This is, without question, one of the "must-see's" of the Australian tourist circuit. Its fame is world wide and rightly so. What it promises, it delivers. It is a sombre monument to the folly of war, perhaps at times glorifying moments but always reminding one that wars are appalling things to have to endure.
In the ensuing pages I will elaborate on certain aspects for you.
If your into the history of war of Australians who are or were involved all the wars then this is the best place to come.
In the Australian War Memorial located in Campbell which is directly across the lake from the Old and New Parliament Houses which you can see clearly from the view above the entrance on the walkway.
The Australian War Memorial has history, files, photos on past world wars, vietnam, korean, gulf war, and current wars involving Australians.
They have different areas for each war such as the First World War as known now as the Great War and also the Second World War in different areas of combat such as European war, Japanese, War in pacific, Middle East, Asia, and other areas.
They also have an area telling you about Gallipolli and how the Anzacs fought the battle on Anzac Cove in the First World War and after it.
The Australian War Memorial is an interesting tourist attraction for all ages and has won a number of National Tourist Attraction Awards over the years.
The Anzac Day services on 25th April each year begin at 5:30am for the dawn service and 10:15am for the National service which is broadcasted live on national television across Australia and I think New Zealand as well I think.
So it's well worth the visit and entry is free.
The Australian War Memorial is open daily from 9am - 5:30pm except closed half a day on 25th April for Anzac Day services.
For more information about the Australian War Memorial please give them a call or visit the website listed below.
There is public buses going to and from the War Memorial often and it's only a short drive from the city center and from the other National Tourist Attractions.
It is probably fair to state that Anzac Parade is by far the most important ceremonial parade in Australia. Flanking the Parade are separate memorials to units of the military forces and to various campaigns. Fittingly, the first installed was to the Mounted Infantry of Australia and New Zealand (ANZAC is the acronym for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) who operated in the Middle East in 1916-1918, during WW1. This is on the western side of Anzac Parade, not far from St John's Church.
The attached photos give a sampling of the memorials, but there are many more to see. Suggestion: take a walk up and down Anzac Parade to view the memorials, also including St John's church and school museum (see separate tip) - this will take about half a day without rushing.
If you can organise a group (there is a minimum number limit) you can book free guided tours, presented by National Capital Authority volunteer guides.
This should top the list as a 'must see'. Situated across the lake from Parliament House, along the Anzac Avenue axis (see heading photo) and directly below Mt Ainslie, the Australian War Memorial is the seemingly contrasting combination of a world-class war museum and a very solemn war memorial. You will be alternately fascinated and depressed by what you find there. The overall effect is tremendously moving.
I would suggest that you allow a day for a visit if possible. If only half a day is available, ensure you visit the Shrine to the Unknown Soldier and the Hall of Memories (where there are plaques listing over 100,000 Australians who have died in wars involving our country - well over half in WW1).
There are free guided tours of the Memorial. For those interested in family genealogy, there is also a comprehensive database of military records, available to family members.
This is a very big museum, that memorises and displays pictures, relics, dioramas and exhibitions detailing the human toll of wartime. It is very educative to walk around here. In the Netherlands we mainly learn about WW II and mainly about the way we were involved in it all. This is from a European persepctive. I know harldy anything about what happened in Japan, and how Australia was involved in the wars. If you want to know this museum will show you that.
The exploits of a man and his donkey during the ill-conceived and executed battle on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey are the stuff of legend. How this man carried wounded troops back from the front line, time after time, is one of the great Australian epics of heroism under fire. It is held in such high esteem that this statue holds a pride of place as you walk from the carpark to the museum.
During the current, at times hysterical, debate over immigration, this man's exploits were held as a prime example of what it means to be an Australian and what our values are. The high ranking politician who espoused this was perhaps unaware that Simpson was, in point of fact, an illegal immigrant and lied his way to get into the army. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story!
This museum has the largest collection of VCs (Victoria Crosses) anywhere. This was the highest order that a serviceman from the then British Empire could attain. The words "for valour" are enscribed on the medal and many were awarded posthumously. Heroic tales of how the medals were won are writ large in front of them, evoking deeds of times past. One wonders if it could be a VC winner that lies beneath the eternal flame.
It seems to be a world-wide phenomenon, the tomb of the unknown soldier. Knowing that a single unidentified serviceman's remains are interred at a particular point, representing the millions killed during the conflicts, has a certain poignancy about it.
