NEWCASTLE's Anzac Memorial Walkway is such a spectacular city icon that it's taken for granted these days.
But the popular clifftop walk bridge might never have happened, according to local author Roland H. Millbank.
He reminds us today of this inconvenient fact in his timely and informative new book outlining the history of the visually stunning and innovative project.
Titled Nothing in Newcastle Stands Still, the book deftly outlines the trials and tribulations from 2010 to 2015 to bring the ambitious idea to fruition.
Although a slim volume (64 pages), it packs a punch in recounting how many obstacles were overcome and how many key, dedicated people were involved in creating the picturesque 450-metre walkway linking Bar Beach with Strzelecki Lookout near the top of King Edward Park.
The popular walkway became such a natural part of the cityscape in a relatively short time that it's hard to believe that, without the energy, drive and unswerving belief of certain individuals, it might have been doomed to the dustbin.
The ultimate success of the scheme came down eventually to two factors; commitment to a concept and raising enough money.
So, in the wake of the recent Remembrance Day commemorations, let's look into some details of this grand undertaking through writer Millbank's eyes.
Few might realise, for example, that Memorial Drive (over which the walkway bridge stands) was a crucial element of this story. The sweeping road was so named decades ago in honour of the large number of Newcastle and Hunter men and women who served in the so-called Great War of 1914 to 1918.
Barney Collins, principal architect of EJE Architects, realised the site's significance in the early days as he originally worked pro bono on the concept of a relevant clifftop walk bridge to honour the Anzac spirit.
Collins later boldly executed a subtle, highly symbolic bridge design.
In the architect's words: "The spiralling curve of stainless steel tubing running the length of the walkway has been shaped to evoke the double helix of DNA being used, a century on, to identify battlefield remains.
"The Y-shape of the main stanchions (also) suggest the lingering question asked after every war: Why?"
Opened just five years ago, on April 24, 2015, Newcastle's Memorial Walkway celebrates both the centenary of the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli and the opening of BHP's Newcastle steelworks.
The beach landing in distant Turkey in 1915 marked the genesis of the Anzac legend.
As author Millbank writes: "The term Anzac has enormous significance in the Australian psyche . . . commemorated each year since as Anzac Day to all Australians".
He reminds us that the great sacrifices of war are physically represented in the walkway, if you look close enough.
Besides the impressive metal soldier silhouettes lining the walkway, about 3859 family names of almost 11,000 known Hunter men and women who served during WWI are inscribed along the route. This imaginative touch was provided with the help of Hunter military historian David Dial.
Most credit, however, belongs to the tenacious, far-sighted Neil Slater, well known Newcastle identity and restaurateur, whose original vision made a dream become a reality.
He was helped by various people, including former Newcastle Liberal MP Tim Owen, a former RAAF air commodore, who believed the walkway would provide a very practical celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli.
Millbank writes of Owen then securing $3 million in sponsorship from BHP Billiton to commemorate the opening of Newcastle Steelworks.
Nowhere in the world is there a structure like it.Author Roland H. Millbank
"Newcastle City Council reluctantly contributed the final $1.5 million to meet the total $4.5 million cost of the project," Millbank writes.
"It was a close call, with NCC only voting the funds on the casting vote of the then lord mayor, Jeff McCloy."
English-born Millbank believes the Anzac Memorial Walkway is unique.
"Nowhere in the world is there a structure like it," he says.
"Once I started gathering information (for his book) it became apparent that not only was this project immensely interesting, but it was almost totally a 'local' enterprise - from the vision, concept and design to 17 major companies and others.
"What I now see, as a huge bonus, is an open-air temple, where anyone can go and admire an incredible view and also pay their respects to the men and women who have given so much that we could be free," Millbank says.
The author says the idea of telling the Anzac Memorial Walkway story emerged from a regular Saturday morning breakfast ritual with fellow walkers.
"There an eclectic group with an enormous range of interests, (but) standing head and shoulders above all else is a strong belief in Newcastle," Millbank says.
For the technically minded, the actual bridge is 160 metres long (of the 450 metre overall walkway length) requiring 64 tonnes of steel in eight 20-metre single spans.
The seven Y-shaped precast concrete pylons reach nine metres above the ground.
Nothing in Newcastle Stands Still is published by Echo Books, or through the author R.H. Millbank, PO Box 3089, Merewether, NSW, 2291, for $25 plus $5 postage.
LEGENDARY NAVAL CAT
Now, for something different. It's an enthralling story by best-selling author Roland Perry that could have been a cat-astrophic tale, but wasn't.
Called Red Lead, it's a cracking yarn about a legendary Aussie naval cat surviving the sinking of the cruiser HMAS Perth by Japanese forces off Java in WWII.
Of the 681 men aboard, only 328 survived the 1942 sinking and made it to shore. With them was the ship's beloved cat 'Red Lead'.
But, as Perry vividly relates, surviving shellfire, torpedoes and the fierce currents of Sunda Strait was only the start of a terrible ordeal over the next three and half years.
Protected by a small group of sailors, the lucky feline was kept alive as a mascot, companion and serial killer (of rats) in hellholes from Java to Changi Prison and then on the horrific Thai-Burma Railway.
Perry has known about this cat saga for 65 years and has now put pen to paper to do justice to the extraordinary tale.
For Red Lead has never been forgotten. Her red paw prints have been painted on a companionway on the third and current HMAS Perth.
There's also a painting of the cat on the ship's bridge and the wardroom door has a cat flap to reinforce the memory of this remarkable feline.
Enjoyable and fast-paced.