When the real battlefield horrors and death and casualty tolls became known at home the Australian people needed and wanted a physical place to pay their respects to their loved ones. Governments and councils too recognised how important it would be to set in stone fitting memorials to those who paid the highest sacrifice.
This year, as part of my WWI project, I have visited WWI memorials in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Ypres in Belgium.
Ypres: Not only in Australia were magnificient architectural forms designed and built, but also in Ypres Belgium where the worst of the battlefield tolls occurred. The Menin Gate, or Menenpoort in Flemish, a Memorial to the Missing was built over the main eastern entrance to the town.
Its large Hall of Memory contains the names of 54,395 Commonwealth soldiers who died but whose bodies have never been identified or found. The memorial was too small to contain all the names as originally planned. Those missing after 15 August 1917, had their names inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing instead - 34,984. Since it’s unveiling on 24 July 1927, the Last Post Ceremony has been conducted at the Menin Gate every night of the year, rain, hail or shine (except for short period of WWII). The town of Ypres pays its respect and will never forget what occurred on the surrounding battlefields.
On 13 October I attended the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate and placed a poppy for my grandfather who survived his wounding one years before on 12 October 1917.
Sydney: In Hyde Park stands New South Wales’ principal commemorative monument, the Anzac Memorial with its Pool of Reflection stretching towards Park Street on the northern side. Artist, George Rayner Hoff, an English sculptor who served in the Royal Engineers as a map maker in France during WWI, and migrated to Sydney in the 1920s, collaborated with Australian architect Charles Bruce Dellit on the Anzac Memorial.
Fundraising for the Anzac Memorial started on 25 April 1916, and it was officially opened on 24 November 1934 by His Royal Highness Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. It is the focal point of commemorative services on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day and other important occasions.
At the heart of the memorial is the sculpture ‘Sacrifice’ depicting a slain warrior being carried home on his shield by his mother, sister and wife nursing his infant child. Designed by Rayner Hoff the sculpture is based on the story of a Spartan warrior from ancient Greece. Sacrifice is located in the Hall of Silence, and according to the memorial’s website "so that all who enter the Hall of Memory must gaze down upon it, thereby making physical and mental acknowledgement of the spirit which it symbolises..."
If you wish to read more about the sculptor and his war service here is a link to an article written by Brad Manera, the Senior Curator and Historian at the Anzac Memorial: http://www.anzacmemorial.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/Rayner%20Hoff%20article%20for%20web.pdf
Melbourne: In the Kings Domain, on St Kilda Road and in line with Swanston Street, lies the Shrine of Remembrance, created to meet the needs of a grieving community. Of 114,000 Victorians who enlisted in WWI, 89,000 served abroad and 19,000 were killed and buried in distant graves far from home. Originally dedicated to the memory of the men and women of Victoria who gave their lives in WWI it now also honours all Australians who serve in a war.
After running a competition, the Shrine was designed by winning architects Phillip Hudson and James Wardrop, both veterans of WWI. It was officially opened on 11 November 1934 by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, son of King George V, witnessed by a crowd of 300,000.
The original design consisted only of the central sanctuary surrounded by the ambulatory. Within the sanctuary lies the marble Stone of Remembrance, upon which is engraved the words "Greater love hath no man". Once a year, on 11 November at 11am a ray of sunlight shines through an aperture in the roof to light up the word "Love" in the inscription. Beneath the sanctuary lies the crypt, which contains a bronze statue of a soldier father and son, and panels listing every unit of the Australian Imperial Force.
Enclosed in locked glass cases in a corridor surrounding the sanctuary are the Books of Remembrance. Inscribed by eight calligraphers, the books contain the names of 89,100 Victorian members of the Australian Imperial Force, the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force who were either born or enlisted in Victoria and served overseas in World War I, or died in camp prior to embarkation. In March I viewed the name of Private Athol Thomas Robinson an original Anzac. I was also able to pin a poppy for my grandfather John Mitchell for his WWII service and print out a certificate of his service.
Brisbane: The Shrine of Remembrance is located in ANZAC Square, between Ann and Adelaide Streets, perpetuating the memory of nearly 60,000 Queensland men and women who served in WWI.
The Memorial, 10 metres in diameter, consists of a Grecian Doric circular colonnade of 18 columns which represent the year of peace - 1918. Inscribed within the top coping are the names of the battles in which Australian units figured prominently, included are Pozieres, Bullecourt, Messines, Ypres and Amiens. Within the enclosure, a bronze urn is centrally placed, emitting a continuous flame, 'The Eternal Flame of Remembrance', symbolic of the faith of the nation's gratitude.
Funds were raised by public subscription for a memorial to fallen soldiers in World War I and in 1928 a competition was held for its design. The competition was won by Sydney architects Buchanan and Cowper who proposed a Greek Revival structure. The Shrine took two years to build and was dedicated on Armistice Day 11 November 1930 by Governor John Goodwin.
There is a crypt in the lower section of the Shrine of Remembrance which contains the World War I and World War II Shrine of Memories, which contains memorial plaques to numerous Australian regiments who fought during these campaigns. I visited the Brisbane Shrine in July.
Canberra: Standing prominently on a hilltop at the top of Anzac Parade in Canberra, lies the Australian War Memorial. WWI official war correspondent and historian Charles Bean resolved at Pozières in 1916 that those men and their ordeal would not be forgotten.
Charles Bean went ashore during the landing on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, and for the rest of the war followed the movements and battles of Australian soldiers on the Western Front. He was at the Battle of Passchendaele when my grandfather was wounded on 12 October 1917.
In 1918 Charles Bean wrote “on some hill-top – still, beautiful, gleaming white and silent, a building of three parts, a centre and two wings. The centre will hold the great national relics of the AIF. One wing will be a gallery – holding the pictures that our artists painted and drew actually on the scene and amongst the events themselves. The other wing will be a library to contain the written official records of every unit.”
Bean was also appointed to oversee the production of the 12 volume Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918 and he wrote six of the volumes, completing the last in 1942.
The Australian War Memorial combines a shrine, a world-class museum, and an extensive archive - from a vast national collection of war relics, official and private records, art, photographs, film, and sound are employed to relate the story of the Australian nation's experience in world wars, regional conflicts, and international peacekeeping.
The Memorial commemorates the Australia’s tribute to the sacrifice of more than 102,000 Australian men and women who died serving their country. A central Commemorative Area flanked by arched cloisters houses the names of the fallen on the bronze panels of the Roll of Honour. At the head of the Pool of Reflection, beyond the Flame of Remembrance, stands the towering Hall of Memory, with its interior wall and high dome clad in a six-million-piece mosaic and illuminated by striking stained-glass windows. Inside lies the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, a symbolic national shrine.
John Treloar (1894–1952) contributed more than any other person to the realisation of Bean's vision. Treloar, who came from Melbourne, also landed on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. In 1917, as a captain, he was appointed to head the newly created Australian War Records Section (AWRS) in London, responsible for collecting records and relics for the future museum and to help the official historian in his work. After the war Treloar devoted his life to the Memorial, and influenced almost every aspect of its development.
In April I placed poppies for Frank Uther and Gordon Arthvael Uther against their names on the Roll of Honour, and more recently on 26 October I placed a wreath for Frank Uther during the Last Post ceremony.