Australian War Memorial, Canberra

5 out of 5 stars 58 Reviews

Treloar Crescent, Campbell 02 6243 4211

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  • Lest We Forget
    Lest We Forget
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  • Menin Gate Lion (right)
    Menin Gate Lion (right)
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  • Menin Gate Lion (left)
    Menin Gate Lion (left)
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    See the original Menin Gate Lions

    by pedroswift Updated Jan 15, 2015

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    The Lions are currently being displayed in Canada. check : 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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    Aboriginal Memorial Plaque Aboriginal Memorial Plaque Aboriginal Memorial Plaque
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    Bellona - The Offensive Goddess

    by wabat Updated Dec 22, 2014

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    Dear reader – sit down and let me tell you a story – a story of Canberra’s first statue and war memorial.

    But before I start - while driving by the War Memorial last week (Dec 2014) I noticed that Bellona was missing from her pedestal. I will investigate and update, but once you have read this review you may not be surprised by this latest twist. The Memorial's website provides no clues.

    In 1916 sculptor Bertram Mackennal, unable to sell this sculpture – entitled War or Bellona – Goddess of War - decided to offer it as a gift to Australia as a tribute to Australian solders in WWI (especially the Anzac’s). It was accepted but it took five years before Prime Minister Hughes sent a thank-you letter - five years during which Bellona lay hidden in a Melbourne celler.

    The sculpture was installed on the steps of the then Parliament House in Melbourne on Anzac Day 1921. When Parliament moved to Canberra it was decided that Bellona’s busty company was not required and the Australian War Memorial, then under construction and perhaps an obvious home for the statue, wanted nothing to do with it. Such a display of cleavage was not appropriate for the new Capital. Anyway in 1926 she arrived in Canberra minus her tasteful black marble plinth which was replaced with a crude concrete substitute.

    Bellona, Canberra’s first statue, was placed on the southern side of the Molonglo River (pre lake days of course) on Commonwealth Avenue between the two traffic lanes and close to the Albert Hall. Bellona was soon christened Boadicea or Bodie by the locals who loved. The politicians, perhaps of higher morals in those days, still found her hard to take.

    People soon decided it was time for fun.

    New Years’ Eve revelers on 1 January 1932 adorned Bodie with a wire street waste paper receptacle (placed atop her helmet) and a beer bottle. In 1933 her exposed bust was covered, with an article of ‘women’s wearing apparel’. In March 1939 a pair of conical breast shields made from softened gramophone records adorned her nakedness. Later she had her breasts 'brasso' polished by pranksters to a high gleam.

    Panic struck the hierarchy in 1954 when Queen Elizabeth II was to visit Canberra for the first time. Bellona was smack bang in the middle of the processional route – what would her Majesty think ? And worse still, what would Her Majesty think if pranksters stuck? The police assured everyone pranksters would not strike. Thirty-six hours before the arrival of the Queen, Bellona was found sporting an oversized pink bra. The next night green paint was applied. Bellona was removed. It was announced that the move and royal visit were unrelated and Bellona was just moving to her rightful home at the Australian War Memorial.

    A few days later pranksters placed a tombstone on the empty site – engraved "RIP Goddess Bellona".

    As it happened, Bellona took a circuitous route to the War Memorial via a Government building in Parkes and the grounds of Government House in Yarralumla. The 3km trip took 36 years. After 12 years at the Memorial, in 1993 “the grounds for a sculpture garden required preparation” and Bellona would have to be moved temporarily again and so she was – to within 100metres of her 1926 position by the Albert Hall.

    In August 1999 Bellona made her final move to her current position in the new Australian War Memorial Sculpture Garden, backing on to the Lone Pine tree and at a suitably modest distance away from the memorial lest she offend 21st century visitors to the War Memorial in the way she did our early 20th century politicians. Do walk through the grass for a closer look - evidently funds were insufficient to provide a path - or were they?

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    Bellona - Goddess of War Bellona and the Lone Pine tree

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    War Memorial – Sculpture Garden Pt 2 of 2

    by wabat Updated Dec 22, 2014

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    This is part two of my tip on the Australian War Memorial’s Sculpture Garden. Part 1 can be found here. There is actually also a part 3 which relates to one particular statue about which I would like to share a bit more history – see that tip here - Bellona - The Offensive Goddess.

    The Sculpture Garden found around the Australian War Memorial was established in January 1999 with the aim of offering a place for quiet contemplation of the sacrifice of the many Australians who have died in war. It does this very well.

