A public committee was appointed in 1923 to raise subscriptions to build a memorial, and the foundation stone for the monument was laid by the mayor of Cairns, AJ Draper, on 4 January 1925. It was unveiled by Mayor Draper, on Anzac Day 1926. Costing £2,074, it was the most expensive of the 'digger' type memorials, and the third most costly First World War monument in Queensland. Queensland favoured the 'digger' memorial, with 60 such figures erected in the state, most of local manufacture. The Cairns memorial is the only one in Queensland in which a 'digger' surmounts a clock tower. The decision to incorporate a clock tower in the memorial fulfilled two functions: it ensured that the memorial was of substantial proportions and a focus of public attention; and the long-felt need for a public clock in Cairns was satisfied.
The base was constructed by contractor M Garvey of Cairns; and the memorial was erected by the leading monumental masonry firm in North Queensland, Melrose & Fenwick. In 1972 the memorial was relocated to the Cairns Esplanade, it formerly stood at the intersection of Abbott and Shields Streets, and a time capsule containing city council and RSL records was placed beneath the paving in front of the memorial. Apparently at this time the clock was removed. The clock faces now exist as painted replicas, each set at 4.28, recording the commencement of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli on the morning of 25 April 1915.