Australian War Memorial, Canberra

5 out of 5 stars 67 Reviews

Treloar Crescent, Campbell 02 6243 4211

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  • Lest We Forget
    Lest We Forget
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  • Mont St Quentin Diorama
    Mont St Quentin Diorama
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  • WWII at the Australian War Memorial
    WWII at the Australian War Memorial
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    The Hall of Valour

    by wabat Updated May 5, 2015

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    The Hall of Valour, symbolically positioned directly underneath the resting place of the Unknown Soldier at the Australian War Memorial, “honours the deeds of ordinary Australians under the extraordinary conditions of war.”

    It specifically recognizes the ninety-nine Australians who have won the Victoria Cross and the nine service personnel recipients of the George Cross. Five Australian civilians have received the George Cross.

    The immediately recognisable Victoria Cross – in the form of bronze Maltese Cross with a maroon ribbon simply inscribed ‘For Valour’ - was instituted in 1856 by Queen Victoria (backdated to 1854 to recognise worthy recipients in the Crimean War) and was awarded to Australians from the Boer War until 1991 when it was replaced by the Victoria Cross for Australia which is almost identical in look to the Imperial Victoria Cross.

    The most recent awards of the Victoria Cross for Australia were to Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith and Corporal Daniel Alan Keighran for acts of bravery in Afghanistan in 2010. Both these Victoria Crosses are on display in the Hall of Valour with that of the first Australian recipient, Neville Howse, a doctor by trade who served in the Boer War and around sixty others of the ninety-nine Victoria Crosses awarded to Australians. Also on display here are five of the six George Crosses in the possession of the War Memorial.

    To the right rear (entering from the front of the War Memorial) of the Hall of Valour and worthy a look is a rather odd exhibit for a war museum – part of a Byzantine mosaic floor from Shellal, near Gaza (picture 5). The link with war is that this mosaic and a number of other antiquities including a section of 4th century Roman floor mosaic from Homs in Syria (on display in the WWI Gallery) were collected by the Reverend William Maitland Woods senior Chaplin of the ANZAC Mounted Division and an amateur archaeologist.

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    The Hall of Valour The Hall of Valour The Hall of Valour The Hall of Valour The Hall of Valour - Shellal Moasic
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    War Memorial - Colonial Conflicts Gallery

    by wabat Updated May 5, 2015

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    Being a lover of older style museums with packed wooden and glass display cabinets, carpets on the floor, low lights and the like, I am particularly attracted to the Colonial Conflicts Gallery of the Australian War Memorial.

    Prior to federation on 1 January 1901 Australia comprised a number of separate British colonies all of which had a particularly strong affinity to the Motherland – not that it lost that affinity on federation. The Australian colonies were very much part of Empire.

    Europeans settlers first arrived in Australia in 1788 and, while local volunteer forces were established in the Australian colonies in the 1850s, British soldiers provided for Australia’s defence until 1870 (though Royal Navy ships remained in Australia until 1913). As such, a succession of British regiments pursued bushrangers, protected convict settlements, put down rebellions and suppressed Aboriginal resistance to European settlement.

    From 1870 colonial forces assumed the former role of British forces in the protection of Australia and were not called upon to serve overseas until the end of the century. The Colonial Conflicts Gallery, tucked away on the lower ground floor, commemorates Australian sacrifices in overseas conflicts up and including the Second Boer War (1899-1902).

    Specifically covered in the Colonial Conflicts Gallery are:

    The New Zealand Wars (1861-64) - The Taranaki War 1861 and the Invasion of the Waikato 1863-1864.

    The Sudan (1885) – A New South Wales Garrison went to the Sudan in 1885, in support of Britain, following the killing of General Charles Gordon who had been sent out to ‘coordinate’ the Egyptian departure from Sudan in accordance with British instructions so to do.

    The Second Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902) – Australia’s Forgotten War - being soon overshadowed by World War I. As I recall the Korean War was subsequently referred to as a Forgotten War as well – this time overshadowed by the Vietnam War. The Boer War, in which 16,000 Australians served and in which 606 died is without doubt the primary focus of the Gallery.

    Australia’s involvement with the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists – better known as the Boxer Rebellion in China (1900-1901). This was, incidentally, Australia’s first involvement in an Asian conflict. This exhibit contains one of the Memorial’s most macabre relics – a pigtail retrieved from a Boxer execution ground. Pigtails were worn by Chinese men as a sign of their subjugation by the Manchu dynasty and were cut off prior to men being executed.

    On that rather macabre note I ask you not to overlook this Gallery though many do given the volume of other great things to see within the War Memorial and a lack of time.

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    Aircraft and Anzac Halls - Australian War Memorial

    by wabat Updated May 5, 2015

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    The Aircraft and Anzac Halls at the Australian War Memorial are especially built additions to the main War Memorial building to house the Memorial's larger exhibits.

    Making your way through the Memorial, and having passed through the Hall of Valour, you will first encounter the Aircraft Hall where you will find a number of aircraft on permanent display. These include a Mosquito, Kittyhawk, Mustang, Zero, Wirraway, Sea Fury, MiG-15, Avro Anson, and a Japanese Oscar (wreck). Of particular interest in this Hall is a permanent exhibition ‘Air power in the Pacific, 1941–53’ which details the use of air power during World War II and in the Korean War.

    Moving on into the cavernous ANZAC Hall you will encounter yet more aircraft, a Japanese midget submarine and various other pieces of military hardware.

    The primary difference between this Hall and the Aircraft Hall, and indeed the rest of the Memorial, is the use of light and sound here to bring the exhibits to life. There are currently four sound and light shows which take place as various times during the day (watch them from the balcony level for best effect). The timings for the short shows, detailed below, are extracted form the Memorial’s website and are current as at 25 April 2015.