    Among the the sculptures in the Sculpture Garden you will find:

    Animals in War Memorial - Pictures 1 and 2

    This (one of my favourite statutes in Canberra) Memorial is a joint project between the Australian War Memorial and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). The memorial commemorates those animals that served alongside Australians in all conflicts.

    The centrepiece of the memorial is a large bronze horse head, the only remaining fragment from the original Desert Mounted Corps memorial – installed in Port Said, Egypt and unveiled in 1932 by Australia's wartime Prime Minister Billy Hughes. In 1956 the Desert Mounted Corps memorial was destroyed by rioters during the Suez Crisis. The remaining fragments of this memorial were returned to Australia.

    The original memorial was replaced by two copies in Australia, one of which can be found on Anzac Parade . See my separate tip for details of the new memorials.

    National Service Memorial - Picture 3

    The National Service Memorial was dedicated on Wednesday, 8 September, 2010.

    This memorial remembers all National Servicemen who died on active service and commemorates some 290,000 plus men called up (conscripted) in two schemes between 1951 and 1972 for service in the army navy and air-force.

    The sandstone plinth matches the walls of Australian War Memorial and symbolises the earth and Army; the water in the bronze bowl symbolises the Navy; and sky reflected in the polished black granite slab symbolises the Air Force.

    The most remembered use of conscripted personnel was in the Vietnam War. From 1965 to 1972, 15,381 national servicemen served in the Vietnam War, of which 200 were killed and 1,279 wounded. Conscription for Vietnam provoked great debate within the Australian community, with university students and others taking part in large anti-conscription and anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. The National Service Scheme was abolished on 5 December 1972.

    Australian Servicewomen's Memorial - Picture 4

    This memorial, designed by Sydney sculptor, Anne Ferguson, commemorates all women who served, suffered and died in the defence of Australia.

    For many women, the work they undertook during the Second World War provided a first taste of freedom and responsibility.

    Visitors are invited to stand within the memorial and reflect on the service and sacrifice of Australian Servicewomen

    Australian Serviceman's Memorial - Picture 5

    This sculpture was initially commissioned for the Hall of Memory in 1954. Australian Serviceman was completed in 1958 and installed in the Hall of Memory, which is where it was displayed until 1993. In 1993 it was removed from the Hall of Memory, when the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was installed.

    The figure is intended to symbolise 'young Australia' in an attitude of determination and courage and in a spirit of achievement and hope for the future.

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    Animals in War Memorial Animals in War Memorial National Service Memorial Australian Servicewomen's Memorial Australian Serviceman's Memorial

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    War Memorial – Sculpture Garden Pt 1 of 2

    by wabat Updated Dec 22, 2014

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    I have divided this tip into two (ok 3) separate tips so that I can include pictures of all 10 monuments I would like to tell you a little about. Tip 2 can be found here .Tip 3 actually relates to one particular statue which I mention below but about which I would like to share a bit more history – see my separate tip - Bellona - The Offensive Goddess .

    The Sculpture Garden found around the Australian War Memorial was established in January 1999 with the aim of offering a place for quiet contemplation of the sacrifice of the many Australians who have died in war. It does this very well.

    Many visitors underestimate the time it takes to visit the Australian War Memorial itself with the result that no time is left to have a look at the sculptures around the memorial. Allow a minimum of 3 hrs for the Memorial and Sculpture Garden. Add 1.5hrs if you wish to visit the National memorials on Anzac Parade which I highly recommend you do.

    Among the the sculptures in the Sculpture Garden you will find:

    Simpson and his donkey, 1915 – Peter Collett – Picture 1

    This sculpture, the most visited and loved in the Sculpture Garden is all about the ANZAC story and spirit. A story of courage and tenacity in the face of adversity The story of a soldier – a stretcher bearer, Simpson, enduring pain, injury, fatigue and emotionally drained who perseveres against the odds to save his friends – his mates. A true act of humanity and self sacrifice. Simpson or Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick (arguably Australia’s most famous soldier) took part in the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915 and became famous with his donkey for ferrying water in to troops in Shrapnel Gully and ferrying wounded men back out under continual shell fire. He was killed on 19 May 1945 after less than 4 weeks service.

    Survivors – Dennis Adams – Picture 2

    This memorial commemorates the service and sacrifice of Australian merchant seamen who manned ships around the world during the/First and Second World Wars.

    Often, like nurses, merchant seamen are often overlooked though their support through carrying troops and supplies was vital to the success of the war effort.

