Nestled in the heart of Australia’s capital city, Canberra, lies a poignant reminder of the nation’s unwavering spirit and the sacrifices made by its brave servicemen and women. The Australian War Memorial (AWM) stands as a timeless testament to their courage, dedication, and resilience.
- Australian War Memorial history
- Galleries and exhibitions
- First World War Gallery
- Second World War Gallery
- Conflicts 1945 to Today Gallery
- Hall of Valour
This hallowed place not only honors the fallen but also tells the stories of those who served and continue to serve in the name of peace, democracy, and freedom.
Australian War Memorial history
The seeds of the AWM were sown in the hearts and minds of Australians during the harrowing years of World War I. Officially opened in 1941, it emerged as a beacon of hope and remembrance amidst the turmoil of the Second World War. Designed by architect Emil Sodersten and sculptor Rayner Hoff, this national institution stands as a solemn symbol of unity and gratitude.
At its core, the Australian War Memorial seeks to preserve the memories of those who gave their all in conflicts, wars, and peacekeeping operations, spanning from the shores of Gallipoli to the jungles of Vietnam and beyond. The AWM bears witness to their stories, ensuring that the sacrifices made by these brave individuals will never be forgotten.
The AWM fulfills a dual purpose: it serves as both a museum and a memorial, inviting visitors to delve into the rich tapestry of Australia’s military history while providing a sacred space for contemplation and reflection. This unique blend of education and commemoration sets the stage for an immersive, emotionally resonant experience that touches the very heart of what it means to be Australian.
Galleries and exhibitions
First World War Gallery
The First World War Gallery transports you back to the tumultuous years of 1914-1918, immersing you in the sights, sounds, and emotions of the era.
Here, you’ll find a wealth of artifacts, photographs, and multimedia displays that reveal the harsh realities of trench warfare and the heroic actions of those who fought at Gallipoli, the Western Front, and beyond. The gallery also pays homage to the vital roles played by nurses, medical personnel, and support staff in this devastating conflict.
- The Gallipoli Landing Boat: One of the most poignant exhibits in the First World War Gallery is the original landing boat used by Australian troops during the Gallipoli Campaign. This wooden boat provides a tangible connection to the soldiers who fought on those fateful shores in 1915.
- Trench Warfare Exhibit: Experience the harsh reality of trench warfare through a reconstructed section of the Western Front trenches. This exhibit features authentic artifacts, including sandbags, barbed wire, and weaponry, that transport you to the muddy, dangerous world of life on the front lines.
- The Roll of Honour: A somber tribute to the fallen, the Roll of Honour lists the names of over 60,000 Australians who lost their lives during the First World War. Walking along this poignant memorial, you’ll gain a sense of the magnitude of the human cost of the war.
- The Shell-Damaged A7V Sturmpanzerwagen “Mephisto”: This rare German A7V tank, known as “Mephisto,” is the last of its kind in existence. Captured by Australian troops in 1918, the tank serves as a reminder of the evolving nature of warfare and the technological advancements made during the First World War.
Second World War Gallery
Stepping into the Second World War Gallery, you’ll find yourself immersed in the global conflict that raged from 1939 to 1945. This gallery showcases the experiences of Australians on various fronts, including the European and Pacific theaters, as well as the home front.
From the dramatic Battle of the Coral Sea to the gripping Siege of Tobruk, you’ll bear witness to the courage and tenacity of those who served, as well as the innovations that shaped the course of the war.
- The Lancaster Bomber “G for George”: One of the key highlights of the Second World War Gallery is the legendary Avro Lancaster Bomber “G for George.” This aircraft flew 90 missions over occupied Europe and stands as a testament to the courage and tenacity of the aircrews who took part in these perilous operations.
- The Japanese Zero Fighter: On display in the gallery, you’ll find a Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero fighter plane, an iconic symbol of Japanese air power during the Second World War. This aircraft played a crucial role in the Pacific theater, and its inclusion offers a broader perspective on the conflict.
- The Kokoda Track Diorama: The Kokoda Track diorama brings to life the grueling jungle warfare experienced by Australian soldiers in New Guinea. This detailed model, complete with terrain and figurines, illustrates the harsh conditions and tactical challenges faced by the troops during this pivotal campaign.
- The North Africa and Mediterranean Exhibit: This exhibit delves into the experiences of Australian soldiers who fought in the North African and Mediterranean theaters of the war. Through photographs, personal stories, and artifacts, visitors can learn about the Siege of Tobruk, the Battle of El Alamein, and the Italian Campaign.
- HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran: The Second World War Gallery features an exhibit on the tragic sinking of the HMAS Sydney and the German raider HSK Kormoran in 1941, which resulted in the loss of all 645 crew members aboard the Sydney. The exhibit showcases artifacts recovered from both vessels, offering a fascinating glimpse into this mysterious naval encounter.