    Sound-and-light shows screening in Anzac Hall:

    Striking by night

    Daily: on the hour (10.00, 11.00, 12.00, 1.00, 2.00, 3.00, 4.00)

    This show (it and the Sydney Under Attack are my favourite shows) features the Lancaster bomber ‘G for George’ and three German Messerschmitt fighter aircraft in the recreation of a night-time operation over Berlin in 1943. G for George, one of the Memorial's most popular exhibits, took part in ninety operational missions over Germany and occupied Europe between 1942 and 1944.

    Over the front: the Great War in the air

    Daily: at quarter-past the hour (10.15, 11.15, 12.15, 1.15, 2.15, 3.15, 4.15)

    This show brings to life five of the Memorial’s WWI aircraft (for those more learned than me - three Allied planes (SE5a fighter, Airco DH9 bomber, Avro 504K trainer) and two rare German fighter planes (Albatros D.Va. and Pfalz D.XII)). I am always amazed how these flimsy flying machines of wood, canvas and wire could even fly let alone aid in the war effort.

    Sydney under attack alternating with Our first naval victory

    Daily: on the alternate half-hour (10.30, 12.30, 2.30, 4.30)

    Australia’s first and only direct enemy attacks were in World War II – the Japanese bombing of Darwin in the Northern Territory and an attack on Sydney Harbour using midget submarines. This show brings to life the Memorial’s midget submarine, which is actually an amalgam of two of the three submarines which attacked Sydney, resulting in 21 deaths, under the cover of darkness on the night of the 31 May 1942.

    Our first naval victory

    Daily: on the alternate half-hour (11.30, 1.30, 3.30)

    I have not seen this show so cannot comment on it and indeed do not know what is it about. Something to put right on my next visit!

    For those feeling peckish, or indeed hungry, 'The Landing Place' cafe is located in Anzac Hall on the upper balcony level. It is open from 10:30 am – 4.30 pm daily and is fine if a little overpriced. I prefer it to the much larger Poppy’s Café located in a separate building beside the War Memorial.

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    World War II at the Australian War Memorial

    by wabat Updated May 5, 2015

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    "Fellow Australians, it is my melancholy duty to inform you officially, that in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war. No harder task can fall to the lot of a democratic leader than to make such an announcement."

    This is how Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced to the Australian public on 3 September 1939 that Australia had once again answered the call of Empire and joined what was to be the Second World War (WWII).

    In WWII almost one million Australian men and women served.

    Initially they were engaged across Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa but in 1941 things changed. In that year the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked Pearl Harbour and advanced into South East Asia, from which point Australia was also at war with Japan.

    Australia, for the first (and last) time in its history came under direct enemy attack with Japanese bombing attacks on Northern Australian, including Darwin, and a midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour.

    By the end of WWII 39,000 Australian had lost their lives and another 30,000 had been taken prisoner. The names of the 39,000, together with those of the other 63,000 Australians lost in war since 1885, can be seen inscribed on the Roll of Honour, in the arched cloisters of the commemorative courtyard in the upper part of the War Memorial.

    The WWII Galleries trace Australia’s involvement in the various theatres of war in which it was directly engaged between 1939 and 1945 as well as covering the impact the War had on the home front. While more people (61,000) lost their lives in WWI, the social impact of WWII was greater given that for the first time in Australia’s history war came into Australia’s back yard in the Pacific and (albeit on a very small scale) into Australia itself.

    For a more complete picture the WWII galleries should be viewed in conjunction with ANZAC Hall and the Aircraft Hall which house larger military hardware (mainly aircraft) which, in large part, relates to WWII.

    Without in any way meaning to detract from the sacrifices made in WWII and its importance in world history I personally find the World War II galleries the least interesting of the galleries in the War Memorial due solely to my greater interest in earlier and later military history though various aspects of WWII do interest me from a historical perspective. Should WWII be your particular area of interest I have no doubt it is as well covered here as other wars and conflicts are, in this world-class museum/ memorial.

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    World War One Dioramas – Part 2

    by wabat Updated May 5, 2015

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    In Part 1 of this review I outlined some general detail on the Australian War Memorial’s WWI dioramas and introduced the reader to five of the ten dioramas currently on display in the Memorial’s WWI Gallery. If you have not read Part 1 of this review I encourage you to do so before reading about the remaining five dioramas on display.

    Continuing………..

    Ypres diorama - Picture 1

    The Third Battle of Ypres in 1917 consisted of a series of battles, the best known of which are the final and most bloody and horrific Battles of Passchendaele which occurred in October and November 1917.

    The objective of this series of battles was to break through the heavily fortified German defenses enclosing the Ypres salient and reach enemy submarine bases on the Belgian coast.

    Australian Divisions participated in the battles of Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcapelle and the First Battle of Passchendaele. In eight weeks of fighting Australian forces sustained 38,000 casualties while the total combined casualties on the battlefileds, turned into quagmires by rain, reached over 500,000, with the desired break through not achieved.

    This diorama depicts an attack on a pillbox in the Nonne Bosschen swamp, east of Ypres, during the advance across Menin Road on 20 September 1917. Approximately 5,000 of Australia’s casualties in the overall battle were sustained in this 5 day Battle of Menin Road.

    Dernancourt diorama - Picture 2

    Dernacourt in northern France, between the city of Amiens and the small city of Albert, was located on the main railway line, and thus of great importance from a transport prospective. It found itself on the front line following a major German offensive in March 1918 – their last great hurrah, if you like.