    Bomber Command Memorial –Neil Dawson – Picture 3

    This rather odd shaped sculpture commemorates the service and sacrifice of the RAAF air and ground crew who served and died with Bomber Command during the Second World War. The memorial includes a symbolised searchlight beam (Bomber Command operated at night), images of air and ground crew as silhouetted figures in the form of a curved stainless steel wall and stencils of the eight plane types flown (Halifax, Wellington, Lancaster, Mosquito, Stirling, Blenheim, Whitely and Hampden) and a glass plate at the base of the searchlight beam.

    Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop – Peter Collett –Picture 4

    This work, a life-size statue of Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop, commemorates the medical staff who came to the aid of Australian prisoners of war in the Pacific in the Second World War. From another of my tips you will be aware that “Weary’ Dunlop dedicated the rebuilt Changi Chapel at the Royal Military College at Duntroon in 1988. Dunlop was, himself, a prisoner of war and surgeon at Changi Prison Camp in Singapore.

    Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial – James Parrett – Picture 5

    This 2012 addition to the Sculpture Garden commemorates those Australians who died in the defence of Rabaul (Papua New Guinea), and those who later died as prisoners in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru.

    Many Australians were killed during and in the aftermath of the Japanese invasion of Rabaul in January 1942. In late June 1942 more than 1000 Australian servicemen and civilians left Rabaul on the Montevideo Maru. All on board died when the unmarked ship was torpedoed by an American submarine off the Philippines coast on 1 July. While this was Australia’s largest maritime tragedy several other Japanese ships carrying Australian prisoners met the same fate through ‘friendly” fire.

    The circular forms in stainless steel are intended to depict waves with the large sweeping curves conveying both the power of the sea and the magnitude of the tragedy.

    Bellona and the Lone Pine Tree

    Bellona is Canberra’s first statue / memorial dating back to 1926 and has a fascinating history of being loved and hated and being moved on numerous occasions before finally(?) coming to rest at the War Memorial in 1999. I have prepared a separate tip on Bellona - one of Canberra's icons. - Bellona - The Offensive Goddess.

    Belonna is located near the Lone Pine tree. This tree was raised from one of the seeds of a pine cone sent home by an Australian soldier at Gallipoli to his mother. It was planted at the Memorial in 1934 in memory of all the sons of Australia who fell at Lone Pine. You can see a picture of the tree on my Bellona tip.

    Another 4 memorials are reviewed in my separate tip War Memorial – Sculpture Garden Pt 2 of 2 otherwise, if you have come here from my Australian War Memorial tip click here to return there if you wish.

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    Simpson and his donkey, 1915 Survivors Bomber Command Memorial Sir Edward Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial
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    World War I at the Australian War Memorial

    by wabat Updated Dec 22, 2014

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    When I wrote this review in March 2014, the War Memorial’s main World War I galleries were closed for refurbishment. They have just reopened - December 2014 so this review about an interim WWI exhibition “ANZAC Voices” is now out of date. When I revisit the World WWI Galleries I will rewrite this review. That said, I suspect the main elements in this exhibition will have been incorporated into the newly refurbished galleries.

    The ANZAC Voices exhibition attempts to portray what life was like at Gallipoli (Australia's key encounter) and the Western Front, in the mud of Flanders and the deserts of Sinai–Palestine during WWI through the accounts of individual ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers mainly recorded in their letters and diaries.

    Perhaps, more than any other exhibit in the Australian War Memorial, Peter Corlett’s 1989 diorama, “Man in the Mud”, gives us an idea of life on the Western Front in WWI. 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.

    This diorama is one of many which the War Memorial has and is the only one currently on display. These wonderful dioramas, originally “cheap” displays, became some of the most popular displays at the memorial and most of them will be on display again in December 2014. To whet your appetite I have included images of a couple more dioramas - pictures two and three attached (from earlier visits to the former galleries).

    In 1914 Australia was, as a federated nation, just over 10 years old with its culture and identity firmly rooted in the traditions of the British Empire. Within days of Britain declaring war on Germany on 4 August 1914 white Australians were enlisting. Aboriginals were specifically barred from joining Australia’s military forces though around 1000 including Charles Blackman (picture 4) did mange to enlist.

    Over four long years ( the war was supposed to have been over before Christmas 1914) 330,000 Australians served overseas and of these 61,514 died. Worldwide roughly 16 million people died in WWI. I leave it for the reader to ponder these figures.

    I should comment on my final 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.

