A bronze sculpture of Winston Churchill will be on public display in Geocon’s new West Block Hotel, to acknowledge the building’s rich but largely unknown history during World War II, thanks to a loan from The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (Australia).
Acquired by Geocon from the Commonwealth in 2017, West Block, and a small bunker beside the main building, housed the Prime Minister’s correspondence department, where encrypted cables were exchanged between Australian Prime Minister John Curtin and Winston Churchill during the war.
The sculpture was presented to Geocon today at West Block, in the presence of Winston Churchill’s grandson, The Hon. Jeremy Soames, to coincide with his first visit to Canberra. The sculpture, by Ivor Roberts-Jones, is a maquette for his well-known work of Churchill which stands in Parliament Square in London and is one of a limited series cast in bronze by a foundry in the UK.
Chair of The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (Australia), Mr David Trebeck said: “In addition to the Trust awarding more than 100 fellowships a year to outstanding Australians wishing to further their knowledge overseas, we are always looking for opportunities to perpetuate Sir Winston’s memory.
“When we learnt of the intentions for the redevelopment of West Block, not only with regard to preserving the heritage of the built form, but also celebrating the interactions that went on within the building, it seemed natural to be associated with that process through lending this sculpture for an extended period. In finding an appropriate home within the new hotel, the sculpture will demonstrate a continued link between Australia and Sir Winston Churchill’s legacy.”
Mr Soames, who is Chairman of the Churchill Trust (UK) said the Trusts in the United Kingdom and Australia continue to inspire people of all ages, to travel under Churchill’s name to all corners of the world, to access and learn best practice from exceptional people with unique skills.
“There are many remarkable memorials to my grandfather around the world. But I believe the Memorial Trusts, globally recognised as the living memorials, are in many ways the most remarkable and the ones, some 53 years after his death, he might be most proud of.
“Not only bearing his name, the Trusts follow his ethos and belief that people from all walks of life benefit themselves and the communities they serve, by going overseas and experiencing relationships and researching knowledge which transform their lives, and those they serve.”
Geocon Managing Director Nick Georgalis said Winston Churchill was a titan of the 20th century, universally acknowledged as one of the greatest leaders of his age.
“More than any other world leader, Winston Churchill was central to Australian fortunes in two world wars,” Mr Georgalis said.
“History tells us the relationship between our Prime Minister during World War II, John Curtin, and Churchill blazed amid an inter-Allied row about the return of Australian forces in the Middle East to defend their homeland.
“In this West Block building, those communications were played out between the two Prime Ministers via 21-year-old women typing on cypher machines and receiving messages titled: “Most Immediate, Most Secret, Churchill to Curtin, Himself Alone”.
“Those wonderful stories are part of the heritage of this place and in our development of West Block we are delighted to be preserving and celebrating both the physical form of the building and the history that surrounds it.
“We are sincerely grateful to The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for assisting us in this endeavour and we look forward to showcasing the sculpture when the hotel opens,” Mr Georgalis said.
West Block will be a luxury hotel operated by Geocon’s Abode Group, which currently operates five properties in Canberra and Murrumbateman, and has new hotels being developed in Kingston, Braddon, Belconnen and Garema Place.
“We are excited to develop a hotel which respects the heritage elements of the building, and complements the existing architectural history and integrity,” said Abode General Manager Rien Donkin.
“We are looking forward to delivering an unprecedented luxury accommodation offering to Canberra, iconic in both location and design.
“West Block provides a unique opportunity for us to build a new hotel which harmonises both traditional and contemporary design elements. For us, this hotel development will breathe new life into an historic building, offering Canberrans and visitors to our city a genuine luxury stay experience.”
Video footage of West Block is available at:
Images are available from:
Geocon, Rohan Thomson, 0408 533 929
Geocon, Jane Seaborn 0414 829 282
Churchill Trust, Julia Quantrill 0413 522 792