Military Wiki
Australian War Memorial
AWM canberra 1.jpg
For Australian military dead of all wars
Unveiled 1941, and in stages since then
Location 35°16′50″S 149°08′57″E / 35.2805°S 149.1491°E / -35.2805; 149.1491Coordinates: 35°16′50″S 149°08′57″E / 35.2805°S 149.1491°E / -35.2805; 149.1491
near Canberra, ACT
Designed by Emil Sodersten and John Crust

Anzac Day Dawn Service at AWM, 90th anniversary, 25 April 2005

The Australian War Memorial is Australia's national memorial to the members of all its armed forces and supporting organisations who have died or participated in the wars of the Commonwealth of Australia. The memorial includes an extensive national military museum. The Australian War Memorial was opened in 1941, and is widely regarded as one of the most significant memorials of its type in the world.

The Memorial is located in Australia's capital, Canberra. It is the northern terminus of the city's ceremonial land axis, which stretches from Parliament House on Capital Hill along a line passing through the summit of the cone-shaped Mount Ainslie to the northeast. No continuous roadway links the two points, but there is a clear line of sight from the front balcony of Parliament House to the War Memorial, and from the front steps of the War Memorial back to Parliament House.

The Australian War Memorial consists of three parts: the Commemorative Area (shrine) including the Hall of Memory with the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, the Memorial's galleries (museum) and Research Centre (records). The Memorial also has an outdoor Sculpture Garden. The Memorial is currently open daily from 10 am until 5 pm, except on Christmas Day.

Many people include Anzac Parade as part of the Australian War Memorial because of the Parade's physical design leading up to the War Memorial, but it is maintained separately by the National Capital Authority (NCA).[1]


Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, being guided around the war memorial by Charles Bean (16 February 1954). The Duke of Edinburgh follows behind in military uniform.

Charles Bean, Australia's official World War I historian, first conceived a museum memorial to Australian soldiers while observing the 1916 battles in France. The Australian War Records Section was established in May 1917 to ensure preservation of records relating to the war being fought at the time. Records and relics were exhibited first in Melbourne and later Canberra.

An architectural competition in 1927 did not produce a winning entry. However two entrants, Sydney architects Emil Sodersten and John Crust, were encouraged to represent a joint design. A limited budget and the effects of the Depression confined the scope of the project.[2]

The building was completed in 1941, after the outbreak of World War II. It was officially opened following a Remembrance Day ceremony on 11 November 1941 by the then Governor-General Lord Gowrie, himself a former soldier whose honours included the Victoria Cross. Additions since the 1940s have allowed the remembrance of Australia's participation in other more recent conflicts.

Directors of the AWM to the present:

  • August 1919 – May 1920 – Henry Gullett
  • 1920–1952 – Major John Linton Treloar, OBE (1894–1952)
  • 1952–1966 – Major J. J. McGrath, OBE ( -1998)
  • September 1966 – 1974 – W. R. Lancaster (formerly Assistant Director of the War Memorial)
  • 13 January 1975 – 1982 – Noel Joseph Flanagan, AO
  • 1982–1987 – James H. Flemming, AO
  • 1987–1990 – Keith W. Pearson, AO
  • 1990–1994 – Brendon E. W. Kelson
  • 1996–2012 Major General Steve Gower, AO
  • 2012–Present The Hon. Dr. Brendan Nelson

Remembrance Driveway

Remembrance Nature Park, located behind the War Memorial, is the Canberra terminus of the Remembrance Driveway, a system of arboreal parks, landmarks and road-side stops between Sydney and Canberra commemorating the 24 World War II and Vietnam War Victoria Cross recipients.[3]

Anzac Parade

ANZAC Parade is a short, broad boulevard named in honour of the soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. It stretches from near the north shore of Lake Burley Griffin to the foot of the Memorial proper, along the line of sight from Parliament House. It separates the residential suburbs of Campbell and Reid, and is fairly heavily trafficked as a route between northeastern Canberra (Dickson etc.) and Kings Avenue Bridge.