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

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    WWI 'Man in the Mud' WWI Diorama WWI Diorama Charles Blackman - WWI Enlistee Captured Iron Crosses
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    Menin Gate at Midnight

    by wabat Updated Dec 22, 2014

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    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.

    Note: World War I gallaries at the Memorial have just been refurbished and reopened (Dec 2014). 'Menin Gate at Midnight' may now be relocated - I cannot imagine it being taken of display. I will update this review when I get a chance to visit the refurbished gallaries

    To return to my Australian War Memorial review click here.

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    'Menin Gate at Midnight'
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    Australian War Memorial – Lest we forget

    by wabat Updated Dec 22, 2014

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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 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:

    Colonial Galleries
    The First World War Galleries
    Shrine of Remembrance (Hall of Memory)
    Midnight at Menin Gate
    The Menin Gate Lions
    Second World War Galleries
    Post WWII conflicts display
    Aircraft Hall / ANZAC Hall
    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. 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


    Getting there

    By car: Sufficient free on-ground and underground parking on-site

    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 -

    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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    Lest We Forget Australian War Memorial from ANZAC Drive Roll of Honour Simpson and his Donkey Answering the Call of Empire
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    Menin Gate Lions

    by wabat Updated Dec 22, 2014

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    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.

    In 2017 the lions will be temporarily returned to Ypres for commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele. I suspect their return will be warmly welcomed by the people of Ypres (Ieper).

    To return to my Australian War Memorial review click here.

    Next Review – War Memorial and ANZAC Parade

    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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    Canberra War Memorial a must see destination

    by fachd Updated Sep 10, 2014

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    The Australian War Memorial is the national capital icon and is considered one of the nation’s best. The Australian War Memorial was opened in 1941. It is a collection of historical information, memorabilia, paintings reflecting to Australian men and women involvement in world war conflict. The collections range from Boer War (South African War), WWI to recent Gulf War, which covers large information. Also is a place for conserving Australian cultural heritage.

    Inside the War Memorial visitors are able to see many exhibitions on display. The exhibitions are well assembled. You will see uniforms that Australian soldiers and nurses wear, they are also American, German, Russian, British and others. There’s scenery of important battles. Tanks from WWI, the Japanese mini sub, the Korean War and many more are display. Inside the War Memorial you could spent all day just observing and reading the display.

    On the side of the building there are two large wall of which names of fallen loved one is scribed. For remembrance red poppies are placed by relatives. Not far from the Pool of Reflection is the Domed, inside the Domed is the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier (1914-1918).

    Outside the building there is a statue of Simpson and his Donkey. John Simpson is Australian hero. At Gallipoli with heavy bombardment, Simpson and a donkey carried water up Shrapnel Gulley and bring the wounded soldiers into safer area.

    Along the Anzac Parade there are several memorials representing Australian involvement in War, the Vietnam War memorial is one of them.

    Open daily between 10.00am-5.00pm.

    Free admission. Donation box at the entrance.

    Simpson and his Donkey a Legend The Pool of Reflection Anzac Parade Diggers Anzac Day at Canberra War Memorial
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    Menin Gate at Midnight

    by pedroswift Updated Feb 9, 2014

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    Please be advised that the World War One displays at the AWM are being refurbished and should reopen in time for the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1.

    Having taken note of the ancient lions at the entrance to the A.W.M please do not leave without finding the painting Menin Gate at Midnight located in a small space at the back of the Gallipoli galleries. Read the description offered. In part:
    "Will Longstaff's painting, Menin Gate at Midnight captured and expressed the widespread need to remember the war's dead. Longstaff painted it after attending the opening of the Menin Gate memorial in 1927. Unable to sleep, he walked to the gate, imagining the dead rising from the fields about the town. His painting was exhibited in Australia in 1928, drawing large crowds, in whom it touched a chord. Thousands of copies were sold and hung in private homes, a popular expression of a real need to come to terms with grief."
    Eighty years later it certainly "touched a chord" within me.
    I have shed a tear subsequently to my War Memorial visit whenever I see the painting often displayed in RSL clubs throughout Australia.

    Menin Gate at Midnight
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    Australia War Memorial

    by cal6060 Updated Jul 7, 2011

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    Basically, it is a war museum. This museum is large and well organised. The architectural of the whole compound are well done. The landscape continues with the Anzac Parade. It showcases the few memories like Vietnam War Memorial & Korean War Memorial. This is a must visit place in Canberra.

    Open daily 10am-5pm.

    Please check our their official website more detail information...