Conflicts 1945 to Today Gallery
This gallery takes you on a journey through the diverse and often complex post-1945 conflicts in which Australians have served.
From the frigid battlefields of Korea to the sweltering jungles of Vietnam, and from peacekeeping efforts in Timor-Leste to contemporary conflicts in the Middle East, the Conflicts 1945 to Today Gallery showcases the evolving nature of warfare and the indomitable spirit of those who have answered the call of duty.
- Iroquois Helicopter: One of the key highlights in the Conflicts 1945 to Today Gallery is the Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, commonly known as the “Huey.” Widely used by Australian forces during the Vietnam War, this iconic aircraft represents the vital role of air mobility and support in modern conflicts.
- Malayan Emergency Display: This exhibit showcases the often-overlooked Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), during which Australian forces fought against communist insurgents. The display features uniforms, weapons, and personal items that illustrate the challenges faced by the troops in this jungle warfare campaign.
- Korean War Exhibit: Delve into Australia’s involvement in the Korean War (1950-1953) through artifacts, photographs, and personal stories. This exhibit highlights the experiences of Australian soldiers, sailors, and airmen who fought alongside UN forces in the first major conflict of the Cold War.
- Peacekeeping Operations Display: The Conflicts 1945 to Today Gallery acknowledges Australia’s ongoing commitment to international peacekeeping efforts, from the first mission in Indonesia in 1947 to current deployments. The exhibit features uniforms, medals, and equipment used by Australian peacekeepers around the world.
- Afghanistan and Iraq Exhibits: These exhibits explore Australia’s recent involvement in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Through personal stories, photographs, and artifacts, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of the complex nature of these operations and the sacrifices made by Australian servicemen and women.
Hall of Valour
The Hall of Valour is a tribute to the extraordinary courage displayed by Australian servicemen and women. This hallowed space honors the recipients of the Victoria Cross and George Cross, the highest military and civilian awards for bravery.
In addition to these galleries, the AWM hosts various temporary exhibitions that delve into specific aspects of Australia’s military history, exploring themes such as Indigenous service, the role of women in the armed forces, and the impact of war on society.
- Victoria Cross Collection: The Hall of Valour houses the largest collection of Victoria Crosses (VC) awarded to Australians. The VC, the highest military award for valor in the face of the enemy, is a symbol of bravery and selflessness. The stories behind these medals provide a humbling insight into the courage of the recipients.
- George Cross Display: The Hall of Valour also includes a display of George Cross (GC) medals, awarded for acts of courage and devotion to duty not involving direct combat. These medals highlight the bravery and dedication of Australians who served in various capacities during times of conflict.
- Keith Payne VC Display: This exhibit features the personal story of Warrant Officer Keith Payne, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in Vietnam in 1969. The display includes Payne’s original VC, along with photographs and artifacts that tell his inspiring story.
- Albert Jacka VC Display: Albert Jacka, the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War, is commemorated in the Hall of Valour. The exhibit features Jacka’s VC and personal items that offer a glimpse into the life and character of this courageous soldier.
- Interactive Displays: The Hall of Valour includes interactive touchscreens that allow visitors to delve deeper into the stories of individual VC and GC recipients. These digital displays provide a wealth of information, photographs, and documents that bring these tales of heroism to life.
The Commemorative Area
The Australian War Memorial’s Commemorative Area serves as a sacred space for remembrance, reflection, and honoring the lives of those who have fallen in service to their country.
Bathed in an atmosphere of solemnity and reverence, this hallowed space invites you to pay your respects, contemplate the cost of war, and acknowledge the sacrifices made by countless individuals in pursuit of peace and freedom.
At the heart of the Commemorative Area lies the Pool of Reflection, a tranquil body of water symbolizing the lives lost and the tears shed by those left behind.
Encircling the pool are the Roll of Honour walls, where the names of over 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in service are etched in bronze. This powerful tribute serves as a constant reminder of the magnitude of their sacrifice and the debt of gratitude owed to these brave individuals.
One of the most significant features of the Commemorative Area is the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier. Located within the Hall of Memory, this solemn resting place represents all Australians who have died in war and whose remains have never been identified.
The Unknown Soldier, an unidentified Australian serviceman from World War I, was interred on November 11, 1993, the 75th anniversary of the Armistice. His tomb is adorned with a simple inscription: “An Unknown Australian Soldier Killed in the War of 1914-1918.”
This poignant symbol serves as a powerful reminder of the human cost of war and the sacrifices made by so many, known and unknown.
Last Post Ceremony
As the sun sets each day, the memorial hosts the Last Post Ceremony, a moving tribute to those who have served and died in conflicts and operations.
During the ceremony, the Memorial’s Commemorative Area is filled with the haunting notes of the bugle call, as a selected individual’s story is shared, and visitors are invited to lay wreaths and floral tributes.
