A sombre experience at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

I looked up at the names covering the dark grey metal wall. Thousands and thousands of them covered the length of each of the long walls of the huge hall. Almost as many plastic red poppies were bunched next to them where people had found the name of a long dead relative. Somewhere among the thousands was one of mine.

This is the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, and where I was currently standing was the beautiful big hall where the names of the fallen were listed. Through the main entrance, I entered into the central courtyard where a single flame burned continuously in a pool surrounded by carefully manicured gardens. The staircase at the end gave access to the huge, almost endless plaques that cover the long walls of the Hall of Memory.

Front of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

The front of the Australian War Memorial

Inside the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia

Inside the Australian War Memorial, looking through the Hall of Memory towards the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier

I had turned right at the stairs to the wall that named the fallen from the Second World War and onward. It was the other wall that listed the names from the First World War, the Great War that happened so many years ago.

Names of the fallen in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

The names of the fallen in the Hall of Memory

My eyes wandered from name to name, through all the different battalions, a seemingly endless list of men that had died for my country, on soil on the other side of the world. My search seemed almost impossible, finding one name out of so many, but just when I was ready to give up, I spotted it. There, in the same grey lettering as the thousands of others, was the name I was searching for. Langdon H, My Great Grandfather.

My Great Grandfather's name in the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

My Great Grandfather’s name in the Hall of Memory

Like most of his companions in the Great War, my Great Grandfather had died young. In fact, my Grandfather was only a tiny toddler at the time, and like so many other children at that time, he had to grow up without a father. I only had to look at the thousands of other names on the wall to see how much loss and grief that there must have been back in those days, now almost a hundred years ago. So many children had to grow up without their fathers.

A pilot statue in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

A statue in the Hall of Memory

Having paid my respects, I wandered into the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, where a man rests forever, a man whose name is forever lost. “At least my Great Grandfather’s name is remembered”, I thought. Such was the disaster of that war. Not everyone’s name is on that wall, and not everyone has a grave that can be visited where people might pay their respects. This Unknown Soldier stands for every man who died in that war, whoever they were, they will still be remembered.

Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier

Ceiling of the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

The ceiling of the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier

Windows in the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Windows in the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier

I wandered through the museum afterwards, looking at the old weaponry that was saved from the wars to be put on display. Models of battles displayed what the men of this time had gone through, the dim light of the museum reflecting the mood that occurs in times of war and death. I felt the need to view and read everything, to try and understand what my Great Grandfather must have gone through all those years ago. The truth is, I never can know. In fact, no one can know anymore. The last memory died with the last of the First World War veterans. There are no more left. No more memories. And yet none of these people will ever be forgotten. Their sacrifices, along with those who died in all of the other wars and still do, have made Australia what it is today. They have kept our country safe, and it is their honour and sacrifice that is celebrated at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Model of the Battle of Magdhaba at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Model of the Battle of Magdhaba, the First World War

Old Nazi Jeep in the museum of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

An old Nazi jeep from WWII

Japanese WWII area of the Australian War Memorial

The Japanese WWII area of the museum

A Hawker Sea Fury plane at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

A Hawker Sea Fury aircraft used in Korea

Thanks to this memorial, I know that my Great Grandfather’s name will be there forever, and that all of those thousands of others, and even those who have no names, will be forever remembered.

Let this place stand forever in remembrance. Lest we forget.

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15 comments… add one
  • Cheryl Apr 4, 2013

    War memorials are always very powerful and moving experiences. Lovely post!

    • Dean Wickham Apr 12, 2013

      Glad you liked it Cheryl. It certainly was a moving experience

  • Iain Mallory Apr 7, 2013

    Visiting war memorials is always a sobering experience, though the museum appears really interesting. Those vehicles and planes are reason to visit alone. I’ll have to try to remember this if i ever get to Canberra.
    Iain Mallory recently posted..Our Blooming Beautiful Blue Marble – Flowers photo essayMy Profile

    • Dean Wickham Apr 12, 2013

      Hi Iain. The Australian War Memorial in Canberra is absolutely brilliant. I could have spent all day there. The museum is very interesting!

  • Larissa Apr 7, 2013

    We found the War Memorial in Sydney to be very moving, I did not know there was one in Canberra as well.
    Larissa recently posted..A visit to the Cambodian Landmine MuseumMy Profile

    • Dean Wickham Apr 12, 2013

      Hi Larissa. Yes I have been to the one in Sydney which is also very moving. The Canberra one is much larger and has an amazing museum as well. It is known as one of the best in the world.

  • Elwyn Crawford Apr 7, 2013

    Thank you for this most interesting blog post of your recent visit to the Australian War Memorial. The photographs are stunning and provide much food for thought.

    Trust it was a most successful Open Day for the AWM this weekend.

    • Dean Wickham Apr 12, 2013

      Thanks Elwyn. I’m glad you liked the post.

      • Elwyn Crawford Apr 21, 2013

        Hi Dean With much coverage in the newspapers currently about Anzac Day and as the stories from that time surface into the public arena I have just reread your post again and would be ever so pleased if you would allow me to place a link on our 2 website pages (other than the link I placed on April 7 on our FB Page) … Best regards Elwyn

  • George Jul 4, 2013

    I recently visited Australian war memorial and its helps me to kmow more about Australian hisory

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