It is in speaking their name that we remember them.
At the Australian War Memorial today, we saw the Hall of Memory.
Along 2 long walls are inscribed the names of all the soldiers who served during the various wars the Australians participated in. Thousands of names and innumerable poppies placed beside them, likely by loved ones who visited and remembered. The sight is staggering, but what was most heart wrenching was the voice that slowly read out each name along with their age when they died.
Emotional, I continued to the War Memorial which has a very large cupola and several stained glass windows depicting soldiers from the various branches of the armed forces. Beyond the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, there are 4 columns make of various materials (Granite? Marble?). Each one represents a different natural element – earth, water, air and fire. Stunning!
We had spent 2 hours walking through the museum. We could have spent 2 days, but we rushed through the WW1 exhibit in favour of more recent conflicts. Besides, we had spent quite a long time at the Anzac Centre in Albany 2 weeks ago, and seen other exhibits on WW1 namely a visit to Gallipoli in 2009.
We was particularly interested in women’s role during the many conflicts, especially the massacres and death marches that happened in WW2. A few interesting artifacts were a blanket, crocheted by a male POW using yarn from old socks and a crochet he fabricated from wood, a pullover knitted by a female POW to help her cope with the harsh Japan winters, and some quilts that were produced by the civilian internees of the Changi Goal that helped their loved ones identify how they were during their imprisonment. The patch from some Canadian girl caught my eye. What had she been doing so far from home? Did she ever make it back?
We toured the outside of the buildings and found the usual military vehicles and guns. Of particular interest to me was a vehicle they call a Bushmaster which is/was produced in Bendigo. The other was an ASLAV – Australian Light Armoured Vehicle, produced in Canada.
I left with two thoughts – the number of artifacts in this museum reflects the generous donations of so many cherished momentos held by families all over Australia. A testament to how dearly they regards those who served their country during conflict. The second, as usual, was the terrible waste that is War.