    The 4th Australian Division (12th and 13th Brigades) withheld an attack on the town on 28th March but on the morning of 5th April, and in heavy mist, the Germans attacked again breaking though and forcing the Australians back, in what was the strongest attack they would face in WWI. That afternoon the Aussies mounted a counter-attack and forced a German withdrawal. Casualties on each side were around 1,500. Sergeant McDougall a Lewis gunner, won a Victoria Cross for heroic efforts during this battle. The VC can be seen in the War Memorial’s Hall of Valour.

    The diorama depicts a scene from early morning of 5 April 1918 showing Australians taking cover against the German advance in a sunken road and disused gun pit.

    Mont St Quentin diorama and Cross - Pictures 3 and 4

    This diorama depicts a scene during the 6th Brigade’s storming of Mont St Quentin, a strategically important hill over looking the ancient town of Peronne and the Somme River, on 1 September 1918.

    Two days later 11 men of the 21st Battalion killed in the attack were buried by their comrades in a shell crater. The wooden memorial cross (located near the diorama and depicted in picture 4 attached) was erected over the graves. Especially touching is the piece of tin, punched with the names of the dead, attached to the left arm of the cross. When the cross was retrieved by Australian War Records Section in 1919 a new cross was erected over the graves.

    Semakh diorama - Picture 5

    This diorama depicts the events of the early morning of 25 September 1918 when the 11th Light Horse Regiment (assisted by the 12th) attacked, and captured, the small mud village of Semakh which served the important Haifa-Damascus railway, in Palestine. As depicted in the diorama fighting was fiercest, and hand to hand, around the railway station which was the keystone in the enemy’s (a mixed force of Turks and Germans) defense in the last months of the Sinai and Palestine campaign.

    This diorama’s inclusion in the galleries in late 2014 (it has been in storage since 1983) has a special significance as recent research indicates that the 11th Light Horse Regiment had the largest known group of indigenous Australians in one Australian Imperial Force unit notwithstanding that, by law, Aboriginals were not permitted to serve in Australia’s armed forces until after WWII.

    Transportation of supplies 1914–18, Palestine series - not depicted here

    The Transportation of supplies 1914–18, Palestine series comprises nine small dioramas depicting the transportation of supplies in the desert campaign of Palestine between 1914 and 1918.

    Not seeking to add a third part to this review and risk over indulging on my readers time I merely invite you to have a look at this site should you wish to see pictures of these dioaramas and read a little more about them.

    https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/dioramas/transportation_of_supplies/#Landing

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    World War One Dioramas – Part 1

    by wabat Updated May 5, 2015

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    For me, the War Memorial’s WWI dioramas are one of the highlights of a visit to the Memorial and, indeed, so successful have they been with visitors that the Memorial has commissioned additional dioramas on other campaigns including two on the Korean War.

    The WWI dioramas were commissioned in the 1920s and were the brainchild of the official war artist Will Dyson and the official war historian Charles Bean. Since then they have been refurbished and updated (while retaining their original character) a number of times including, most recently, in 2014. Their three dimensional nature (which, off course, I loose in my attached photos) bring a realism to the events they depict that neither pictures or photographs can bring.

    They graphically and realistically depict, through frozen moments in time, the horrors and devastation of battle, very successfully capturing the suffering and sacrifice of those involved, without being tacky or sensationalist. This they do in a manner and with a realism which I have yet to see computer animations and other modern interactive displays emulate.

    The dioramas combine, in a totally refurbished (2014) WWI gallery, with other works of art, uniforms, military hardware, medals, photographs, posters, interactive displays and personal items such as diaries and letters to present the visitor with one of the world’s great collections of material related to WWI. Only a heartless or totally uninterested person could leave this gallery without, in some way, being emotionally touched or challenged.

    The Memorial has 13 WW1 dioramas depicting battles and events of particular relevance to ‘Australia’s War’ though most of the subject matter will be very familiar to anyone with an interest in WWI.

    Ten of these dioramas are on display. These, and a related wooden cross, also on display, I will briefly refer to below and in Part 2 of this review with a sole focus on Australia’s contribution/interest in each case. This is not intended to belittle the often greater contribution of other countries to the events depicted.

    Lone Pine diorama – Picture 1

    The battle of Lone Pine is the only Gallipoli action represented by a diorama.

    This battle was originally intended as a diversion to distract Turkish attention form New Zealand and Australian units to force a breakout from the ANZAC perimeter on the heights of Chunuk Bair and Hill 971.

    The diorama depicts the 1st Australian Infantry Brigade attack on Turkish trenches at Lone Pine at dusk on 6 August 1915. Many of the trenches were roofed with pine logs making them more difficult to take.

    While the main Turkish trench was taken within 20 minutes of the initial charge there followed 4 days of intense hand-to-hand fighting resulting in over 2,000 Australian casualties. An expensive, though necessary diversion.

    Desert Patrol diorama- Picture 2

    After Gallipoli the Australian Light Horse Brigade moved its attention to keeping watch on the Turks in the Sinai Desert as it sought to protect and retain access to the Suez Canal, a vital link to the East and Australia for the Allies.

    This diorama (not, unlike most of the others, based on an actual event or battle) depicts a typical light horse patrol in the Sinai desert during the period April–August 1916. A new background was added to this diorama in 2014 adding sound and animation with planes flying overhead and desert sandstorms appearing.

    Pozières diorama - Picture 3

    On 23 July 1916 the Australian 1st Division captured Pozières, a small village in the Somme valley in France. Over the next few weeks the Australian 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions suffered heavily (over 12,000 casualties) in a number of German bombardments until Germany’s last unsuccessful attack to retake to village on 7 August 1916.

