History of the RSL

Following the aftermath of World War I, wounded soldiers began returning home to find there was limited Government support available to them.

Diggers felt that a united voice was needed to bring about change for returned servicemen and women. The RSL was formed – an independent, apolitical organisation run by its members, for its members and the ex-service community. The RSL proceeded to represent the interests of returned servicemen and women, lobbying the Government and providing welfare services.

Originally known as the Returned Sailors & Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA), the name was changed to the Returned Soldiers and Airman’s Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA) in 1940. In 1965, the name was then changed to the Returned & Services League of Australia (RSLA). Finally, in 1990, the name was changed to the Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL).


RSL Badge

Visit Serving Australia website to view the Returned & Services League of Australia's Virtual Museum for more history. Here.

Badge meaning

The badge worn by all members of the Returned & Services League of Australia, is a symbol of readiness at all times to render service to Queen and country and to former comrades. It is a time-honoured emblem - one that has been worn with a deep sense of pride by the most revered in our land and one that glorifies the coats of all privileged to wear it.

No wealth or influence can purchase the badge which may be worn only by those who have served their country.

The badge is in the form of a shield and the shield is a protection to the wearer.

In the badge the red represents the blood ties of war that exist between comrades. White stands for the purity of the motives in joining the league - to render service without thought of personal gain or ambition. The blue indicates a willingness to render that service to a comrade anywhere under the blue sky - wherever he may be.

The wattle is symbolic of Australia. The leek, rose, thistle and shamrock are symbolic of, and represent the link with Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland respectively.

Depicted in the centre of the badge, and encircled by the name of the organisation, are a sailor, soldier, airman and servicewoman marching together with their arms linked in friendship. This is to show that within the circle of the League, all Services and all ranks march together in unity and comradeship.

History of the Bundaberg RSL Sub Branch

The Returned Sailors Soldiers Imperial League – Charter of Membership was presented to the Bundaberg Sub-Branch on 1st September, 1919 following WWI. Since that time, the Bundaberg RSL has reinvented itself many times, but its main goal, the health and welfare of its members, remains constant, and its integration into the community at large has grown significantly.

Following WWI, Australian men and women had returned home from unspeakable horrors and they needed each other’s support. They did not call it trauma back then, but the effect was the same.

Initially, the Sub-Branch met in Bourbong Street premises owned by one of the members. In 1936, they moved their meeting place to the RSL Baths on Quay Street.

In 1938, the first building was constructed next to the Baths on Quay Street, its present location next to the Burnett River.

In 1963, the first floor of the current building was constructed.

The RSL Salute

The Veterans Salute to their “Fallen Comrades” originated in London on Armistice Day in 1920, during the ceremony to unveil and dedicate the Cenotaph in Whitehall. At the same time, a funeral procession accompanying the remains of the “Unknown Soldier” halted at the Cenotaph during the ceremony before proceeding to Westminster Abbey for internment.

Those present included the senior Soldier, sailor and many Victoria Cross winners. The ceremony concluded with a march past.

The Regimental Sergeant Major of the Guard Regiment conducting the ceremony, faced with a gathering of highly decorated and high ranking military men (including many Victoria Cross winners), all wearing rows of medals, decreed that all would salute the Cenotaph as they marched past by placing their hand over their medals, signifying that “No matter what honours we may have been awarded they are nothing compared with the honour due to those who paid the supreme sacrifice”.

The RSL maintains that tradition to honour the dead by placing the right hand over medals (not our heart, our medals) during a march-past at a ceremonial occasion, or at a wreath laying ceremony.