This daily act of remembrance reinforces the enduring connection between the past, present, and future, and ensures that the sacrifices made by Australia’s servicemen and women will never be forgotten.
10 interesting facts about the Australian War Memorial:
- The AWM was the vision of Charles Bean, Australia’s official war correspondent during World War I, who believed in creating a memorial that would serve as a lasting tribute to the nation’s fallen heroes.
- The memorial’s Byzantine-inspired architectural design features a central dome, symbolizing the overarching protection provided by the armed forces.
- The AWM houses the world’s largest collection of Australian war-related art, with over 20,000 artworks spanning various conflicts and time periods.
- The Commemorative Courtyard features a series of bronze plaques depicting the badges of every Australian unit that has served in conflicts and peacekeeping operations.
- The AWM is home to a fascinating collection of military aircraft and vehicles, including a Lancaster bomber, a Japanese Zero fighter plane, and a Mark IV tank.
- The AWM’s Research Centre houses extensive archives, including personal diaries, letters, photographs, and unit histories, making it an invaluable resource for researchers, historians, and family members.
- The Lone Pine tree, located in the grounds of the AWM, is a living tribute to the Australian soldiers who fought in the Battle of Lone Pine at Gallipoli. The tree was grown from a pine cone taken from the original Lone Pine on the Gallipoli Peninsula.
- Over 2 million people visit the memorial annually, making it one of Australia’s most popular cultural institutions.
- The Memorial’s Sculpture Garden showcases various outdoor sculptures and installations, including pieces by renowned artists such as Leslie Bowles and Ante Dabro, which explore themes of war, loss, and remembrance.
- The AWM actively collaborates with schools and educators, providing a wealth of resources and educational programs aimed at fostering a deeper understanding of Australia’s military history and the importance of remembrance among younger generations.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk Memorial
The Mustafa Kemal Ataturk Memorial, located at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, honors the founding father of modern Turkey and pays tribute to his leadership during the Gallipoli Campaign of the First World War. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938) was a military officer who later became the first president of the Republic of Turkey, leading his nation through a period of extensive reforms and modernization.
During the Gallipoli Campaign, Ataturk, then a young officer, demonstrated exceptional military skills and bravery, playing a crucial role in the successful defense of the Gallipoli Peninsula against the Allied forces, which included Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) troops. The fierce battle led to heavy casualties on both sides and left a lasting legacy of mutual respect between the nations involved.
The Ataturk Memorial in Canberra was unveiled in 1985 to commemorate the enduring friendship between Australia and Turkey. The memorial features a bronze bust of Ataturk, set on a stone plinth, and is surrounded by a landscaped garden. Inscribed on the memorial is Ataturk’s famous message to the mothers of the fallen ANZAC soldiers, which reads:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
The Ataturk Memorial serves as a powerful reminder of the shared history and the spirit of reconciliation between Australia and Turkey. It stands as a testament to the bonds formed through the tragedy of war, highlighting the importance of peace, friendship, and understanding between nations.
Opening hours and entrance fee
The Australian War Memorial welcomes visitors daily (except for Christmas Day) from 10 am to 5 pm, offering ample opportunity for you to explore its galleries and exhibitions at your leisure.
Best of all, there is no entrance fee, making this national treasure accessible to everyone who wishes to honor and learn from Australia’s rich military history.
How to get to Australian War Memorial
Getting to the Australian War Memorial is relatively easy, as it is located in the heart of Canberra, the capital city of Australia. The Memorial can be reached via various means of transportation, depending on your preferences and starting point.
- By Car: If you’re driving to the memorial, it is situated at the end of Anzac Parade in the suburb of Campbell, Canberra. The address is Treloar Crescent, Campbell, ACT 2612. Parking is available on-site, with dedicated spaces for visitors with disabilities. There are also coach parking facilities.
- From Canberra Airport: The Canberra Airport is approximately a 15-minute drive from the memorial. You can rent a car at the airport or use a taxi or rideshare service (such as Uber) to reach the Memorial.
- By Public Transportation: Canberra’s public transportation system, Transport Canberra, operates bus services throughout the city. To reach the memorial using public transportation, take bus routes R3 or R9. You can check the Transport Canberra website for timetables, routes, and fare information.
- By Bike or On Foot: Canberra is a bike-friendly city with an extensive network of cycle paths. If you prefer to explore the city on two wheels or on foot, the memorial is easily accessible from various points in the city. The Memorial is approximately a 30-minute walk or a 10-minute bike ride from the city center.
The Australian War Memorial is a poignant and powerful tribute to the sacrifices made by Australia’s servicemen and women.
Its extensive galleries, historical records, and solemn ceremonies provide an unforgettable experience that brings to life the nation’s military history. A visit to the AWM is a journey that will touch your heart and leave a lasting impression.