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Australian War Memorial Tips (72)

Aircraft and Anzac Halls - Australian War Memorial

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.

To return to my Australian War Memorial review click here.

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May 05, 2015

World War One Dioramas – Part 2

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.


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.

To return to my Australian War Memorial review click here.

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May 05, 2015

World War One Dioramas – Part 1

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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Next Dec 14 - 5 May 2015 Review

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May 05, 2015

World War I at the Australian War Memorial

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.

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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Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier

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.

To return to my Australian War Memorial review click here.

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May 05, 2015

Hall of Memory – Part B

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.

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May 05, 2015

Hall of Memory – Part A

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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May 05, 2015

Menin Gate Lions

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.

Next Review – War Memorial and ANZAC Parade

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Apr 19, 2015

Top 5 Canberra Writers

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See the original Menin Gate Lions

The Lions are currently being displayed in Canada. check news coverage
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."

pedroswift's Profile Photo
Mar 28, 2015

War Memorial – Sculpture Garden Pt 2 of 2

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.

Next Review – War Memorial and ANZAC Parade

wabat's Profile Photo
Dec 22, 2014

War Memorial – Sculpture Garden Pt 1 of 2

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.

Next Review – War Memorial and ANZAC Parade

wabat's Profile Photo
Dec 22, 2014

Canberra War Memorial a must see destination

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.

fachd's Profile Photo
Sep 10, 2014

Things to Do Near Australian War Memorial

Things to Do

Blundell's Cottage

This cottage, now located in Commonwealth Park, was constructed as a home for Duntroon Estate workers in the 1860s and as such predates Canberra’s selection as the National Capital. It has been home...
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Things to Do

ANZAC Parade

This memorial, a crescent-shaped wall and five pillars derived from the symbol and star on the Turkish flag was dedicated on 25 April 1985 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing....
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Things to Do

National Library of Australia

Libraries are not typically on my list of must dos when I visit somewhere but this one, Australia’s largest with approximately 10 million items comprising books, journals, newspapers, archives,...
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Things to Do

Lake Burley Griffin

The title of this tip may be a bit misleading – I actually mean, and will review, a walk around the central basin – a circular walk of 5kms crossing the lake via Commonwealth and King’s bridges...
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Things to Do

ACT Legislative Assembly

As far as I can work out from its website, outside the rare ‘Open Day’ the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) Legislative Assembly (local government – see footnote below) building is only open to...
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Things to Do

Festival - Floriade

I am sad to open this review by saying that I was rather disappointed with Floriade 2014. Billed as Australia’s biggest celebration of spring, Floriade is an annual flower display which has now run...
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Getting to Australian War Memorial


Treloar Crescent, Campbell


  • Sunday 10:00 to 17:00
  • Monday 10:00 to 17:00
  • Tuesday 10:00 to 17:00
  • Wednesday 10:00 to 17:00
  • Thursday 10:00 to 17:00
  • Friday 10:00 to 17:00
  • Saturday 10:00 to 17:00