    Depicted here in this diorama is the remnant of an Australian Lewis gun crew upon the crest of the Somme-Ancre ridge beyond Pozieres on 7 August 1916, as it awaits that final German counter-attack on Pozieres that same day.

    Somme winter (1916-17) diorama - Picture 4

    This diorama depicts a trench located west of Gueudecourt and shows the awful conditions in which Australians fought and lived. Its hard to imagine that men had to spend the winter of 1916-17 sleeping in dugouts, roofed by duckboard and covered with a waterproof sheet, like that represented in this diorama.

    Bullecourt diorama - Picture 5

    In March 1917 the Germans had withdrawn to the Hindenburg Line to shorten their front and thus make it easier to defend. Bullcourt, in northern France lay on the Hindeneburg Line.

    With the German retreat the British and Empire forces followed up with an offensive around Arras in early April. To assist in this offensive Australian and British Divisions launched an attack on Bullecourt. What was supposed to have been an infantry attack supported by tanks ended up being primarily a very costly infantry charge as the tanks broke down or were quickly destroyed. Notwithstanding this, the infantry broke through German defenses, often through barbed wire fences that the tanks were supposed to clear, but became hemmed in and without artillery support.

    The Australians, prior to making their way back through the enemy to No-Man's Land due to lack of reinforcement or support, suffered over 3,300 casualties with a further 1,170 men taken prisoner - the largest number captured in a single engagement during the war.

    This diorama depicts the 46th Battalion, lead by Major Percy Black, fighting the first line of German trenches at Bullecourt on 11 April 1917.

    Please continue to Part 2 of this review for comment on the remainder of the Australian War Memorial's WWI dioramas.


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    World War I at the Australian War Memorial

    by wabat Updated May 5, 2015

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    On 4 August 1914, the British Empire declared war on Germany and her allies and with that an enthusiastic Australia was at war. Within days white Australians were enlisting. Aboriginals were specifically barred from joining the newly federated Australia’s military forces though around 1000 including Charles Blackman (picture 2) did mange to enlist.

    Over four years later (the war was supposed to have been over before Christmas 1914), on 11 September 1918, the war ended. In the interim 61,514 (of around 330,000) Australian servicemen had lost their lives in the Great War and a further 150,000 were wounded or taken prisoner. Worldwide roughly 16 million people died in WWI. I leave it for the reader to ponder these figures.

    Australia’s most famous, and indeed costly, encounter in WWI was the Gallipoli or Dardanelles campaign.

    On 25 April 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula, ‘eliminate Turkey’ and end the war. The Australian/New Zealand combination became known as the ANZACs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) and so started an enduring military relationship between Australia and New Zealand and a spirit that continues to this day.

    Between 25 April 1915 and 8 January 1916 almost 9,000 Australians lost their lives in the Dardanelles campaign. The campaign itself ended in complete failure and over 140,000 allied casualties. Even today, as I completely re-write this review on the 25 April 2015 exactly 100 years from the ANZACs Gallipoli landing, the Dardanelles campaign remains one of the most controversial of the World War I and is seen by many as one (of many) good examples of ‘lambs to the slaughter’. I shall leave it at that as Virtualtourist is not the place for such discussion and debate.

    The totally refurbished (late 2014) galleries at the Australian War Memorial attempt to portray what life was like at Gallipoli, on the Western Front, in the mud of Flanders and in the deserts of Sinai–Palestine during WWI through the War Memorial’s justifiably famous dioramas, relics such as a landing boat used at Gallipoli (picture 4) and perhaps most poignantly, the accounts of individual ANZAC soldiers, mainly recorded in their very personal letters and diaries.

    While I have prepared a separate review, in two parts, on the Memorial’s 1920s dioramas, perhaps, more than any other exhibit in the Australian War Memorial, Peter Corlett’s 1989 diorama (my main image attached), “Man in the Mud”, gives us an idea of life on the Western Front. The image of the destruction, the desolation and the utter despair depicted by the soldier, head in hands, says, I feel, more than thousands of words could ever do.

    As such, I will leave the reader with that image, though before I do so, I should comment on my third picture lest the reader wonder why I have included a picture of two German Iron Crosses. These medals, now on display in the Memorial, are from a box of around 100, destined for issue to German soldiers. On 8 August 1918 the medals fell into the hands of Australian soldiers many of whom returned home festooned in Iron Crosses with some worn in the most “undignified places” according to one soldier in a letter to his wife.

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    Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier

    by wabat Updated May 5, 2015

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    Pride of place in the War Memorial’s beautiful and tranquil Hall of Memory goes to the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.

    The idea to entomb an unknown soldier in Australia was first put forward in the 1920s after Britain had interred one at Westminster Abbey and the French had done likewise at the Arc de Triomphe. The idea did not come to fruition until 1993 when the remains of an unknown Australian solder were brought home to this, his final resting place.

    The unknown Australian soldier’s remains were recovered from the Adelaide Cemetery near Villers-Bretonneaux in France and after briefly lying in state lay in state at Villers-Bretonneux, Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium and in the King’s Hall in Old Parliament House in Canberra the Unknown Soldier was interred in the Hall of Memory on 11 November 1993, exactly 75 years after the end of World War I. Soil from the French battlefield of Pozieres was scattered on his Tasmanian blackwood coffin, on which had been placed a bayonet and sprig of wattle.

    Part of the eulogy for the unknown soldier, read by the then Prime Minister Paul Keating read:

    We do not know this Australian’s name and we never will. We do not know his rank or battalion. We do not know where he was born, nor precisely how he died ... We will never know who this Australian was ... he was one of the 45,000 Australians who died on the Western Front ... one of the 60,000 Australians who died on foreign soil. One of the 100,000 Australians who died in wars this century. He is all of them. And he is one of us.

