now in need of a new venue and considerable restoration.

In 2003, a group of enthusiastic locals also sought support from the Hall Committee to transform the venue into the Barossa Regional Gallery. The Gallery still resides in the building today, with artworks from around Australia and the local region installed alongside the photographs of fallen soldiers and the Tanunda Honour Roll.

Tanunda RSL

On 15 January 1946 at a meeting conducted at the Tanunda Soldiers Memorial Hall (Tanunda Institute) State Councillor for the Barossa Mr A.J. Chapman outlined the benefits ex-servicemen would receive by forming a Sub-Branch of the Returned Sailors Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA). After a short discussion the motion to form the said branch was carried unanimously with a president and secretary elected shortly thereafter. The free use of the supper room for meetings was offered by the Tanunda Institute Committee, which was gratefully accepted by the Branch Committee.

By August the Tanunda Sub branch of RSSAILA began discussing the establishment of its own clubrooms with the possibility of obtaining one of the army huts from Sandy Creek, which were available for sale. After approval from Council was provided to position the hut at the Tanunda Recreation Park the Hut was purchased for approximately £137 ($274) and relocated on 5 October 1946. Further extensions were developed in 1958 and a new kitchen, servery and storeroom were added in 1989.



The Australian War Memorial Website –

The National Archives of Australia –

The Returned & Services League of Australia Ltd (RSL) –

Our World War I Heroes – A history booklet developed by Year 10 students from Faith Lutheran College.

The Tanunda Club – A Centenary History by Rob Linn 1991.

50th Anniversary of “The Old Hut” – an historical document about the Tanunda RSL provided by Vern Modistach.

Get updates about our next event and exhibitions

We will process the personal data you have supplied in accordance with our privacy policy.