I believe the Australian War Memorial is the best in the world! A visit to Canberra should include at least a day at this world-class, most impressive museum. And for any war time history buffs, it would be worthwhile setting aside an extra day as there’s just too much to explore.
The Memorial is a majestic Byzantine architecturally designed building over two floors and was opened to the public on Remembrance Day, 11 November 1941. It’s home to a stunning array of war time memorabilia.
At the entrance, and if you turn around, you’ll look down Anzac Parade towards the Old and New Parliament House. As you enter the Memorial, your attention will immediately be captured by the beautiful Commemorative Courtyard with the Pool of Reflection and the Eternal Flame. The pool is lined by Rosemary plants for remembrance as well as other plants and shrubs.
Beyond the pool is the Hall of Memory inside which lies the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier. The floor plan of this lofty hall is octagonal with an exquisite domed roof. The stained glass windows depict figures in the uniform and equipment of the First World War and the walls are lined with tiny mosaic tiles which depict figures in intricate detail of a solider, sailor, airman and servicewoman to commemorate those who served in the Second World War. Take a moment to reflect and allow the tranquility of this beautiful shrine to envelop you.
On either side of the courtyard is the Roll of Honour which includes the names of more than 102,000 Australians who died in conflicts since 1885 and in their honour, you’re welcome to insert a poppy against the name of a fallen family member or someone who is significant to you. The poppy is a symbol of remembrance and hope. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae wrote a now famous poem called “In the Flanders Fields” after losing his friend at Ypres in 1915 and being inspired by poppies growing in battle-scarred fields. It became the symbol of Remembrance after World War One.
The galleries can be accessed on either side of the entrance. They include war relics, amazing dioramas depicting various battles, photographs, art, sculptures, official and private records, all kinds of weaponry, various aircraft, tanks and even stuffed animals.
The War Memorial stages temporary and permanent exhibitions, some of which include cutting edge technology to provide a memorable experience. Below is a list of current exhibitions:
After The War
A Lifetime of Service for Australia
The Hundred Days
The Holocaust: Witnesses and Survivors
The Colonial Conflicts
First World War Gallery
Second World War Gallery
Conflicts 1945 to Today
Afghanistan: the Australian story
For more details on these exhibitions, visit the Australian War Memorial website – https://www.awm.gov.au/visit/exhibitions
The Memorial is also a place for children to explore and learn all about the Australian military history. The Discovery Zone allows them to have a hands on experience. It features a helicopter, submarine, Western Front trench and an Australian home during the Second World War. They can try on World War One uniforms, peer through the periscope of a Cold War submarine and sit in the cockpit of a helicopter.
If you’re wanting a break for a spot of lunch or a cup of tea, sit down and relax at The Landing Place Café inside the Memorial or Poppy’s Café on the grounds.
Once you’ve visited the Australian War Memorial, I’m sure you’ll be back. I’ve been a constant visitor since my childhood and have loved exploring and discovering, but also reflecting and acknowledging and giving thanks to our courageous heroes …
Image 1 – Poppy taken by Diana Parkhouse – Unsplash
Image 2 – Australian War Memorial
Image 4 – Hall of Memory and Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier
Images 10, 11, 12 – Hands on at the Discovery Zone