    If find the words 'He is all of them. And he is one of us' particularly moving and something worthy of reflection by all.

    The fully eulogy text is displayed on a brass plaque in the vestibule of the Hall of Memory.

    The tomb, covered by a slab of red marble, was designed by Architects Tonkin Zulaikha Harford and artist Janet Laurence and sits under the Hall’s dome. It is inscribed:

    Known unto God
    An unknown Australian soldier killed in the war of 1914–1918
    He symbolises all Australians who have died in war

    While known only unto God, his name is one of the 61,514 from World War I inscribed on plaques lining the walls in the commemorative courtyard though which you will have passed to reach his tomb. Around 23,000 unknown Australian soldiers from World War I lie in graves with headstones bearing the simple inscription: ‘An Australian soldier of the Great War, known unto God’.

    Very sad.

    Lest we Forget.

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    Hall of Memory – Part B

    by wabat Updated May 5, 2015

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    In Part A of this review I concentrated on the stained glass windows and the Four Pillars sculpture in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial. In this part of my review I will cover the Mosaics and the Hall’s dome.

    While the stained glass windows are beautiful, they are not unlike those found in any large cathedral, though their subject matter of military personnel and other trappings of a military life certainly does differentiate them from the average cathedral window. What is perhaps more unique here are the mosaics (all 6.12 million pieces, or 15 tonne, making it one of the largest in the world) found in the Hall of Memory. No, Dear Reader, I did not count them – some things you just have to accept! I adore mosaics and have oft been tempted to create a mosaic of my own – something rather more modest than this, I feel.

    While the windows are a dedication to the memory of WWI the wall mosaics are dedicated to the memory of WWII.

    Of particular interest and beauty in the mosaics, which cover the entire interior of the Hall of Memory, are the four much larger than life (12 metres), almost stylised, figures representing the navy, the army, the air force and women’s services. Look carefully, can you see a tear running down the service woman’s cheek? The erect, formal posture and large eyes of the figures recall classical Greek sculptures and the Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna in Italy, which Napier Waller, the designer of both the windows and the mosaics, visited in the 1920s.

    The ensure the accuracy of the mosaic, rather than placing each of the 6 million plus Italian glass tesserae directly onto the bare walls of the Hall they were assembled, in 24 by 18-inch sections, onto backing sheets in Melbourne by Waller (himself a WWI veteran) and a group of volunteer war widows. They were then shipped to Canberra for assembly. All in all a three years long and tedious process but, like me, I am sure you will agree, worth it in the end given the quality of the final product.

    The serviceperson’s height and upright positioning draw the viewer into looking upwards, bringing his or her attention to the beautiful mosaic dome (picture 5), 24 metres above the tomb of the Australian Unknown Soldier.

    Like other components of the Hall of Memory the dome, which boldly depicts the ascent of the spirits of the fallen (symbolised by simplified winged coffins, in shapes reminiscent of Egyptian mummies), is full of symbolism which I wont go into in the detail of here. Suffice to ask you to identify, in addition to the ascending spirits, the seven rays of light (themselves based on the Rising Sun, the emblem of the Australian Infantry Force) emanating from the central sun. Each ray represents one of Australia’s States and Territories. Also identify the stars of the Southern Cross superimposed over the sun.

    The Memorial’s website in referring to the dome states how:

    It evokes the renewal of life’s forces and celebrates the immortality of those who believed in freedom and ultimately died to defend it.

    These words, I believe, could be equally applied to the whole War Memorial.

    To return to my Australian War Memorial review click here.



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    Hall of Memory – Part A

    by wabat Updated May 5, 2015

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    The centerpiece of the Australian War Memorial is the absolutely stunning and evocative Hall of Memory, containing the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier. It is located at the far end of the commemorative courtyard, past the Pool of Reflection. Walk straight ahead when you enter the War Memorial.

    While the War Memorial and the Hall of Memory were conceived immediately after World War I to honour the sacrifices of those taking part in that war, construction did not start until 1936 due to a combination of budget and design difficulties.

    By the time the War Memorial itself was officially opened in 1941, World War II was underway and in 1945 it was decided that the mosaics included in the design of the yet to be completed Hall of Memory would be dedicated to the fallen in that War while the beautiful stained glass windows would be dedicated to the fallen of WWI. The Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier and the Four Pillars sculpture were added in 1993.

    What a wonderful place to stand and reflect.

    In Part B of this review you will find some detail on, and pictures of, the mosaics and the Hall’s wonderful dome. I have prepared a separate review on the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.

    Here let’s have a look at the stained glass windows and the Four Pillars sculpture, but before that I should say that my first picture, which provides you with an ‘overview’ of the Hall of Memory, is courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. While I am not averse to using pictures other than my own, suitably acknowledged, I do try to use one of my own images as my main picture on each review. In this instance visitors cannot ascend into the dome, from where this picture was taken, and to get a decent shot taking in a significant area of the large and high Hall from the ground would have required a much wider angle lens than I have.

    The three stained glass windows, installed between1947 to 1950, give the Hall the feeling of a cathedral and make the whole place especially beautiful when the light floods in through them. They were designed by Napier Waller who, incidentally, lost his right arm in the Great War at the Battle of Bullecourt in 1917.

    Each window has five panels with each panel featuring a figure in uniform with equipment from World War 1. Additionally each panel represents a quintessential quality displayed by Australians in war.

    The south window (picture 2), above the entrance door, depicts an aircraftman, a signaler, a nurse, an infantryman and a naval captain which in turn, and respectively, represent the personal qualities of resource, candour, devotion, curiosity and independence.

