In July 1927 as the Great Depression began to form, a group of ex-servicemen and an ex-service nurse met to consider what could be done to support ex-servicemen who were unable to find employment. They met first in what was then Ford’s Tearooms at the lower end of Victoria Rd. At the end of each meeting the hat was taken around to collect money to pay for the room hire. Later, the Mayor, Mr. E. Aldridge, convened a meeting in the Council Chambers and a formal committee of the Devonport Returned Soldiers Club (Inc) was formed with former Captain W.E. L. Napier M.C. elected as President. The annual subscription was set at 2/6d. The national New Zealand Returned Services Association had been formed on 28 April 1916.
The first fund-raising event was a Flag Day on Windsor Reserve, which included a jazz band, and raised £120. The Council then approached the Education Board and gained agreement to use the money to subsidise the employment of ex-servicemen on the initial formation of the Takapuna Grammar School’s playing fields. Later, as the Depression worsened, support was obtained from the Canteen Funds that accrued during World War 1. The Club would supply a list of needs each month to the Auckland RSA, who were responsible for the regional administration of the Fund. Cheques were then issued to purchase groceries or fuel to assist ex-servicemen and their families. As the Club gained more members and more meeting space was required, the Council permitted the use of the Band Room on Mt. Victoria. Later, use was made of the Methodist School, the Presbyterian Hall in Church St, the Buffalo Rooms at the rear of the Farmer’s Trading Company shop in Victoria Rd, and the Masonic Hall.
In 1941, in recognition of the contemporary nature of the Armed Forces, the name of the organisation was changed to being the Devonport Returned Services Club (Inc) while the search for a permanent home continued. For a time, much effort was expended in securing access to a section off High Street to build premises and consideration was also given to purchasing the Court Victoria Foresters Hall.
Eventually however Devonia Hall was leased for £2 per week, and the first meeting in what was to become the Society’s permanent home was held on 3 March 1947. In May 1954, the owner, Mrs Bond, advised she was prepared to sell the building for £14,500, the recent Government Valuation being £12,600. Funds at the time were £3,063, but a member who was the Manager of the ANZ Bank Takapuna, said the bank would probably advance £11,000 at 4% as an overdraft. At that time, Reserve Bank rules only allowed overdrafts for 6 months and so the RSA had to secure a permanent loan from non-banking sources. Commander Pug Thew of Biss & Thew Ltd led the negotiations and provided a personal guarantee that ensured the loan being granted. There was a delay while the Rules were amended to allow the Society to borrow money and then the Common Seal was affixed to the mortgage documents on 23 August 1954 to complete the purchase of the Devonia Building.
Later the mortgage was held by the BNZ Officers Provident Association, but over time that was paid off and the Society became debt free in March 1969.
Although the organisation has been an incorporated society since its inception, more name changes began in 1966 when it became the Devonport Branch (Inc) Auckland Returned Services Association (Inc). In 1999 we became our own Society once more as the Devonport RSA (Inc). Finally in 2006 we became the Devonport Returned & Services Association (Inc)