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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.