    The west window (picture 3) depicts a Lewis gunner, a naval gunner, an infantryman, an airman and an artilleryman which in turn, and respectively, represent the social qualities of comradeship, ancestry, patriotism, chivalry and loyalty.

    The east window (picture 4) depicts an infantry officer, an infantryman, a light horseman, a wounded soldier, and an Australian soldier in a uniform worn at Anzac Cove (Gallipoli) which in turn, and respectively, represent the fighting qualities of youth and enterprise – coolness, control, audacity, endurance and decision.

    Continuing with the symbolism in the Hall of Memory, in a niche at the rear of the Hall is the Four Pillars sculpture (picture 5, directly below where picture 1 was taken from, so out of sight in that image) which was added to the Hall of Memory in 1993 when the unknown Australian soldier was interred therein. The sculpture and the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier were designed by Architects Tonkin Zulaikha Harford and artist Janet Laurence.

    The Four Pillars sculpture stands 9.3 metres high and each pillar represents one of the four basic elements. The sculpture symbolises creation and adds an additional element to the contemplative atmosphere in the Hall of Memory.

    The War Memorial’s web site elaborates thus:

    The Air pillar is made of wood; the jarrah with its polished surface is associated with breath and flight, with the disembodied spirit and the souls of the dead.

    The Fire pillar is made of metal, and its edges suggest a sword, tempered by flame; it is associated with energy and passion, patriotism and bravery.

    The Earth pillar is made of marble, associated with permanence and strength; it is the earth on which we live and to which we return in the coldness of death.

    The Water pillar is made of glass, ice-like and colourless. Water is the source of life and symbolises flow and change, thus linking earthly life and the souls of the dead.

    Continue to my Hall of Memory – Part B review for additional details on the Hall of Memory.

    To return to my Australian War Memorial review click here.


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    Australian War Memorial – Lest we forget

    by wabat Updated May 5, 2015

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    This a summary and introductory review on the Australian War Memorial. On it you will find links to more detailed reviews on aspects of the memorial that I find particularly interesting – lots!.

    “Here is their spirit, in the heart of the land they loved; and here we guard the record which they themselves made.” Charles Bean, 1948.

    In this (2014) the 100th anniversary year of the start of World War I (WWI) it is fitting that I should finally write a tip on the Art Deco, Byzantine style Australian War Memorial (AWM). The AWM comprises and combines Australia’s national shrine of remembrance with a world-class war related museum and an extensive archive.

    It exists to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war. While it was specifically established in 1941 as a World War I memorial it now commemorates Australia’s sacrifices in wars and conflicts from Colonial days right up to our most recent engagement in Afghanistan.

    The AWM’s mission is to ‘to assist Australians to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society’. Off course it is not limited to Australians and is open to, and visited by all. In addition to actual war relics, film, sound and light shows, etc are used in the commemoration of sacrifices made and to inform the visitor.

    Some readers may be concerned that memorials/museums such as this glorify war and indeed many people believe this to be the case with the AWM. While I certainly believe physical force has its place in international relations I am very far from a warmonger. One life lost is one life too many – war should be a last resort.

    In its short existence (European), Australia has been involved in numerous wars and conflicts none of which (apart from relatively minor incursions in WWII) have been on Australian soil. Australian casualties in wars are now in excess of 100,000. While compared to many countries this number is small, it is worth remembering that in WWI (fought on the other side of the world) Australia had the highest ration of deaths to population of all the countries involved.

    In my view, the AWM does not glorify war but rather tries to (and largely succeeds) present a factual portrayal of war in all its nastiness and oft times futility. This does not mean that it does not pull on the average visitor’s heartstrings and emotions. It certainly does. Very few would leave here with the view that war is good, something that we should be proud of or something to be glorified.

    Note: As reviews/tips are written for the items below I will insert a link to those reviews – a short summary of each item will be included here prior to my finalising this review – please bear with me.

    Specific areas of interest to the visitor include:

    Shrine of Remembrance
    ...............Hall of Memory (in two parts)
    .............. Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier
    The First World War Galleries
    ...............World War I Dioramas
    ...............The Menin Gate Lions
    ...............Midnight at Menin Gate
    Second World War Galleries
    Aircraft Hall / ANZAC Hall
    Colonial Conflict Gallery
    Post WWII conflicts display - coming soon!
    Hall of Valour

    Also related to the War Memorial and worthy of inclusion in your visit to the Memorial

    The AWM Sculpture Gardens
    ANZAC Parade and its Memorials
    Aboriginal Memorial

    A brief (and I really do mean brief) overview of the above will require at least three hours. I recommend that you allow a full day and don’t wait until 10am to start (when the main memorial and museum opens). Anzac Parade, the Sculpture Gardens and the Aboriginal Memorial are open 24/7.

    The Memorial offers free 90 minute highlight tours with shorter tours available. If you don’t make a tour or don’t wish to there a lots of volunteer guides available who are very helpful and more than willing to answer your questions or explain things.

    Opening Hours

    Memorial and Bookshop - every day 10am – 5pm (Closed Christmas day – 25 December)

    Reading rooms and eateries’ hours differ – see website for details

    Entrance fee

    Free

    Getting there

    By car: Sufficient on-site parking but limited to a 4 hours stay - free. Should you, genuinely, wish to stay longer than this speak to staff on the orientation desk.

    By bicycle: Bicycle racks are available

    By bus:

    Regular bus services run between the City centre and the Memorial on route 10 on week days and 930/931 on weekends – check ACTION Bus website for timetables - http://www.action.act.gov.au/

    Walk: The memorial is less than 30 minutes walk from the city centre. From the rear of the Canberra Centre (shopping Centre) take Ainslie Avenue to its (end) intersection with Limestone Avenue. Turn right and in a few hundred metres the AWM will be on your right. If coming from the lake access is via ANZAC Drive.


