• History and Heritage

    Centennial Parklands’ not so secret military history


Centennial Parklands has a long and proud connection with the Australian military stretching back over 100 years. This year we will play our part in supporting the national commemoration of the Anzac Centenary.

Between 2014 and 2018 Australia will commemorate the Anzac Centenary, marking 100 years since our nation’s involvement in the First World War. The Anzac Centenary is a milestone of special significance to all Australians. The First World War helped define us as people and as a nation.

During the Anzac Centenary we will remember not only the original ANZACs who served at Gallipoli and the Western Front, but commemorate more than a century of service by Australian servicemen and women.


A long association

Centennial Parklands’ long association with the military extends much further than just legacy names such as “Parade Grounds” or providing a training space for soldiers based at the nearby Victoria Barracks on Oxford Street.

One of the earliest mass military parades held in Centennial Park was the 1908 visit of the American Great White Fleet.

A parade to welcome the American Great White Fleet was held in Centennial Park in 1908

A parade to welcome the American Great White Fleet was held in Centennial Park in 1908


The Great White Fleet was the popular nickname for the United States Navy battle fleet that completed a circumnavigation of the globe from December 16, 1907 to February 22, 1909. Over half a million Sydneysiders turned out to welcome the fleet (this crowd number is even more staggering when you consider the population of Sydney was only 600,000 at the time!).

Many and various parades and training exercises were conducted over the years in the Parklands, which also included parades to celebrate national milestones – such as the 150,000 people who came to celebrate the sesquicentenary celebrations (150 years of European settlement in Australia) on 31 January 1938 which included a naval and military review.

Who doesn't love a good sesquicentenary?

Who doesn’t love a good sesquicentenary?


First World War connections

A role Centennial Parklands has also played at various times was as military encampment and training grounds. While military presence across the Parklands is widely reported in the lead up to, and during the First and Second World Wars, this year we will host a centenary celebration of a military unit that was formed in Queens Park.

The 5th Field Ambulance

5th Field Ambulance was first raised (and with the formation of A and B sections) at Liverpool in Sydney’s west on 15 March 1915, under the command of Lt.Col. R.E.Roth, D.S.O. V.D.

The Unit then moved to Queens Park where all branches of training was carried out, prior to leaving for duty in World War One. On 12 May 1915 they left arriving in Anzac Cove before daylight, on 22 August 1915.

The Unit has had a long and illustrious history of military service which you can read in detail here.

In 2015 the Unit will meet and commemorate their long association with Queens Park at a private event, supported by the Australian Army Marching Band.

We welcome all current and serving members to the Parklands, and recognise their dedication over many years of service.

Not all the military in Centennial Parklands trained with guns - here is the Army's History Section training with cameras in 1945!

Not all the military in Centennial Parklands trained with guns – here is the Army’s History Section training with cameras in 1945!


Find out more

You can find out more about the Anzac Centenary through the fantastic Anzac Portal or through the ABC’s Australia Remembers WW1 website.

If you love reading about the history of Centennial Parklands, why not buy Centennial Park – A History, or download our free Centennial Park History Walk App.


Download our History Walk app


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