Due reverence is paid and, at the end of the day, a small ceremony takes place here at the eternal flame that highlights the tomb.
From the fabled city of Palmyra comes this bust, another World War I trophy, and it is of Hagar that refers to a famous story according to which Muslims believe that Hagar (Arabic Hajar), mother of all future Arabs, finds water in a well miraculously provided by Gibreel. Her quest is ritually reenacted by all those who go on the Hejira to Mecca, where the well is now enclosed by the Haram, the grand mosque. Her son Ismail (Ishmael) is considered the ancestor of all Arabs.
This famous World War II bomber flew three tours of duty, 90 sorties, and thus became famous for doing that alone. Most didn't even make the first thirty.
All the original markings are still on it and they currently have an excellent light and sound show that simulates, to some degree, what it must have been like during a bombing raid. Frankly, I thought the sound effects must have been pretty close to reality.
The markings on the side also indicate when new captains took over.
How fortunate for the world that one of the soldiers of the light horse of the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division who came across it in 1917 during the second battle of Gaza was an amateur archaeologist otherwise we wouldn't have this wonderful piece preserved and protected from further harm where future generations will be able to enjoy it.
About the last thing you'd expect to find in a war museum is a floor mosaic from historical times. I, for one, was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled across the Shellal Mosaic that was originally housed in a Palestinian chapel.
The Hellenistic style of the vine trellis has pagan connotations. The full symmetry of design, detailed tonality of the animals create realistic 3 dimensional aspects of them. For me I was immediately reminded of the superb, virtually intact example at Aquileia in northern Italy.
You can also see the merging of styles with the Hellenistic vine linking to the Roman isometric border and the symmetry being very Gazaean in design.
When it comes to the Christian ideals of the floor piece it is obvious that the architecture of the church was extremely basic and primitive, with a simple rectangular floor and no presence of an apse. The only clue to where the altar may have been is the journey, one might say, of the central links of vines that symbolise traditional offerings, leading from one small crucifix cross to the top one where the altar may have been.
At the top there is an inscription that says:
"this temple with rich mosaics did decorate our most holy bishop...and the most Pious George, priest and sacristan, in the year 622 according to the era of Gaza, In the tenth year of the indication".
An art historian by the name of Henderson has interpreted it as an allegory of salvation:
The Vine is Christ as well as the Tree of Life that shelters all of god's creatures, and each animal represents either a virtue or aspect of humanity such as the Peacock (resurrection and eternal life). Down the centre, the subjects that arent of wildlife each have thier own meaning. The Amphora is the water of life with the unconsecrated water being in the west (at the bottom of the mosaic) and the baptismal or holy water being in the ast (at the top before the altar).
The original lumbering giant, with its twin turrets on the side, was a monster that weighed 28 tons and carried a crew of 8. Since its British inventors wanted to keep it a secret until it was ready they told people that it was a water tank, hence the name.
Sadly, it had one inherent flaw. Whilst making its way through, say, the sodden fields of Flanders, it had a tendency to sink in the mud. Not good for mobility.
Enter the French option, a Renault FT17 light tank crewed by only two men and a forerunner of the modern style. Bedecked in its natty colouring (did that really camouflage it?) it debuted with limited success late in World War I.
This is to remind us about the Rats of Tobruk, so called because of an epic struggle against great odds during the Second World War. Bunkered down and resisting the Axis onslaught, the troops carved a niche for themselves and their country on the international scene.
This is another of the roadside reminders, this time about Vietnam, the war that no-one wanted to know about after it was over. Thus it was that thousands were subjected to the horrors of war and came home to a nation that hardly cared. It was little wonder that so many were traumatised by the experience.
It was sad that the nation almost ignored their plight. In fact, it was too late for some who took their own final solution.
However, while we might try to disown the political folly of the action, we should try and care for those who, in many cases, were unwitting victims of the call-up. This encompassing sculpture goes some way to acknowledging their sacrifice.
On the broad avenue called Anzac, THE most memorable street in Canberra, there are memorials placed dedicated to areas of conflict participated in by Australians. It is the grandest street in Australia, its width alone demanding your attention but the layout on the sides amplifying that attention.
This particular piece is in memory of those who served in the maritime areas and it seemed a little incongruous to me stuck amid the classic gum trees, very few of which have ever been to sea.
The chiselled edges and sombre colours seem to typify war statues, possibly alluding to a formidable comradeship and solid appearance of them as a foe. Sometimes, for me, the heroism displayed by many tries to paper over the cracks of those who will never return.