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    Menin Gate at Midnight

    by wabat Updated May 5, 2015

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    Menin Gate at Midnight and the Menin Gate Lions are currently on loan to the Canadian War Museum and will then go to Belgian city of Ypres in time for the centenary of the battle of Passchendaele in 2017. The painting and the lions will return the Australian War Memorial in 2018.

    With such an amazing collection of war relics, artwork and other memorabilia the majority of which evoke, in the visitor, sad and dark memories from wars and conflicts (though many simultaneously create a sense of hope) it is hard to single out a favourite item at the Australian War Memorial. If I were forced to do so, this painting may indeed be it.

    Tucked away, all by itself, in a purposely darkened room at the rear of the World War I galleries you will find this painting - 'Menin Gate at Midnight'. I couldn’t help but be moved as would anyone conscious of the loss of life in World War I. Even greater atmosphere and solemnity is created by the playing of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony in the background.

    Not a word is said – no words are necessary.

    Painted in a single sitting in 1927, after attending the unveiling of the current Menin Gate memorial, at Ypres (Leper), Belgium, by official Australian war artist William (Will) Longstaff, the image features the famous memorial. In WWI tens of thousands of soldiers passed through the original Menin “gate’ (the Porte de Menin, more a cutting through the remains of ramparts the city’s medieval defenses than a gate) on their way to the Western Front. Equally tens of thousands did not return.

    The Menin Gate memorial, designed by the architect Sir Reginald Blomfield, commemorates those from the British Empire who were killed in Belgium before the arbitrary date of 16th August 1917 and have no known grave. Listed on the memorial are the names of 54,389 Empire soldiers (excluding New Zealand and Newfoundland). Perhaps as many more are not listed including over 34,000 buried in the nearby by Tyne Cot cemetery. While thousands of the “missing” lie unidentified in nameless graves thousands more remain simply unaccounted for. Readers may know that over half a million lives were lost, just here in the Ypres Salient area during World War I.

    The names of 6,000 Australians, missing in Belgium, are among those engraved on the walls of the Menin Gate memorial. These 6,000 names are likewise listed and form part of the 100,000 names on the Role of Honour here at the Australian War Memorial.

    Inscribed on the both the eastern and western facades of the memorial are the words of Rudyard Kipling:

    ‘To the Armies of the British Empire who stood here
    from 1914 to 1918
    and to those of their dead
    who have no known grave’

    and above the staircase arches (also by Kipling):

    ‘In Majomem Dei Gloriam
    Here are recorded names
    of officers and men who fell
    in Ypres Salient, but to whom
    the fortunes of war denied
    the known and honoured burial
    given to their comrades in death’

    Today, on the Menin Gate Memorial you can see a single lion atop the memorial. Two lions guarded the original gate. These lions are now located at the entrance to the Australian War Memorial – See my separate tip on the Menin Gate Lions.

    While hard to see in the attached image, the white figures in the foreground (seen in a vision during the artist’s visit) very eerily and movingly portray the steel-helmeted spirits of thousands of the unknown dead rising from the cornfields and marching towards the battlefields. Likewise, the red poppies in the foreground also may not be discernible in the attached image.

    Each evening at around 5pm a simple though poignant Last Post Ceremony is performed at the War Memorial (as it is at Ypres) in memory of the 6,000 missing together with the remaining 94,000 plus Australians who have died in wars and conflicts since colonial times.

    To return to my Australian War Memorial review click here.


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    Menin Gate Lions

    by wabat Updated Apr 19, 2015

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    The Menin Gate Lions and the painting Menin Gate at Midnight are currently on loan to the Canadian War Museum and will then go to Belgian city of Ypres in time for the centenary of the battle of Passchendaele in 2017. The painting and the lions will return the Australian War Memorial in 2018.

    It is rare that one finds medieval art or sculptures in Australia and probably the last place on would expect to encounter such would be in the Australian War Memorial, built in 1936 to commemorate the sacrifice of Australians who have died in war (essentially since the mid 1800s).

    On entering the War Memorial you will encounter two lions, one on your right and one on your left, sentinels guarding the walkway to the Hall of Memory and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

    Context For details of the Menin Gate Memorial and Australia’s connection with Ypres see my separate review on the ‘Menin Gate at Midnight’ – a painting on display at the Australian War Memorial. This will put this tip in context so I suggest you read it before proceeding if you have not already done so or are not already cognisant of the Menin Gate at Ypres. For those who would like a more detailed review of Leper (Ypres) which includes a very personal perspective I recommend you have a look at VT Member Breughel's excellent page on Ieper.

    Australian War Memorial literature indicates that the limestone lions, recovered from the Menin Gate at Ypres (now Ieper), Belgium toward the end of WWI were gifted to Australia in 1936 by the burgomaster (major) as a token of friendship and an acknowledgement of Australia’s sacrifice. In return Australia presented Ypres with a bronze casting of C. Web Gilbert’s sculpture Digger which is now on display in the Salient 1914—18 War Museum in the rebuilt Cloth Hall in Ypres.

    It is interesting to note that there is no record of other Empire countries (Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand, the UK, South Africa or India) having received any gift from Ypres. A statue from the Cloth Hall in Ypres currently in the Auckland Museum is thought to have been “souvenired” by an officer as opposed to having been gifted to New Zealand. The alternative, and probably more precise, view as to how the lions came to be in Canberra is that, the then, Australian Ambassador Bruce actually asked for the lions specifically for the Australian War Memorial then being built in Canberra and his wish was granted.