    Australia War Memorial, Canberra Australia War Memorial, Canberra Australia War Memorial, Canberra Australia War Memorial, Canberra Australia War Memorial, Canberra
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    The War Inside

    by Kakapo2 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    For foreigners the most interesting thing at the Australian War Memorial is to learn in how surprisingly many wars Australia has been involved and that for this reason it is no wonder that more than 100,000 Australian soldiers have been killed.

    I am not very interested in warbirds, tanks and all the technology, so I did not study those highly praised exhibits in much detail. But I know that the Memorial is a great site for guys with more interest in this special field.

    When I was there at the end of 2005 they had a special exhibition about Art & War, with lots of paintings about Austrealia, Britain and Canada in the Second World War. This was absolutely fascinating, and I spent hours there.

    The Memorial uses film, sound, light and modern technology to depict the Australian experience of war. In the rather new ANZAC Hall you can find relics of the three Japanese midget submarines that attacked Sydney Harbour in 1942 as well as Lancaster Bomber G for George. The Bradbury Aircraft Hall tells the story of Australians at war in the Pacific from 1941 to 1945 by using so-called object-theatre.

    Open daily (except Christmas Day) from 10am to 5pm.

    Free guided tours (about 90 mins) available - but you can walk around at your pace and leisure as you please. If you have questions you can ask the friendly guides who are positioned in all halls and rooms.

    They also have a research centre. This is open from 10am to 4.50pm on weekdays and 1pm to 4pm on Saturdays.

    The Discovery Room is specially designed for children of all ages, open daily from 11am to 4.30pm.

    The peaceful commemoration area.
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    by balhannah Updated Sep 7, 2010

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    It would be a shame if you missed out on the “Hall of Memory.”
    This magnificent building can be found at the end of the “Pool of Reflection.”

    Inside on the walls are beautiful Mosaics and the Stained glassed windows are beautiful. These were designed by an Australian artist, Napier Walter.

    The Mosaics were completed in 1958, and consist of over 6 million tesserae imported from Italy. There is a symbolic meaning attached to each element of the design.
    The stunning mosaic in the dome, is divided into 7 segments, representing Australia’s 7 pointed federal star.

    The open hands symbolize the earth giving up the souls of the dead, who rise in the form of winged sarcopahagi towards the sun, the symbol of eternal life. The circular cornice incorporates such Australian motifs as wattle leaves and black swans, and an unbroken gold chain, symbolizing continuity.

    The stained glass windows have meaning too. Each of the 15 panels in the three stained glass windows portrays an Australian in the uniform and equipment of WW1.

    The south window depicts PERSONAL QUALITIES

    The west window depicts SOCIAL QUALITIES

    The east window depicts FIGHTING QUALITIES

    This hall is magnificent, a place to stand and admire, and to reflect.

    Please remember to be quiet, and to keep children under control. You are allowed to take photos.

    Mosaic dome One of the stained glass windows Mosaic mosaic Mosaic
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    by balhannah Updated Sep 6, 2010

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    ANZAC HALL, another fantastic exhibition showcasing large objects from the war years and using sound and light to tell compelling stories of Australia’s servicemen and women.
    A lot is a permanent exhibition..... showcasing the Great war in the air, the stories of military flight and aerial combat during the First World War.

    There is a stunning re-creation of a night operation over Berlin in 1943, featuring the famous Lancaster bomber "G for George". This exhibition, called "Striking by night," tells of the exploits and experiences of the people, from both sides, who lived through the bombing offensive.

    Of particular interest is the famous midget submarine, assembled from sections of two of the three submarines that raided Sydney in 1942, this area also had an excellent sound and light show.

    Just a little bit about the Sub................and how lucky Sydney and Australia was..............there could have been a very different outcome.

    The remains were only discovered in 2006, by some divers off Sydney's northern beaches.

    On the night of 31 May 1942 three Japanese midget submarines entered Sydney harbour. One became entangled in the boom net across the harbour, and her occupants blew her up. A second entered the harbour and fired torpedoes at the cruiser USS Chicago. They missed the Chicago but one hit the barracks ship HMAS Kuttabul, killing 21.
    This midget submarine disappeared, its fate a complete mystery.
    A third midget submarine also entered the harbour but was destroyed by depth-charges before it had fired any torpedoes.

    The submarine in the Memorial's collection is a composite of two that entered the harbour.


    ENTRY to the War Memorial is FREE, but please give a donation to keep it running,


    Open 10 -5 pm Daily

    Lancaster bomber in the sound & light show
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