More than 6 000 Australian soldiers are buried in unknown graves in Flanders fields. Now there is a Flanders Memorial Garden at the Australian War Memorial containing soil from those battlefields, Flanders cemeteries and Australian places that the soldiers knew well.
Click on images to see more detail [Photos Jim Munro]
The new garden was dedicated on 4 April, 2017, in a poignant ceremony on a crisp Canberra morning. FFFAIF Patron, His Excellency, General, The Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC and Mrs Cosgrove were special guests of the Chair of the AWM Council, Kerry Stokes AC and the Director of the AWM, Dr Brendan Nelson AO. FFFAIF President, Jim Munro, and Committee members Jill Hayes and Sue Tongue represented the FFFAIF.
Flanders soil was carried by the Federation Guard in 5 boxes constructed of Tasmanian Blackwood (the same timer used for the coffin of the Unknown Soldier) to lie near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier overnight. The soil was from Tyne Cot Cemetery, Menin Gate Ramparts, Polygon Wood, Toronto Avenue Cemetery and Hill 60.
There were many memorable parts of this event. The welcome to country, and later smoking ceremony, conducted by Ngunnawal Elder Tina Brown, created a profound sense of the importance of ground – Australia’s ancient land, the battlefields and the new garden.
The soil from Flanders was carried to the garden and deposited in the solemn ceremony.
Mr Verlaeckt, The Secretary-General of the Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs placing some of the Flanders soil in the Memorial Garden – click on images to see more detail
The Australian soil was collected from sites of significance in each Australian state and territory and local timber of significance was used for the boxesin which it was carried. The soli was from:
- The Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park, Garden Island and Victoria Barracks in NSW
- Yamba Homestead in the Woden Valley and Jerrabomberra Wetlands (Duntroon Trench Warfare& Bombing School) in the ACT
- Torrens Training Depot, the Outer Harbour and Keswick Barracks in South Australia
- Fremantle Port, Albany and Blackboy Hill in Western Australia
- Soldiers Memorial Avenue in Hobart and ‘Northallerton’ on King Island in Tasmania
- Port of Darwin (East Port) in the Northern Territory
- The Shrine of Remembrance and Maygar Barracks in Melbourne and the Avenue of Honour in Ballarat in Victoria
- Warwick, Enoggera and Pinkenba in Queensland
Wing Commander Sharon Bown (Ret’d) recited McRae’s ‘In Flanders Fields’ poem with perfect pitch. Speeches that followed – by the Director of the War Memorial and Governor-General – were particularly relevant. The Chief of Army read the Last Post reading of the day about the three Seabrook brothers, who were all killed at Passchendaele, within 24 hours of each other.
The music added to the occasion. The Band of RMC Duntroon performed and a musician sang the song ‘O Passchendaele’ by Garth Porter.
The Secretary-General of the Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Verlaeckt, spoke about the connection between Flanders and Australia. He mentioned the need for places of reflection at this time. Then, as he ended his speech, a flock of white cockatoos flew overhead in the early morning sunlight, calling out agreement. Perhaps they knew about the soil contributed from their Jerrabombera wetlands, where the Duntroon trench warfare bombing school operated.
Sue Tongue with Jill Hayes at the Flanders Memorial dedication. Photos by Jim Munro
To see the AWM posting on the Flanders Memorial Garden dedication click here or go to https://oldsite.awm.gov.au/1914-1918/flanders-memorial-garden/