    Where were the lions between the early 1920s and 1936? Yet another view, perpetuated by some local Ypres townsfolk is that Australian soldiers had already "self-gifted" themselves the lions and they were indeed already in Australia – hidden until the 1936 official gifting or request.

    How the lions officially came into the possession of Australia doesn’t really matter any more. For others, and indeed Australia, the daily Last Post Ceremony performed, to this day, by the Ypres firemen is, in my view, ample thanks for Empire sacrifices in Ypres and Belgium. If you can, time your visit to the Australian War Memorial to coincide with its daily Last Post Ceremony which is held at 5pm (as the Memorial closes).

    The lions (which each carry the coat-of-arms of Ypres) are thought to date back to the eleventh century and in later years to have stood at the entrance to the Cloth Hall, Ypres’ civic and commercial centre. In the mid to late1800s on the occasion of the refurbishment of the Cloth Hall the lions were moved to the Menin Gate which was really one of two cuttings (as opposed to a gate) in the towns medieval ramparts as you may discern in picture three attached – a pre war postcard of the old Menin Gate.

    The lions stood and welcomed thousands of (and simultaneously farewelled, to their death, so many) Allied (mainly Empire) soldiers as they made their way to the Western Front during World War I. Over 36,000 Australian soldiers were killed or wounded on the battlefields of the Ypres Salient, most of them during the battles in 1917. Over 6,000 of them have no known grave and are now commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial.

    During the war the lions (most of the town was destroyed) were badly damaged by German artillery fire and, while recovered from the rubble, they were not incorporated into the Menin Gate Memorial built in 1927 – though it does include a single much larger lion which sits atop the Memorial.

    Until 1985 the lions (for the most part one only) were displayed at the War Memorial in their original damaged state. Between 1985 and 1987 the lions were restored by Kasimiers L. Zywuszko, a Polish-born sculptor. The restoration work was deliberately not ‘blended in’ such that visitors can easily distinguish the restored from the non restored. In 1991 the lions were again put on display at the Memorial, in the position you see them today.

    To return to my Australian War Memorial review click here.


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    Menin Gate Lion (left) Menin Gate Lion (right) Pre WWI Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium Last Post Cermony at the AWM - Bugler
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    See the original Menin Gate Lions

    by pedroswift Updated Mar 28, 2015

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    STOP PRESS
    The Lions are currently being displayed in Canada. check news coverage
    URL:http://www.centenarynews.com/article?id=2936.
    After the Canadian visit, they travel to Ypres to help commemorate the 100th Anniversary of World War 1.

    There are over 50 VT tips on the A.W.M. What can I add? Only a specific which I have found particularly touching. A response to the ANZAC' spirit from the citizens of a town half the world away.
    If you have visited Ypres (Ieper)in Belgium or if you intend to go (& it is a must for Aussies and Kiwis making a pilgimage to First World War battle sites) please note the Menin Gate Lions near the entrance to the museum at the Australian War Memorial.
    The plaque on the wall explains:
    "Menin Gate Lions
    These medieval stone lions once stood on either side of the Menin Gate in the walls of the town of Ypres in Belgium. Ypres was destroyed in the war, and these lions were recovered from the ruins of the Menin Gate.
    During the first world war allied soldiers passed through the gate to the battlefields around Ypres, where over 38,000 Australian soldiers were killed or wounded. The Gate became the site of a memorial to the British empire soldiers, including over 6,000 Australians, killed around Ypres and who have no known graves.
    In 1936 the Burgomaster of Ypres presented the lions to the Australian Government as a gesture of friendship between that town and the people of Australia. They commemorate the service of the Australian soldiers who helped to defend Ypres in 1917."

    Medieval stone lions frm  MeninGate, Ypres Belgium
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    National Aboriginal War Memorial or Not?

    by wabat Updated Dec 22, 2014

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    Each year on ANZAC Day (25 April) thousand of veterans, serving personnel and members of the general public attend the dawn service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to remember those who have served and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for Australia in various wars and conflicts down the ages.

    When the dawn service is over a small group of veterans and others make there way into the bush to a small clearing on the slopes of Mt Ainslie some 300 metres behind the War Memorial. A second service of remembrance is held here (and has been for around 15 years), at the Aboriginal War Memorial plaque, to remember Aboriginal people who have served in the Australian forces.

    By law, Aboriginals were not permitted to serve in Australia’s armed forces until after WWII. This did not stop thousands enlisting and many dying for their country. In particular 1000s served in the Boer War – pre Australian Federation and again around 3000 are thought to have served in World War II.

    Australia’s main national war memorials are on Anzac Parade and are in the main rather grand affairs. I have written separate reviews on each of them with a summary review ANZAC Parade – Memorials. Arguably these memorials which are focused on particular wars, campaigns or parts of the Australian armed services represent and commemorate all Australians – indigenous and non-indigenous.

    There have, nonetheless, been and are ongoing calls for a specific Aboriginal war memorial to be erected on ANZAC Parade. Regrettably this is as much a political hot potato as it is anything else – and as such I leave it to my readers to draw their own conclusions.

    The current privately erected non-official (though accepted) memorial plaque was erected in 1994 and is a very simple, though moving tribute and certainly worthy the short detour from the Australian War Memorial to see it. In many senses the simplicity and the bush setting of this plaque makes it even more poignant than the much larger and more formal memorials on ANZAC Parade.

    To get to the memorial plaque, take the path to the summit Mt Ainslie from the back of the War Memorial for about a hundred and fifty metres and you will come across a sign directing you to the Aboriginal Plaque, 70 metres to the left of the summit track.

    If you have come by way my Australian War Memorial summary tip please click here to return to that tip if you so wish.


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