The RSL Club
Flag of the National Returned & Services League
The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA) was founded as a charitable organisation by the Australian Government in 1916 to look after the interests of returning soldiers and their families during the devastating global conflict which was the First World War of 1914-1918.
Manilla’s arm of this benevolent organisation was founded in 1918, one of the first of 350 League Sub-Branches to be formed in New South Wales.
The Australian Imperial Service of Women’s Auxiliary was also formed at this time.
At war’s end, thoughts turned to the creation of a lasting local Memorial to those who gave their lives in war service. In 1923 after much work on the memorial proposal by 3 organisations - the War Memorial committee, the Mechanics’ Institute and the Returned Sailors and Soldiers' Imperial League - the Mechanics' Institute hall in Manilla street, underwent reconstruction in order to create the Manilla & District Soldiers' Memorial Hall.
The first Manilla RSSILA club rooms were built above the new Memorial and used for member recreation and Sub-Branch meetings throughout the decades between the wars and beyond.
In 1940, as the 2nd world war took hold, the main organisation modified its name to include members of the Air Force, becoming the Returned Sailors’ Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA)
After World War II, the local RSSAILA saw hundreds of ex-servicemen return to civilian life. As time passed, the pressing need for more space for its members became increasingly obvious and in 1953 the branch committee resolved to build a clubhouse, with funds raised through its activities during the post-war years. Vacant premises on the corner of Court and Manilla Streets were acquired - the site of a former 'skin shop' and earlier, the White Way Garage with its arched portico and earlier still, a Stoddarts storeroom.
In March 1954, after some modification of the existing building by League volunteers, applications for club membership were invited to be submitted to the Secretary or a Member of the Management Committee. Membership of the Club was reserved for financial members of the League Sub-branch or any male who was eligible to become a member of the Legion of Ex-servicemen and women. Members of other sub-branches of the 'RSL' were eligible for associate membership. The club was initially operated by the Manilla League Sub-branch, under
the auspices of its parent body, the RSSAILA, employing staff in day-to day operations. With the building as its single asset, the Sub-branch was able to access grant money and loans for capital works and so secured a loan from the bank, to carry out improvements to the building. The League sub-Branch then repaid this loan, through rental of the premises to the Club enterprise, Manilla RSL Club Ltd.
In 1965 the RSSAILA altered its title once again, uniting all Australian defence services under the shortened Returned Services League [RSL] banner. The Manilla RSL Sub-Branch continued on in its original role of guiding the direction of the Club through the management of its Board of Directors, who at that stage were all former members of defence services.
Badge of the RSL (1965)
The Manilla RSL Sub-Branch sold its single asset, the club building, to the business entity, Manilla RSL Club Ltd. in the early 2000s, relinquishing title to the building, but securing continued use of office space for RSL sub-Branch affairs and assistance to ex-Service members, as part of the transaction.
A decade earlier, RSL Australia had found it only appropriate to alter the League name once again, changing the title to Returned and Services League to acknowledge service in all branches of the forces and settling finally on a universal badge design, with the addition of a service-woman completing the group of 4 figures.
A change was also made to the RSL Auxilliary flag and badge as membership evolved to include men. The RSL Auxilliary now operates as an affialiate of the sub-Branch.
In around 2010, as community access of club services was declining, Manilla RSL Club Ltd. began to face financial difficulty and probable closure. The RSL Board now included members drawn from those with a common interest - relatives of Ex-Service men & women, and those with a dedicated committment to the ideals of the organisation. Board members began the process of seeking interest in amalgamation from other organisations in Clubs NSW with a view to the successful bidder taking over the entire Club business. Two Clubs showed interest - West Leagues Club and Tamworth Services Club.
In 2016 as a result of the Board's decision, Manilla RSL club limited amalgamated with Tamworth Servies Group. The RSL Sub-Branch office space agreement was carried over with new management and Manilla RSL Sub-branch reports a good working relationship with The Servies Group.
It was anticipated the venue would be known under its official title, Manilla Services Club, bringing clarity to a change of management. However, 5 years on, no obvious change has been made to RSL Club branding by The Servies Group.