I think I may have previously mentioned that I purchased a shiny new camera for the coming birth of my daughter. Well, seeing as my brother had just moved back to Canberra, is far more experienced that I in photography and the instruction booklet for the Canon 60D is a pain in the arse, I thought it would be easier to kill ‘three’ birds with the one stone and get myself and the camera to Canberra.
By the way, it’s the capital’s centenary this year. Yes, its one hundred years since the nations’ most distinguished and others got together and proclaimed this former sheep and lambing area the Capital City of the Commonwealth of Australia. As a quick shout out to Jeannie, the first reader of this blog, the capital was designed by Walter Burley Griffin and his wife, Marion Mahony Griffin and personally, I think they did a great job. The city still has the vibe of a big, friendly county town but with urban planning that makes moving around the city a breeze.
Anyways, after a frustrating and laborious drive down from Sydney, I finally arrived at my brothers’ place on the northern outskirts where we had a chance to catch up over a Chinese hot pot meal before getting down to the nitty-gritty of the Canon 60D.
The next morning, the plan was to visit some of the sites around Canberra, including the old and new Parliament Houses before heading over to the War Memorial and then finishing at the Botanical Gardens to try out the macro features of the camera. However, as with all good plans, it did not survive initial contact. While driving into the city, and with my brothers’ wife sick at home, we decided we would just limit ourselves to one location:- the Australian War Memorial.
The imposing front entrance of the Australian War Memorial
The Australian War Memorial was opened in 1941 and was conceived by Charles Bean, the official historian of WW1 and prior to that, an accomplished war photographer. It is considered one of the best examples of a memorial to servicemen and women anywhere in the world.
The 5 inch A mount gun of the former HMAS Brisbane and her bridge behind the gun
Surrounded by beautifully manicured grounds with large exhibits, smaller memorials and unit plaques, the visitor could easily spend an hour out here but eventually they find themselves arriving at the main entrance that opens on to the reflection pool. This pool has an eternal flame which is just one of many memorials to the fallen within the museum.
Reflection Pool with the Walls of Remembrance to the sides and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the far end
On either side of this area, are the Walls of Remembrance that list all those who have served. As we were visiting the week after ANZAC day, there were still many poppies next to the names.
Poppies placed next to the names of the fallen
At the opposite end to the entranceway is the Hall of Memory that contains the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was a very serene and respectful place with an amazing dome ceiling and is surrounded by stained glass windows showing men and women of the armed forces and service branches. After my brother and I paid our respects, we moved on to the museum proper.
Once inside, we came across The Hall of Valour that contains the medals, photographs and stories of the ninety-nine Australians who had received the Victoria Cross. This was a highlight for me as there are some amazing stories that are not well known and reading them is very moving. The museum is further divided into various halls housing artifacts, paintings, dioramas and reconstructions of the various campaigns that Australian military forces have been involved in including WW1 and the Gallipoli campaign as well as WW2, then on to the Korean and Vietnam wars, the many peace-keeping missions and then finally our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A six-wheeled Landrover used by the SAS in Afghanistan
I have included some photos of the memorial but must apologise for their quality as the lighting conditions were not the best and the competence of the photographer was even worse.
Later that evening I got a chance to catch up with my best mate from my navy days for a few beers, some Thai food and some good conversation before returning home to hang our with my brother again. Although the museum was very special, the highlight of the short trip was being able to see my brother, his family and my mate while on a break from the hussle and bussle of Sydney.
Lest We Forget