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Varley Oval, Inverell

Varley Oval, Inverell
Varley Oval, Inverell
Varley Oval, Inverell
Varley Oval memorial plaque, Inverell
Varley Oval memorial plaque, Inverell
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Description / Background

The memorial is a sporting oval dedicated to Brigadier Arthur Leslie Varley (1893-1944) who served in the First and Second World Wars. A metal archway with the name 'Varley Oval' in large letters spans the entrance to the sporting field. The oval is a modern sporting complex which caters for cricket, football and athletics. It was modernised in 2016-2017 by Inverell Shire Council. 

A memorial plaque with the dedication of the oval to Brigadier Varley is attached to a bush rock situated within the oval. The plaque outlines the service history of Brigadier Varley in both the First and Second World Wars, providing great detail of his time in the POW Camps in Asia during the Second World War.

Arthur Leslie Varley enlisted in the First World War as a Private on 24 August 1915 at the age of 22. He served in Egypt, France and Belgium, and was awarded the Military Cross and Bar for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He rose through the ranks and by the time he returned to Australia in June 1919, he had been promoted to Captain. During the Second World War Varley was seconded to the AIF on 7 May 1940 and assumed command of 2/18th Battalion, part of the 22nd Brigade destined for Malaya. He was promoted to Brigadier in the final days of the battle for Singapore. Varley died at sea in September 1944 when the Rakuyo Maru, the Japanese POW ship he and 1,200 of his men were prisoners aboard, was torpedoed. 

Proposals for a memorial at Varley Oval in memory of Brigadier Varley were suggested by Inverell RSL, and were considered and discussed at a public meeting held in the Council chambers in December 1948 (The Inverell Times, 17 December 1948). 


This oval is dedicated to the memory of
Brigadier Arthur Leslie Varley.
13 October 1893 - 14 September 1944.
A distinguished son of Inverell

Arthur Leslie Varley distinguished himself in WW1, serving in Egypt, France and Belgium. 
He came home to Inverell a Captain in the AIF, decorated with the Military Cross and Bar. 
He joined Bert Daly and Sons as a stock and station agent and took up the grazing 
property Kahmoo, near Nullamanna. Arthur distinguished himself locally as a sportsman,
excelling in rugby, cricket and tennis. A stalwart in promoting the Inverell CMF, 
he was promoted to Lt. Colonel in 1939. In 1940, he was seconded to the AIF and assumed 
command of 2/18th Battalion, part of the 22nd Brigade destined for service in Malaya. 
In the final days of the Battle for Singapore against the advancing Japanese 
Forces he was promoted to Brigadier. Defeated, he surrendered to the Japanese 
on 15 February 1942. Varley then found himself in charge of 9,000 allied POWs. Varley 
and his men were taken to Burma for forced labour on airstrip construction. 
Varley distinguished himself with his men with his extractions of small comforts 
from their Japanese captors. The POW's were then shipped to Thanbyuzayt to begin 
construction on the Burma - Thailand Railway. Again, Brigadier Varley championed 
the welfare of his men against the cruelty of the Japanese. The railway 
completed, Varley and 1200 of his men were prisoners aboard the Rakuyo Maru en route 
to Japan when the ship was torpedoed off Hainan. The survivors managed to man eleven 
abandoned lifeboats which set off in two groups , one going west. Varley's boats 
went east and they were not seen again. It is assumed that all perished at sea. 
Varley's two sons were also in the war, Robert killed In New Guinea. Jack served 
in Malaya, won the Military Cross and survived the conflict. A much loved and 
admired citizen of Inverell, Arthur Leslie Varley served his community and country, ultimately 
paying with his life. To honour the memory of this much loved man and soldier, this 
sports oval is named after him.

Lest we Forget. RIP, Arthur Leslie Varley. 

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Varley Oval
cnr Lawrence and Evans Streets
Inverell NSW 2360
Local Government Area
Inverell Shire
Location status
Original location
Memorial type
Sports ground
Recorded by
Graham Wilson
First World War, 1914–18
Second World War, 1939–45
Other stone