Along each side of the Parade is a row of monuments commemorating specific military campaigns or services, such as the Vietnam War and Australia's wartime nurses. The monuments are mostly sculptures in a variety of styles ranging from naturalistic to Modern.

The foot of the Parade, near the lake, is paired by monumental sculptures in the form of gigantic basket handles, donated to the Memorial by New Zealand. The two monuments are dedicated to Australia and New Zealand, respectively, and are inspired by the Māori proverb Mau tena kiwai o te kete, maku tenei, "Each of us at a handle of the basket", signifying the long tradition of cooperation and general closeness between the two Commonwealth countries.

The symbolic association of the two nations is carried forward in the vegetation decorating ANZAC Parade. Long beds of New Zealand Hebe shrubs line the middle of the avenue, and behind the two rows of monuments are narrow bands of Australian eucalyptus trees. Behind the trees are narrow residential streets paralleling the Parade and separating it from the residential neighbourhoods. In the high summer, cicadas in the eucalyptus trees can be heard from several blocks away.

The commemorative area

Towards the entrance of the Hall of Memory, from within.

Detail of the dome from inside the Hall of Memory.

Memorial Courtyard

The Memorial proper is sited on a broad pie slice-shaped lawn at the northern end of Anzac Parade. The commemorative area is situated in the open centre of the memorial building, (including the cloisters to each side and the Hall of Memory under the building's central dome) and the sculpture garden is on the lawn to the west.

The heart of the commemorative area is the Hall of Memory, a tall domed chapel with a small floor plan in the form of an octagon. The walls are lined with tiny mosaic tiles from the floor to the dome. Inside lies the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier.[4]

Three of the walls, facing east, west, and south, feature stained glass designs representing qualities of Australian servicemen and women. At the four walls facing northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest are mosaic images of a Sailor, a Servicewoman, a Soldier and an Airman, respectively.

The mosaic and stained glass were the work of the one-armed Australian muralist Napier Waller, who had lost his right arm at Bullecourt during World War I and learned to write and create his works with his left arm. He completed his work in 1958.

In front of the Hall of Memory is a narrow courtyard with a memorial pool surrounding an eternal flame and flanked by sidewalks and shrubbery, including plantings of rosemary for remembrance. Above the courtyard to either side are long cloisters containing the Roll of Honour, a series of bronze plaques naming the 102,000 Australian servicemen and women killed in conflict. The plaques include names dating back to the British Sudanese Expedition, the Second Boer War, and the Boxer Rebellion. The entire long wall of the western gallery is covered with the names of the thousands who died in World War I. The eastern gallery is covered with the names of those who died in World War II and more recent conflicts.

The roll shows the names only, not rank or other awards, as "all men are equal in death". Visiting relatives and friends insert poppies in the cracks between the bronze plaques, beside the names of their loved ones that they wish to honour; many continue to be inserted by the names of those who died in World War I, and a few even appear by the names of those who died in the 19th century campaigns.

A small exhibit in the museum indicates that the famous Breaker Morant of the Boer War does not appear in the Roll of Honour, not because he was dishonoured, but rather because he was not actually a member of the Australian armed forces.

When the Memorial closes each day, there is a ceremony at which visitors can gather at the entrance, hear a very brief explanation from a host, and listen as a recording of the "Last Post" is played. On significant days, a piper or a bugler descends from the gallery, playing the Last Post.

Forecourt and Stone of Remembrance

Australian War Memorial Anzac Day dawn service, 25 April 2013. The crowd of around 35,000 people is addressed by Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG who is reading stories and anecdotes from Australian service men and women relating to the war in Afghanistan.

The forecourt is the part of the commemorative area that is the main place in Canberra where Anzac Day and Remembrance Day services are held. These services are normally attended by Federal parliament representatives and officials from foreign embassies and Commonwealth high commissions, most notably those from New Zealand.[5]

The Stone of Remembrance is the focal point for these activities, and the steps from the Memorial towards Anzac Parade lead to the Stone then to the Parade. The grassed sides of the forecourt form a natural amphitheatre which can accommodate aound 35-40,000 people at a typical Anzac Day Dawn Service Most will be standing, but the Memorial erects some staged seating for Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.

