The Australian War Memorial is a world class, award winning Museum celebrating its 67th anniversary next week. The Museum was officially opened on 11th November, 1941.
The Australian War Memorial is the result of the farsightedness of several people including Australia’s Official War Historian, C.E.W. Bean, Lord William (Field Marshal) Birdwood and John Treloar, the first director of the Memorial.
The Australian War Memorial’s website describes C.E.W. Bean’s contribution to the establishment of a National Memorial as follows:
Charles Bean first began thinking about commemorating the sacrifice of Australians in war in 1915 on Gallipoli. The idea of a national museum took hold later, while Bean was visiting Pozières, France, where the Australian divisions suffered 23,000 casualties in less than seven weeks of fighting in 1916. Bean’s idea was to set aside a place in Australia where families and friends could grieve for those buried in places far away and difficult to visit – a place that would also contribute to the understanding of war itself.
The establishment of the Australian War Memorial’s collection was given a significant boost when the following message was issued by Lord William (Field Marshal) Birdwood on 14 December 1917:
To each member of the A.I.F.
The Australian Government has decided to commemorate Australia’s share in the present war by the formation, after the war, of Museums, in which will be collections of war trophies, photographs, sketches, trench papers, &c. The task of collecting these is now in progress, and is being carried out by the Australian War Records Section, which already has received a large number of fine trophies.
It is desired to make these Museums at least as fine as any in the world, and thus a memorial worthy of the A.I.F. This can be done, but only with the co-operation of all ranks, and I now ask that each member of the A.I.F. should contribute at least one trophy to his unit’s collection in the Museums. This would provide sufficient material for splendid Museums.
Some units are already taking steps to have this done. Unless the other units wish their collections to be overshadowed by these, it will be necessary for each member to do his bit to make his own unit’s collection the best possible, and I am confident this will be done.
Trophies for the War Museums should be handed to the C.O.s, who will arrange to send them to the Museum Collecting Depot.
A brief history of the Australian War Memorial is given on it’s website. To read this account click here.
As part of The Australian War Memorial philosophy to increase the ease of access to its vast collection it was announced 31st October 2008 that the digitising of First World War Unit diaries has so far added 300,000 images to it’s online collection. The digitising of the remaining unit diaries is expected to be completed in three years time. To read more on this project click here.
It is possible to take a virtual tour of the Australian War Memorial by clicking here.
You can read more about the Australian War Memorial collection from the Memorial’s Director, Steve Gower, by clicking here .
As part of the Australian War Memorial’s commemoration of the 90th Anniversary of the Armistice a blog has been posted on the website which reflects on what soldiers were doing on the 11th of November throughout the First World War, through extracts from soldier’s diaries held in the collection. To read these extracts click here.
The Families and Friends of the First AIF thanks the Australian, UK and French governments for affording Australian and British soldiers – presently buried in mass graves at Pheasant Wood – dignified individual reburials in a new CWGC cemetery at Fromelles, and urge those responsible to ensure all necessary scientific and other means are employed to properly identify each soldier.