The Memorial building

The Memorial's art collection includes Menin Gate at Midnight (1927) by Australian artist Will Longstaff

The Memorial is a two-storey building with a floor plan in the shape of a cross. The building is of Byzantine architecture style with strong styling elements of Art Deco throughout. In 2001, a new, broad annex called ANZAC Hall was added to the north of the original building. In order to preserve the view of the original building from Anzac Parade, ANZAC Hall was designed to be recessed into the grounds below, and hidden behind a wall.

The upper level is dedicated primarily to World War I (the entire west wing) and World War II (the entire east wing). In the World War I area there is extensive material pertaining to the Gallipoli campaign. Between the wings lies Aircraft Hall, which contains a number of complete aircraft, mostly from the World War II era.

The main Western Front gallery in August 2012

Diorama of the Battle of Magdhaba

Also between the wings lies the Hall of Valour, a display of 61 of the 96 Victoria Crosses awarded to Australian soldiers; the largest publicly held collection of Victoria Crosses in the world.[6] There is an individual display for the holder of each Cross shown there, with a photograph, an excerpt from the citation that accompanied the award, and usually additional medals awarded to the same soldier. The relatives of Australian VC holders often donate or lend the Crosses to the Memorial for safekeeping and greater public awareness of their honoured kin.

On 24 July 2006 Kerry Stokes purchased the 60th medal at auction for a world record price of A$1,000,000 and asked that it be displayed in the Victoria Cross Gallery. This medal was awarded to Captain Alfred Shout for hand-to-hand combat at the Lone Pine trenches in Gallipoli Turkey. The Victoria Cross Gallery now has all 9 VCs awarded to Australians at Gallipoli.[7]

The lower level contains a theatre, a research area, displays for the colonial and post–World War II conflicts, and an area for temporary special exhibitions.

ANZAC Hall is a large annex to the upper level of the memorial, used for the display of large military hardware. Notable displays on the Western side include a complete and particularly historic Lancaster bomber known as G for George, a Japanese Ko-hyoteki class midget submarine sunk during a raid on Sydney Harbour in 1942, rare German aircraft such as the Me 262 and Me 163, and a restored Japanese A6M Zero, that was flown in combat over New Guinea. The eastern side includes a World War I aircraft exhibition, notably displaying a Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a, Pzalz D.XII and Albatros D.Va, among others.

The building is large and the collections are extensive; a full day will suffice for only the most cursory examination of its contents.

A gift shop and two coffee shops are on site, one overlooking ANZAC Hall, called "The Landing Place", and the other on the eastern side of the main building, called "The Terrace".

The sculpture garden

Monument to Simpson and his Donkey

Kangaroos standing before naval gun turret. The domed structure in the background is the Hall of Memory.

The sculpture garden on the west lawn of the Memorial contains a variety of outdoor monuments. The sidewalk through the garden is embedded with bronze plaques commemorating various branches of service, specific units, and historical events. There are also a number of sculptures, including a gigantic figure of a World War II-era Australian soldier which was originally located in the Hall of Memory, before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was placed there. There is a gun turret from HMAS Brisbane, a gun barrel from the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia and the barrel from the Amiens Gun – a huge railroad gun captured from the Germans during World War I.[8]

This area is used for special displays during annual Memorial Open Days, and summertime band concerts are held on the nearby lawn.

Storage facility at Mitchell

The Treloar Technology Centre is the AWM's storage and conservation facility. Located in the industrial suburb of Mitchell, it houses the items from the Memorial's collection which are not on display. The facility also includes workshops which are used for restoration tasks.The Treloar Technology Centre is occasionally opened to the public during 'Big Things in Store' open days.[9]

See also



  • McKernan, Michael: Here is Their Spirit: A History of the Australian War Memorial 1917–1990 (University of Queensland Press, 1991)

External links

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